|Reiseschreibmaschinen, or Travelling Typewriters
Travel: To move about, or go from one place to another. Portable: That which can be carried by hand. These two terms as applied to typewriters are not mutually inclusive. There are portable typewriters of very many sizes. It is impossible to tell the story of all of them, and the reason that each was the size that it was, in one continuous story. The factors of size and weight (as regards each specific design) were the results of considerations made at the time by the manufacturers, regarding market position, manufacturing expense, profit and more, and would be voluminous. However, there was one clear size range in which some manufacturers directly competed, some occasionally did, and which some chose as the only size range for their machines. This is the group known previously on my sites as "mini" typewriters, often referred to in Europe as 'travelling typewriters.' We'll explore some of these machines, and will note which ones have their own sections elsewhere on my sites. We'll also get into some mechanics, and advertising; hopefully, this targeted yet casual walk through the genre will be of interest to collectors new and old.
|Many of the post-war typewriter fans could consider the early era of typewriters in general as a confusing melting pot of just about anything that could produce writing. Size and design were all over the place. Yes, there were portables, but not really as we'd think of them. Many had high "gadget value," like the common folding Coronas, for example.
In about 1921, Remington began production of portable typewriters which actually rather match the size envelope of later travelling typewriters. The Model 1 and Model 2 (seen here) had type-bars which were deployed for typing, and then retracted flat for storage. A step forward, but still in the early era to be sure.
|The slightly later Remington 3 portable, seen here, did away with the folding type-bar feature, and set the stage for a whole host of small Remington portables built in many model and detail variations until the Second World War, including several interesting (and cheap) Depression-era machines. All retained the geared type-bar design, and none reappeared after the war.|
|Competitive with these Remingtons was the Corona Four, which was also lighter. Both of these machines' designs smack of "old school" design and manufacture. Though the size envelope had been created, it would take another step to move it into true modernity.|
|In 1935, Paillard SA of Yverdon, Switzerland added a new model to its lineup of typewriters. These already included a standard machine, and the Model 2000 desk-size portable. The new machine was every bit as small and flat as the pre-war Remingtons had been, was more fully enclosed, and very well designed. It included the first successful example of a front-mounted type bar mechanism -- which, in other words, did not employ key levers running underneath the type basket. This allowed the flat profile of the machine, and simplified construction. In a few years, the Hermes Baby (seen here in a just pre-war version) and lighter Featherweight variant began to turn heads in the typewriter industry for both sales volume and manufacturing quality.|
|British Typewriters, Ltd. of West Bromwich, England, began license production of the new, small Hermes machines in about 1936. This further allowed the spread of this excellent design to places not reached by the Hermes distribution. Popularity of this small, handy and rugged machine spread fast, and other typewriter manufactureres could clearly see that considerable profit could be derived from a small design which could be inexpensively manufactured, but yet which could be given a slight price premium (compared to the norm for utility and size) due to its handy size. This was the first hint that the true typewriter of the future had appeared. Very many successful designs would follow these original criteria from the mid to late 1930's.|
|The first deliberate, direct response to the new Hermes machine was made in 1938. In that year, L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriters Inc. launched its new Corona Zephyr, seen here. The machine duplicated no feature of the Hermes machine exactly, or even closely. But every major design consideration used to engineer the Hermes Baby was employed in this new Zephyr. Indeed, this first competitor was very worthy, and came from one of the largest typewriter manufacturers there was, and which had a long and distinguished history in the field of portables.
The use of a totally front-mounted mechanism, a light and tiny line space / return lever, and use of a snap-over metal lid all helped define these new machines, as did other features such as light weight and FLATNESS. It appeared that a market had been found as sales of both increased.
|In 1950, Montana SpA of Turin (Torino) Italy was set up to license-manufacture the Hermes machines, in addition to British Typewriters Ltd. These received the name MONTANA; a later version is seen here.|
|After the war, Smith-Corona redesigned and further improved the small machine, which appeared as the Skyriter (seen here.) This design was produced in considerable numbers, and was every bit as robust as the pre-war machine. The author finds these machines to be decent in use, but second overall when compared to the original Hermes design. Still, they're just what you'd expect them to be, if you've used larger Smith-Corona machines.|
|In a strange twist to this story, in 1961 British Typewriters Ltd. was wholly bought out by Smith-Corona-Marchant (the descendant of Smith-Corona.) Production of the Hermes design was immediately dropped (after on-hand stocks were assembled and distributed) and replaced with the Skyriter! This machine then developed into a plastic-bodied machine, larger and with more features. The later 1960's Cougar Deluxe, seen at left, is one such machine.|
|The Italian-made Montana line had survived past this loss of British Typewriters by the Hermes universe; the last, early 1960's style is seen here. Hermes had also built a plant in Germany to build the small machines in 1962, and built another in South America in 1965. Both makers' lines of original small portables lasted until the end of each makers' run in manual typewriters, a tribute to their original savvy in detecting a market ready for exploration.|
|Now that we've investigated the history of these first two competitors in this field, whose histories were not specifically tied to their travelling typewriters, we'll look at some other ways in which this market was penetrated. There are many more machines to come in the following pages.|
|Two machines which entered the field in the early 1950's suffered by way of their design, it would seem. The ROOY, already well covered on this site, came from France in 1950, and was overly complex for its size. The BROSETTE, which came from West Germany in 1953, was an extremely austere machine which was built over a six year span only, and then dropped. The machines we will see on the next pages sold in vast numbers compared to these two "travelling typewriter oddities."
Brosette photo courtesy Norbert Schwarz.