|What have we here? The "Swiss Zephyr"|
|Conventional knowledge: In 1935, Paillard SA of Yverdon, Switzerland introduces its small, flat Hermes Featherweight and Hermes Baby machines. At left, Hermes Featherweight owned by Jim Dax.|
|The first serious competition to the small Hermes machines is given by L. C. Smith & Corona Typewriters, Inc. which introduces its Corona Zephyr in 1938. At right, Corona Zephyr De Luxe owned by Will Davis.|
|AND NOW, we have this. The machine you see at left was recently acquired for practically nothing. It intrigued me when I saw it, because of my knowledge of the very brief history given above.
First, the most relevant detail -- the serial number of the machine you see at left is 143674, which seems likely to translate to the first half of 1938.
The machine is in all features and details a wholly conventional Hermes Featherweight in near-mint condition. All of the markings normally found on this kind of machine are present and fully intact.
Collectors and Hermes fans will note the obvious discrepancies this machine displays; most notably, the large "SWISS ZEPHYR" moniker on the top, and the red markings outboard the upper and lower rows of keys. A red trim has been given to the upper edge of the rear plate on the machine as well, which is not visible in these pictures.
|The question that will be on the minds of all collectors and researchers concerns the added lettering. All of us here are familiar with some sort of antiques, and have looked at this machine at all angles, in all kinds of light, and magnified. Our opinion is that the lettering was either done at the factory or, more likely, at the dealer level. The letters you see added are NOT decals. They're painted, as are the other logos on the top of the machine. There is a definite shadowing to the letters as well. The shade of red employed matches the red in the normally-found labels in some lighting, but not in other lighting, and so is not a perfect match. It is very close, though.
On both sides of the machine itself, and both sides of the case, are the initials "M.R.H." These are in gold, and the style roughly matches that of the lettering applied in red on the top of the machine. No paperwork came with the machine at all, and for what it's worth, the keyboard is conventional English (US).
|What can we make of this? It seems very likely that this machine was made after the appearance of the Corona Zephyr, although probably within six months. The label seems to be slightly humorous in a way -- perhaps an attempt at personalization by using both initials and a joking name.
Or, perhaps this machine was labeled this way in order to help it sell. Maybe the dealer had several of them and wanted to get them to move -- they were, after all, more expensive than the Zephyr. Perhaps he added this label as incentive after the machines sat unsold for a time. It is even remotely possible that the machine is part of a specially-ordered batch.
For now, we can't be sure of anything except the intriguing possibilities the machine conjures up!