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Royal Royalite typewriters

In 1954, Royal McBee corporation purchased an emerging typewriter manufacturer from Holland, who only made small portable typewriters, which were known as Halberg Travelers. Very few Halberg-labeled typewriters were made; most are found under the name Royal. Royal altered the design of the Traveler--the gull-wing ribbon covers were removed, as was the console carrying case, which was similar to that of the Smith-Corona Skyriter. These were replaced by a removable ribbon cover, which stretched down the sides of the machine, and a zippered carrying case, which was made of vinyl. They were sold under a new name: Royal Royalite.

Royal Eldorado
A Royal Eldorado typewriter, circa 1962
While the earliest Royalites were one-tone green, later models could be found in two-tone gray, or in a special name variant, called the Eldorado, in black and gold. These typewriters came in vinyl attache cases. In 1963, the Halberg-designed Royalite was offered one last time, as the Royalite '64, which was the first Royalite to be offered with a two-color ribbon. However, this was not the last use of the Halberg design. Until 1967, versions with a raised ribbon cover, which did not stretch down the sides, were offered as the "Royal Citadel," the "Royal Lark," the "Royal Dart," and the "Singer Scholastic," which was sold only at Singer Sewing Machine Centers.
The Royal Dart, which was sold exclusively through Montgomery Ward stores. 
The final typewriter to use this design was manufactured in 1967, most likely a Singer Scholastic. For more information on this machine, go to http://royaltypewriters.blogspot.com/p/singer-scholastic.html

Royal Duotone Paint Flyer, 1930

Courtesy of Royal Consumer Information Products:

Prewar Royal Portable typewriters

In 1926, Royal introduced their first portable typewriter. It was offered in both solid colors and two-tone paint schemes. It was slightly redesigned for 1930, and came in blended "Duotone" paint schemes, and had hinged ribbon covers. Royal was the first manufacturer to offer hinged ribbon covers on a portable typewriter. 
[Royal Portable]
Royal's first-generation portable typewriter, 1926
[Royal Portable]
Royal's second-generation portable typewriter, 1930
The second-generation design of the Royal portable would continue until 1934, when it was replaced with a new model, offering a new innovation--Touch Control. Touch Control controlled the tension of the keys to the user's preference. This model was discontinued in 1942. It was often referred to by the prefix of the serial number--the Model 'O'.
Royal Model O Portable, with Touch Control, 1934
This typewriter was replaced in 1939 by the new Magic Margin portables. Magic Margin automatically set the left margin with the flick of a lever. (Until 1946, only the left margin could be automatically set.) The margin was set to the position of the carriage--when the carriage was moved, and the lever was flicked, it would change the position of the left margin.

A more subtle innovation was Shift Freedom, which meant the type segment shifted instead of the carriage.
Advertisement for Magic Margin portables, 1939

The Royal Futura, 1958-1962

In 1958, a new typewriter was designed by Laird Fortune Covey. Called the Futura, it was offered in several different levels--400, 600, and 800. The 400 was the cheapest, and lacked a tabulator, and had a 42-key keyboard. The 600 added a tabulator, but still had a 42-key keyboard. The 80 had a two-tone paint job, a tabulator, and a 44-key keyboard. The Futura, like most Royals is a very common typewriter. Mechanically, it is derived from the first Royal Portable of 1926. It differs by having segment shift, and, on some models, a key-set tabulator. The Futura also is larger than the first Royal portable--most of this additional size is through larger body panels.

The design of the Futura was modernized in 1962, and became another series of Royal typewriters, including the Royal 890 and 990, as well as the Royal Caravan, Royal Telstar (Late), Sears Cutlass, Royal Futura (no number), Royal Custom II, Royal Custom III, and the Royal Sabre, which was discontinued in 1980. (For more information on this series of typewriter, check out my post on the Royal 890: http://royaltypewriters.blogspot.com/#!/2012/10/royal-890-part-one.html)

Above is a Royal Futura 400. Notice that it is a single color, and lacks a tabulator

Above is a Royal Futura 600. Also a single color, but this model has a tabulator.

And a Royal Futura 800. Notice the presence of a "1" key, a tabulator, and a two-tone paint job. This was the top-of-the-line Royal from 1958 until 1962, when it was replaced by the Safari.  

Royal Precision Portables

In the 1970s, there were two models of Royal Portable Typewriters that were sold under the name "Precision Portable." These models were the Sabre and the Custom III, both of which are based on the design of the Futura. These models stayed in production until the early 1980s, which is remarkable. considering the fact that the basic design goes back to 1958. The Sabre came in a choice of colors: Avocado, or Blue.

A late-model Precision Portable, the Custom IV, most likely from the 1980s. Notice the different keys, which look like they should have come off of a Hermes or Olympia typewriter. They are, in fact, the same type of keys used on the Royal Safari II (Portugal), due to the fact that Royal outsourced their production of portable typewriters, beginning in the late 1960s. Also, notice the absence of the Litton Industries logo. For comparison, a Royal Custom III is below:

Notice that the keytops are a different color and type, and the presence of a Litton Industries logo, which is to the right of the "Royal" lettering. Also, notice the strange-looking carriage-return lever, which was only found on the Custom series of portables, and the Empress office typewriter. Below is a Royal Sabre, with the standard portable carriage-return lever, which debuted on the Futura:

On the Sabre, the imitation-leather panel is replaced with a chrome, silver, and woodgrained panel.
Here is another variant of the 890's body:

It is a Messa 5000, with a French keyboard. Messa was the company who built Royal portables in the 1970s. Also, notice that the keytops are the same style as on the Custom IV. However, notice the absence of the symbols in place of the words "Margin Release," "Backspace," and the fact that the TAB key is not red, and says "Column" on it.

Another Messa 5000. There was a wide-carriage version called the Messa 6000. The Messa 5000 came in Red, Blue, and Green.

And here's one with a strange keyboard. It hink it may be the Portugese keyboard layout?

The reason that the ribbon cover is a different color than the sides is simple: on the Portugese-made Royals, (and Messas) the ribbon cover is metal, and the side panels are plastic.
Below is a late-model Royal Telstar typewriter, with the inevitable scratch caused by the folding carriage-return lever:

The Futuristic Royal Signet and MacDougall's

In 1962, the future was predicted with such memorable designs as the Space Needle. However, even typewriters got a futuristic look, from the IBM Selectric to the Royal Signet. The Signet was introduced in 1962, and looked like a shorter version of the Royal Futura. It was offered in two-tone blue-and-gray.

Above: Royal Signet, 1962.
Mechanically, the Royal Signet was a Royalite, with a two-color ribbon. In 1964, another model was added with the Signet's styling--the Parade. The main difference was the addition of a tabulator, which was set using a lever on the left-hand side. It also offered Touch Control, which the Signet did not.

It was offered in several two-tone paint schemes, including gray-and-gray:

and Green-and-gray

I have an earlier Signet, which is blue-and-gray. An interesting thing to note is that earlier Signets do not say "Made in Holland" under the name Signet. The only mention that my Signet was made in Holland is the plate on the back, which the Signet above lacks.
A two-tone beige model, called the Crescent, was also offered.
Below is an ad from the Seattle Times, from September 16, 1962, page 22:
Image of document.
From a full-page ad for MacDougall-Southwick. MacDougall's was located behind the Bon Marche garage, at Second and Pike
MacDougall and Southwick Co. store, ca. 1916
MacDougall's is seen above, as it looked in 1916. The San Francisco Store had been renamed MacDougall's by 1916. It was the first store in Seattle to be lit electrically, instead of gas-lighting. It was also the first (in 1907) store to have a passenger elevator, which served its five floors.
Below is a photo of the building following a 1950 remodel:

The bottom photo is from the Seattle Municipal Archives, and shows pedestrians walking past MacDougall's on March 31, 1961. The materials used in the 1950 remodel are apparent. They may look dated and cheap currently (2012), but were new, and innovative in 1950. The use of tile to cover existing masonry was frequently used in the middle of the 20th Century. It was used less in Seattle than other parts of the country. Also, during the restoration of Pioneer Square (circa 1975), and other downtown buildings, later tile coverings were automatically removed. However the MacDougall's building was never restored. The store closed in 1964, and was replaced with a parking lot in 1971. The building to the left of MacDougall's, in the bottom photo still stands (it is the Kress Building, and is now home to an IGA.) It was finished in 1924. The other buildings on this block of Second Avenue have been replaced with a parking garage, which looks like it is from the 1970s.
Strangely, MacDougall's was the only store to advertise the Signet when it was new. (The Bon Marche advertised used Signets in the Seattle Times, May 30, 1963, "priced to clear at $39.95" This leads me to believe that my Signet was probably sold at MacDougalls.

1968 Royal Custom II

This Royal Custom II was manufactured in 1968. It is identical to the Royal Sabre, but has the added feature of a paper bail. Below is a 1968 Seattle Times advertisement for the Royal Lark and Royal Custom II and Custom Ultronic. The Lark was a step above a Royalite, but was still a low-priced machine. The top of the 1968 Royal typewriter line was the Custom Ultronic. The Custom Ultronic was Royal's first electric portable typewriter.

1967 Royal 890 portable


The Royal 890 is a direct descendant of the Royal Futura. Notice the "Magic" column setting buttons behind the keyboard. The 890 was a lower priced Royal Portable (note the lack of a 1/! key and the lack of "Magic Margin".) Other related portables are the Royal Caravan, which is two-tone gray, and lacks the +/= key found on the 890, and the high-end Royal Custom II. While this is a lower-end Royal Portable, it still offers the famous "Touch Control." It was also available in gray, beige, and blue. The case that holds the 890 is identical to that of many other 1960s Royals, and has the feature of a swing-away handle.

My Royal Model O, 1934

Royal Mercury History


The story of the Royal Mercury began in Tokyo, Japan in 1965. A knitting-machine company, called Silver-Reed had designed a typewriter, with the help of a leading industrial design firm, called GK-Design Group. Early models of Silver-Reed portables can occasionally be found in the United States; those marketed as “Royal” typewriters are much more common. It should be noted that by 1971, the only typewriter manufacturer that was still making typewriters in the United States was Smith-Corona.

The Royal Mercury has the distinction of being the first full-featured portable typewriter marketed towards children. Until the 1960s, all of the other typewriters marketed for children had been stripped versions of standard portables. (An excellent example is the Remie Scout.) Despite being marketed towards children, the Royal Mercury was originally designed for use by adults. At the time, Japanese-made goods were thought to be cheap and low-quality. However, Japanese-made toys were incredibly popular. As a result, Royal felt it would be a better idea to sell the Mercury to children.

The Royal Mercury may seem like an ordinary typewriter; however, it offers many interesting features, including a jam-release key. If two keys are jammed, depressing the margin-release key will unjam them quickly and easily. Also, the Royal Mercury has the most user-friendly case—the lid just snaps over the typewriter. The bottom of the case is formed by the bottom of the typewriter.

The other unusual feature of the Royal Mercury lies in its marketing strategy. The Royal Mercury was marketed towards children. The first national advertisement for the Royal Mercury states that “The New Royal Mercury was made for kids.” (Royal Typewriter) The same advertisement also cites the two-position touch control lever, claiming that children press harder when they are first learning to type, but as they get better, their touch becomes lighter.

While it was marketed nationally towards children, many Seattle-based stores marketed it towards the general public. One of these stores was Bartell Drugs, who described the Royal Mercury as “the ‘with-it’ portable that has everything. (Bartell Drugs)[1] A 1967 advertisement indicates that Bartell Drugs initially sold Royal Mercury typewriters equipped with “Elite“(smaller) type. (Bartell Drugs). Frederick & Nelson, a Seattle-based department store described the Mercury as “a handsome, lightweight model ideal for traveling and students at home or school.” (Frederick & Nelson). The Bon Marche, a large, Seattle-based department store[2]advertised the Mercury as having “’it’ designing with all the great features: touch-set margins, paper table scales, wide carriage, full-size 88 character board, three line spaces, $35.88” (The Bon Marche). The J.K. Gill Company, a Portland, Oregon-based office-supply store pitched the Mercury as the “get-with-it portable that has everything including a get-with-it price! Full-size office typewriter keyboard, touch regulator, two-color ribbon, stencil cutter, calibrated paperbail, 1, 1½, 2 line spacing, dual shift keys, weighs only 10 pounds with case.” (J.K. Gill Company). 

Many other Royal Portables used the design of the Royal Mercury, including the Royal Jet, and the Royal Signet, all of which had fewer features than the Mercury. The Royal Mercury was discontinued around 1975. A related portable is the Royal Sprite, which is found in a plastic shell, and has a transistor radio built into the console carrying case.

[1]Bartell Drugs has the distinction of being the oldest drugstore chain in the United States.

[2]Since 2005, The Bon Marche has been known as Macy’s.

Royal Royalite, Second Generation, 1959-1963

In 1959 Royal changed the color of their low-priced Royalite from jade green to a modern two-tone gray color scheme. Gone were the flat green keys that were left over from the Halberg Traveler:
Halberg Traveler, 1954 Richard Polt Collection
In their place were new, taller ivory keys. The paper support from the Halberg was replaced with the paper support that would continue in production on Royalite typewriters until 1967. Below is a typical 1959-1962 Royal Royalite:
The "portfolio-type" case continued in production until 1963, when it was replaced by an attache-type case, as seen in the picture below:
Like the original case for the Royalite, this case is made of vinyl-covered cardboard. The typewriter in the photograph was manufactured in 1963, while the one in the first photo was made in 1962. Other subtle differences can be found between the two machines:
  • On the 1962 model, the lettering that says "Royalite" is centered on the paper table; on the 1963 model, it is on the right-hand side of the paper table. 
  • The label that reads "Made in Holland" is under the lettering that says "Royalite" on the 1963 model, while it is on the back of the 1962 model.
  • The lettering on the 1963 model is in the font Rockwell, while the 1962 (and earlier) models have their lettering in Wide Latin.
  • The 1962 Royalite's label says that it was made for Royal McBee Nederlands, N.V. (the equicalent of Royal McBee Netherlands, L.L.C.) 

E.W. Hall, 1111 2nd Avenue

E.W. Hall was Seattle's largest office machine dealer during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1938, Hall's moved from the Burke Building (now the site of the Jackson Federal Building) into the Taft Building, at 1109 2nd Avenue. They moved into their modernized home in 1938. They sold many brands of typewriters, and were the first dealer in Seattle to offer the Hermes portable. They moved out of the Taft Building in 1961. Below are some King County Assessor's photographs of the Taft Building (Courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives):
The Taft Building, as it has looked since its 1970 remodel.

The Taft Building, 1951. For a Sketchup model of this building, go to:

The Taft Building following the move of E.W. Hall. This photograph was taken in 1962.

The second-largest typewriter dealer in Seattle was Lowman & Hanford. However, neither of these dealers sold as many Royal Portable typewriters as the University Bookstore.

University Book Store

The largest dealer of Royal Portable Typewriters in Seattle was the University Book Store, at 4326 University Way Northeast. In fact, it sold so many Royal Portables that the Book Store had a large neon sign installed on their awning, as seen in this 1930 photograph:

Below is an advertisement that appeared in the Brown Section of the Seattle Times on February 11, 1934

Notice that the first name on the list is that of the University Book Store, 4326 University Way.

My Model O may be from Frederick & Nelson

It should be noted that the "NRA" mentioned in this ad was the 
(Not the National Rifle Association)
The Dvorak keyboard was developed in Seattle by a University of Washington professor in the early 1930s. This ad was in the Seattle Times, September 9, 1934

1938 E.W. Hall ad

From The Seattle Times, September 29, 1938
The typewriter shown is the Deluxe Model O.

Silver-Reed Typewriters from Japan

Pictured above is a name variant of the Royal Mercury. While the name is different, it is the same typewriter. However, this is the original name which it was sold by in Japan and other parts of the world. Silver-Reed made many typewriters for other manufacturers, including Underwood, Remington, Royal, and Adler during the 1970s and 1980s. It was marketed as the Royal Mercury from 1966 until 1973.

Sears Tutor Serial Numbers


Here is a table of the serial number ranges for the Sears Tutor portable typewriter. These numbers were provided by Jay Respler of Advanced Business Machines. The Tutor was introduced in 1966, and discontinued in 1969. It was available in a choice of medium blue or "Hot Coral" during 1966, and blue for the other years. 












Royal Skylark Portable Typewriter

The Royal Skylark is one of those typewriters that can get two vastly different reviews by two different people. For instance, I like its keyboard feel, which Consumer Reports describes as "slightly too slow for some typists." It was also described as having a heavy touch. It is not the most photogenic typewriter, due to its glossy white finish.

According to Jay Respler, of Advanced Business Machines, in New Jersey, my Royal Skylark typewriter was manufactured in September, 1965. It retailed for $67.50 in 1966. The Skylark was a mid-range typewriter, designed to fill the gap between the low-priced Royalite ($49.95) and the full-size Royal typewriters ($89.50-$119). While the casing of the Skylark is Cycolac plastic, it is, by no means a cheaply-made typewriter. It has many features of the larger Royal Portables, such as a key-set tabulator, and a two-color ribbon. It has some features that the full-size Royal portables lacked, such as a de-jam key (combined with the margin-release key, and a retractable paper support. Other names for this design include: Royal Royalite (1964-1968), Royal Fiesta II, Royal Lark, Royal Quiet Deluxe (the 1950s typewriters are called the "Quiet De Luxe") Royal Eldorado, and many others. All were made in Holland, in Royal's Leiden plant. All of these typewriters use the standard twin spool ribbon, which is available at OfficeMax stores, and from Amazon.com. Mechanically, they are all identical to the Royal Royalite, but with added features.

By 1965, when my Royal Skylark was manufactured, typewriter sales were no longer reserved for office machine dealers (Lowman & Hanford, and E.W. Hall were the largest dealers)--it was possible to buy a typewriter at any department store (in Seattle, it was either The Bon Marche, or Frederick & Nelson), most jewelers (Weisfield's, Ben Tipp, Zale's, Raphael's Diamonds), any discount store (White Front, Valu-Mart, Gov-Mart/Baza'r), any drugstore (Bartell Drugs, and Pay 'n Save), many bookstores (the University Book Store, and the Washington Bookstore--only the University Bookstore survived), as well as many stationers (Clark Stationery, and J.K. Gill's, who had purchased Lowman & Hanford in 1956), as well as branch offices of the manufacturers (Royal Typewriter, Olivetti-Underwood, Remington-Rand, and Smith-Corona.) As a result, it is harder to guess where a 1960s typewriter was sold than it is to guess where a 1930s typewriter was sold. To make matters worse, most typewriter dealers stopped applying decals to the typewriters they sold around World War Two. Also, mid-range typewriters were not advertised as much as the top-of-the-line models. All of the dealers who sold the high-end Royal typewriters also sold low-end, and mid-range models. 

My First Portable Typewriter and the Royal Telstar

In 2003, I bought my first typewriter at a thrift shop for $5. It was a light blue Royal Safari, much like the Royal Telstar that I have posted below, but with automatic margins, and two extra keys (1/! and =/+). While the Safari's touch always seemed too heavy, the Telstar's is light and peppy. According to Jay Respler, of Advanced Business Machines, in New Jersey, my Royal Telstar is from February 1965. 

The Royal Telstar was introduced in 1962 along with the Royal Safari. While the Safari was the top-of-the line portable, the Telstar was one of several mid-range typewriters designed to fill the gap between the Royal Royalite and the Royal Safari. Other mid-range portables include the Royal 890, Royal 990, and the Royal Aristocrat. 
This typewriter is so shiny, that it is difficult to photograph without bright spots.

The actual color of this Royal Telstar lies between these two pictures.

Researching this typewriter was difficult at times; for instance, The Bon Marche, who sold many Royal typewriters during the 1960s, spelled Telstar as "Telestar". Here is an ad for the Royal "Telestar" from September 10, 1967.

Sears Tutor Portable Typewriter

In 1938, a new compact portable typewriter was introduced by the L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter Company. Called the Zephyr, it was designed to fit under a train seat. It was discontinued in 1942 with the onset of World War Two. In 1949, it was redesigned and reintroduced as the Smith-Corona Skyriter. By the late 1950s, production of the Skyriter had been moved to West Bromwich, England. By 1960, the Skyriter's design was showing its age. David Chase and Philip Stevens were hired to redesign the Skyriter. In 1962, the end result was introduced. The new machine had an all-plastic casing, and a snap-on lid. It was called the Corsair. Later, other model names were introduced, such as the Smith-Corona Cougar, Smith-Corona Zephyr II, Smith-Corona Porta-Typer, Smih-Corona Skyriter, Smith-Corona Star-Riter, just to name a few. In addition to the Smith-Corona models, department store versions were also made, such as the Penncrest Jayvee, Sears Scout, and Sears Tutor. All of these typewriters were identical to the Corsair, with the exception of the Sears Tutor, which had a different ribbon cover, in a v-shape. There was another model, called the Attache, which was a white plastic version of the Tutor, which came in a metal attache case. (All of the other Corsair models came with a snap-on lid.) While most of the typewriters came in either beige or blue, the Tutor was available in a choice of "Medium Blue," or "Hot Coral" (a red-orange shade of pink.) Hot Coral must have been a  relatively unpopular color, as it was discontinued after a year. The Sears versions ended production in 1970, the Corsair in 1979.
The Smith-Corona Corsair in Aqua (photo by Richard Polt)

Smith-Corona Courier C/T (photo Richard Polt)

From 1979 to 1983, the Smith-Corona Courier was manufactured. It was designed to replace the Corsair, but used the same mechanism. Similarly, the Smith-Corona Electra used the same 1938 mechanism.