For those playing Guess That Machine along with us at home, the serial number of this Royal beauty is B-75795mumble. The mumble part is either a 4 or a very small A. If I were a betting woman, I’d call it an A, although the size of the letter/number appears to be much smaller than the others and in a different strike-font. According to The Typewriter Serial Number Database, that means it’s either a 1937 Aristocrat (maybe that’s what the A is for) or a 1937 Royal Speed King. You tell me.
Here’s the thing – the case is nearly perfect and the roller is brand new. Spongy, actually. The S-key stuck a little, but after typing a bit, it loosened up. Bouncy. And she types a delicate elite – hard to tell from my hasty scan. Since the typebars are also free of ink and the ribbon appears to be at the beginning, it’s a good assumption that perhaps once upon a time this sweet Royal Whatever was sold or serviced and put in a closet forever. Or until last week. Nothing about this typewriter shows any use. Seriously, all I’m looking at here is a little dust and a few cobwebs. The more I type, by the way, the darker the ink gets.
If so, I certainly know who serviced and sold it. Russellville is about 45 minutes from here, a sleepy college town where the “Wonder Boys” learned agri-science at Arkansas Polytechnic (now Arkansas Tech).
Three years after this typewriter was manufactured, December 1940, one in four of their male students was called up for duty with the 206th Coast Artillery. Life Magazine even did a pictorial about their going-away party. Bless their hearts, those Arkansas Tech boys were sent to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The story of the voyage alone is worth the read.
Now, I don’t have anything whatsoever in or on this typewriter case that tells me some Ozark mountain boy had to leave it behind to serve in WWII. I do know that in those years and in that place higher education was an expensive rarity for most, and a new typewriter even more so. Few others living in Russellville, Arkansas would have need for a typewriter at all, let alone a portable.
The handful of girls who went to college at all would’ve gone down the road to Arkansas State Teachers’ College (now UCA, where I hold forth), but only if they were terribly rich or quite plain. That’s the way it was. This is not a woman’s typewriter. While it would have been well cared-for, it would’ve been used.
If you listen very closely, you can hear me making up the story.