Mystery Machine Reveal

Fresh Ribbon

Just had this dropped off at the house. No time for a real camera or a dusting off, nothing but cobwebs and cellphone pictures, baby. I had to beat the rain.

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.

10 thoughts on “Mystery Machine Reveal

  1. Oh, interesting! I've never seen an Aristocrat or a Speed King in this body style. I assumed they were post-war evolutions of the two mid-'30s models. Now I'm going to have to completely re-examine this line.See, though the TW-DB doesn't mention it, there *was* an A that preceded the DeLuxe, and it differed from the O (Standard) only in that it had a tab key. The DeLuxe debuted in 1935; your B is from 1938 (Royal serials listed in the TW-DB are in \”up to\” sequence, not \”starting from\”). I wonder if '35 is around the time the model names were rejiggered, and your B is the former A?Making it all even more confusing, the Aristocrat and the Speed King appear to have run parallel at least post-war and into the '50s, but I can't see any difference between the two.

  2. I think TW-DB isn't consistent with the serial number ranges: some times the number is an \”up to\” and sometimes it's a \”starting with\” — looks like that varies by brand, and so probably by the original source of data.Also — hooray! Comments! And that's a beaut of a machine, Monda. And what luck with it being in such great shape, and protected from crafters and their cutters.

  3. I need to get a good picture of this serial number. All this \”up to\” and \”starting from\” business is confusing. This thing definitely has a tab key, though.I'm cleaning it up now, and lordy how it shines. This may actually be the first male typewriter I've owned. He's going to get an Ozark name for sure.

  4. Please take some detailed photos for me. I want to see how it (he?) differs or resembles other models.Found something interesting when I checked the old Consumer Reports tests to see how much it cost. The November, 1937 CU report says that Royal had three models: Standard, De Luxe, and Junior. (The Standard Model O was a Best Buy. It cost $54.50.) However, the August, 1940 report tests the following models: Quiet De Luxe ($64.50), Aristocrat ($59.50), Arrow ($54.50), Companion ($49.50), and Varsity ($44.50). There appears to have been no report on typewriters in the intervening years.Since there is no mention of Speed King in 1940, I'm going to say that yours was probably officially an Aristocrat. Your 1938 machine may very well from the very first year of Royal's expanded lineup.So. Gonna name him Abner? 😉

  5. I'm working on better photos, but I'm just not the photographer Olivander is. I blame the camera, of course, but will keep trying.Strikethru, we should do the next journal that way – nothing but imagined histories.Rachel, \”The Walrus and the Carpenter\” is one of my favorite bits from Alice. It's the first thing I type when I try out a new machine.

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