The “Upstairs” Typewriters

Manual Typewriter Army
1. Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22, 2. Smith-Corona Empire, 3. Royal Royalite, 4. Hermes Rocket, 5. Adler Tippa, 6. Brother/Webster XL-747

I admit it. I have a typewriter collection. All my machines are manual typewriters, no power needed other than my fingers bashing about on the keys and a good ribbon.

When one must describe a portion of the collection and the  “upstairs” typewriters, clearly there’s some typewriter hoarding going on here. The “upstairs” typewriters are mostly functional, though the Royal Royalite is being moved downstairs until I can get it fixed, or at least looked at by a professional to see if its worth fixing. The others are diamonds, or at least diamonds in the rough.

The "Upstairs" Typewriters

After getting my new Lettera 22, I just had to see how much overlap there is in the collection and was pleasantly surprised to discover there isn’t any. Okay, technically, there is a “spare” super-wonky Hermes Rocket in the basement that needs to be repaired but that’s the only case where I have two of the same machine. But, seriously, no self-respecting typewriter collector would ever walk away from an Hermes Rocket. Nope. Not a chance.

So, would you like to see how these all type?

Royal Royalite Typing sample

This is the wonkiest of the bunch, the Royal Royalite but I love the typeface so much I’m willing to see what it would take to fix it up. Besides, it has one of the most beautiful shapes of all my manual typewriters. I bet Mary Tyler Moore, or maybe Rhoda would have typed on a machine like this.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22 typing sample

This is my newest acquisition, the Lettera 22. It needs a new ribbon but it has instantly made it into my top three typewriters. It requires a pretty light touch for a manual typewriter and has no noticeable flaws in performance. What a score this was!

Hermes Rocket typing sample

I want to love this Hermes Rocket, I really do but it has a wonky ribbon advance and it cuts off the ink on uppercase letters. The ribbon might be too big for the machine or something but its been nothing but frustrating.

Adler Tippa typins sample

Oh, Adler Tippa, how I love you! This is my coup de gras of typewriters. It was in pristine condition when I bought it on Craig’s List and the cursive script face was a total bonus. This is one of those items I’d be sure to grab if there was a fire/tornado/etc.

Smith-Corona Empire typing sample

I think the only flaw of the Empire by Smith-Corona is that it was never really used and could use some oil. Otherwise, its a little trooper with some sticky keys.

Webster Brother XL-747 typing sample

My Brother/Webster is not the prettiest machine in the house, even with its shiny blue paint, but it has been a workhorse. I found it at a thrift store and paid $20 at the time which my dear husband thought was ludicrous. Poor delusional boy. The red ink is running dry on the ribbon but this machine stills gets used more than any other.

Do you have a typewriter? Or several?

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25 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I have an Adler Tippa that it out for repair, and a Brother Coronet. Makes me feel like a real writer. Love, love, love your Tippa with the script font. Excellent score!

  2. Thanks for making me fell a little less weird today! All of my friends just look confused when I tell them there are four typewriters in my house.

  3. Wow, I didn’t even know that cursive typewriters existed. This is such eye candy. I have an electric typewriter that I pull out occasionally for envelopes, but it certainly lacks the charm of these analog jewels. Thank you for sharing!

  4. May I ask what you use them for? I can see typing an occasional envelope but what else? Sometimes I think a typewriter would be easier than trying to get printers to work right sometimes. I have to say the most useful class ever in my life was typing in 10th grade. Don’t leave home without it. Now kids learn that from age what…5?

  5. I have A few typewriters now. I regularly use a Smith Corona Galaxie for typing Amnesty International letters. They need to be personal yet legible.

    I just purchased an Olivetti 35l and am disappointed. The carriage return handle is cheap plastic. When the carriage is returned, it sounds like and old man’s spine being cracked. In addition, the key basket often sticks, throwing off my line of type.

    My favorite by far is my SC Skywriter. It’s super-small and types with a good spring. I’ve started experimenting with writing first drafts with a typewriter and then scanning the page with OCR software for editing. I’ve just started this process and it may prove to be too much work, but I like the distraction free environment and the visceral experience of the typewriter.

  6. That’s a nice selection of ultra-portables you have there. My collection hovers around 17 at the moment. There are one or two that I should shift, such as the Imperial Litton and maybe the Smith-Corona Galaxie II because it seems that my Olivetti Lettera 32, Olympia Splendid 99 and Groma Kolibri feel like better typers to me. The rest of the collection tends to concentrate on heavier portables like the Royal Quiet De Luxe and Olympia SM3, for example. I like typewriters for their purity. Single-function in this multi-tasking 21st Century, a typewriter is perfect for those times when you just want to write, without distractions from e-mails, Twitter, eBay, etc. And, as I’ve said elsewhere in the past, I often marvel at how so many great works were written on these machines before the age of computers. People sometimes say; “Typewriters!? Seriously?”
    I just explain that I use them for creative writing, screenplay drafts and blog posts and that they are perfect for the job. Some folks get it, some don’t.
    Great site you have here, too, by the way. Mind if I add a link to it on my own blog?

  7. I only have 3 typewriters but it is because I love getting the full experience each typewriter was designed to deliver. Unfortunately, this means getting each restored. Two down, one to go. I have a pristine Olympia SM3 in chocolate and a mint SM9 early model (made from Imperial Storm Trooper exoskeleton material). typing with them, I remeinded that although they are here now with me, the world they were built as a response to is gone. And when I type, this world is conjured up, sometimes in pieces, sometimes in whole acts. My next project is a Hermes Rocket from 1955 (grey keys). Good shape except for a hard-as-slate platen and the need for a bit of lube.

  8. I currently own 13 typewriters. Two are stationed at my hackerspace, two still need to be sold and the rest is for me to keep for writing, or just looking and playing with the mechanics. My absolute favorite is the Groma Kolibri from 1955. Wonderfull writing machine! Second best is the Erika 5 from 1929. And the most pretty one is the Diamant made somewhere between 1922 and 1926.

  9. I have been looking for the right Skyriter for some time now, as I believed that that was the way to go. I see now that it ain’t necessarily so, especially considering that Lettera 22! Woo-hoo! I grew up with an Olivetti, though it was electric (so this was when I was a teenager in the 70’s). I’ve eyed the 22 on several occasions but had read that “if you could only buy one manual typewriter,” it should be the Skyriter. Would you disagree with that? Inquiring minds want to know! Thanks, and thanks for sharing the pictures and details of your collection.

    1. I’ve yet to acquire a Skyriter so I can’t say for sure it’s the best but I love a lot of the portables. Many people swear the only one to have is the Rocket or the Baby. So it’s all a matter of preference, I suspect.

      1. Typewriters you say? I’m currently at 100+, I think they breed overnight. Hard to pick a favorite, but the Olympia SM9 and Hermes 3000 always seem to make it in the rotation. Both pair very nicely with a Parker sterling 75 or Pelikan M101 Tortoiseshell. We’ll have to compare notes when you’re in town for the next Atlanta Pen Show.

  10. Good collection, Anna. I have used Royalites off and on since I started college in 1978. Biggest issue I have with them is getting the bottom plate back on-too many washers, screws, and spacers-tend to be out of service a lot. I have a Tippa 1 and it has the top of letter issue (as has my Skyriter)…always something on these small machines. The Tippa has jumped to near the top of my list as well-feels larger than it is (tight action), keys aren’t too jiggly. Hard to beat a Hermes Rocket or Baby when well adjusted. Nice thing about the ultra portables (besides portability) is they don’t take up too much space on the desk or lined up “on call” in their cases. Thanks for sharing your collection with us. I enjoy your articles.

  11. What a lovely upstairs collection! Been trying to find an Empire for a while, such a gorgeous little machine.

    I was bitten by the bug a few years ago, and I don’t see myself ever losing interest. I’ve been traveling with a typewriter for over a year now (swapping out a few models from time to time), and type my todo list most days, in addition to letters, project proposals, and the occasional essay.

    Love coming across older posts like this, and discovering more members of this wonderful club 🙂

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