Typewriter Info

~ Please note: I do not identify, appraise, or buy typewriters. ~


For those of you who grew up with computers from childhood, Chris Woodford at Explainthatstuff has written a good basic intro titled 'How Typewriters Work.'

To learn more about typewriters, their history, and their multitudinous forms, check out the links below:


How to find/buy a manual typewriter - The proprietrix of the StrikeThru blog has a 7-part series of posting on locating decent-quality manual typewriters.  The first post is here

Joseph O"Neil, a very knowledgeable gentleman, has a great page of info on the Buying/Selling/Evaluation of typewriters at this link [updated].

 In my experience, unless you are totally into high-level, fancy antiques, etc., a good, decent portable typewriter shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg. $35-$50 is a reasonable expectation, though they can often be found for less at Goodwill, estate sales, yard sales, etc.  (I always keep a small slip of paper in my wallet for test typing - you never know when you'll come across one of these machines.)

Be sure to take the time to test all the features: letter keys, shift keys, margin release, carriage return, paper advance, etc.  Some problems can be easily repaired, others not so easily.  Decided how much time and money you want to invest before buying.

What can get pricey is the shipping.  If you are buying via eBay - something that can work but that you need to be very careful and ask good questions of sellers -- know that some are plainly ripoffs and some are some superbly run sales.  Despite being made of metal, typewriters can break.  The carriage should be locked down, the key bars stabilized, and all should be very well padded inside and out for shipping.  

Final note: There are scammers out there and people looking to make a buck selling junk or are pricing the machines ridiculously high -- $200 for an 1950s Royal Quiet DeLuxe?  Give me a break! There are also some boutique sellers who show some very pretty machines for very pretty prices. 

Buy locally if you can so you can test out the machine.  If you go the online route, don't be afraid to ask the seller questions about the machine.  Trust your gut as to what you hear back.  And keep good records in case there's a dispute.


Everyone who collects these beautiful machines has their own horror story about receiving their purchase through the mail only to have it arrive broken and/or ruined.  Despite being made of metal (most of them at any rate), a typewriter is a collection of parts which can be damaged.  Here are some links about shipping a typewriter successfully.
How To Ship (dot) com on How to Ship a Typewriter
Jack Lewis' Mechanical Antiques info page on shipping a typewriter 
Mike Campbell's Typewriter Packing and Shipping Tips

I've had only one machine arrived damaged (the seller shipped it in a cheap, fiberboard box with no padding at all).  Another reason to buy locally or from a trusted seller if you can.


I have two machines that are 80+ years old.  They work great (and I have a rather heavy hand when I type), but I have to take care with them.  For all that many typewriters are made of metal and look hardy, they need TLC to keep them running well. Here are a few good links on how to do that.

MANUALS/USER GUIDES: Tyepwriter manuals can be found in many places.  Sometimes it will come with the machine you bought if the previous owner has one.  Some are posted online for free download.  Others can be purchased from a few vendors who specialize in such things (such as Ernie Jorgenson of Office Machines Americana). 

Note: There is a difference between the user manuals and service manuals.  The latter were used by typewriter repairmen.  The info contained in them is often quite detailed with accompanying schematics.  You may or may not find them useful. (An excellent example of what I am talking about is this custom engineer's manual for the IBM Model 01 electric typewriter.)


Contrary to what you sometimes hear, you can still buy typewriter ribbons!  One of my local Office Max carries generic/universal 1/2-inch wide ribbons for around $6 per ribbon.  They're not ideal, but will work in a pinch.  Here are a few other sources.
  • Jay Respler at Advanced Business Machines Company. (Jay knows his stuff!) 
  • Porelon, Inc. (They also supply their ribbons to Office Max and other big box supply stores). 
  • Local business supply stores.  Here in Milwaukee, we have Blue & Koepsell.  They've been in business since 1934.  I've been able to get older ribbons from them. Check your local Yellow Pages and call around.
FYI: While ribbons mostly work the same way, different typewriters have their quirks as far as installing them. Will Davis' excellent Guide to Typewriter Ribbon Installation (PDF file) can help you out.  

Also, very important -- never throw away the old metal spools.  It is often the case that you'll need to wind a new ribbon onto the old spool.  In the case of Remingtons, the spool type is an odd one and no longer made. The only way to re-ribbon one is to rewind onto the old spools.


If you don't mind the slower, hunt-n-peck style of typing you can use a typewriter right away.  But if you are interested in learning how to type the old ten-fingers, no-look way, here are a few titles that might be of interest to you.  The last one, the one I used in high school, is especially cool because it stands up on the table, making it easier to work off of.

Touch Typing Made Simple by Lillian S. Marks. 1985.
ISBN: 0385194269 (for 1 cent on Amazon!)

Touch Typing in Ten Lessons by Ruth Ben'Ary. 1963. ISBN: 0399515291

Personal and Professional Typing, 3rd edition. By S. J. Wanous. 1967.
(No ISBN; Library of Congress #: 67-16654. Still available at Amazon)

 The Wanous title in action!

  Image source/credit
BLOGS & WEBSITES (aka The Typosphere)

There are scads of typewriter buffs out there.  Some are into portables, some the big desk tops.  Some folks love the more 'modern' IBM Selectrics.  For some, it's the collecting that is the fun.  For others - writers, poets, artists, for example - typewriters are a machine of creative expression.  Some folks just like the feeling of making words mechanically.  Others are neo-Luddites and find great joy and comfort in using older technologies.

I can't list 'em all but here's the best place to start - The Typosphere blog.  There you will find regular news and links to a lot of like minded people.


Carbons to Computers: Typewriters A short history with pictures & timeline by the Smithsonian.

"First Aid for Typewriters" Article from Popular Science, May 1941 Issue 
"He Dunks Typewriters in the Kitchen Sink" Article from Popular Science, February 1957 Issue.

"How an Expert Cleans a Typewriter" Article from Popular Science, March 1949 Issue. 

The Typewriter Database This great resource has a very complete list of serial numbers of older typewriters. 

The Typewriter (In the 21st Century) - also known as The Typewriter Movie.  A documentary by Christopher Lockett and Gary Nicholson.

Visual Typewriter Turns your computer into a Remington Portable typewriter and produces virtual typed copy that you can save, print, or send as email. 


[Info from Wikipedia] "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is an English-language pangram, that is, a phrase that contains all of the letters of the English alphabet. It has been used to test typewriters and computer keyboards, and in other applications involving all of the letters in the English alphabet. Owing to its brevity and coherence, it has become widely known."

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