Wednesday, August 5, 2015

One Summer

One summer: America, 1927. That's when this Remington Portable typewriter was assembled in Ilion, NY. It was made for export with a Portuguese (?) language keyboard and somehow it made its way to Holland.

Eighty-eight years later it was listed for sale online with a single fuzzy image. Just on the off-chance I put in a low offer; it looked like a machine that I wouldn't feel bad about trying a re-paint on. Bit of a surprise when I actually won it. Bit of a shocker when it arrived to see how bad it actually was...

Surprising the case even made it through shipping - it had been covered with cardboard and not in a box as such. A severe case of damp. Much of the plywood has de-laminated, the leatherette is damaged and loose. Amazingly still the intact carrying handle.

It has received some knocks, the back of the lid is smashed in and cracked. The whole carrying case still holds together, mostly from sheer force of habit.

The typewriter itself then. Luckily the case was much worse than the machine itself:

The machine itself indeed as was advertised with some paint loss. The little Remington Portable of the 1920-ies is not a rare machine and in this state I won't feel bad about doing a re-paint. 

Not much left of the decal, rust even on the typeslugs.

The keyboard has some unusual characters. Very unusual for Holland, that is. The seller was not able to shed any light on the machine's origins. Now how do these (probably) Portuguese machines end up in the low countries?

This one has the extra plate at the back to (I guess) protect the mechanism. The feed rollers are all fine. The platen is pitted, dirty and hard - not the original platen though, but marked in green text as a Continental replacement.

Still works! A bit stiff at first, the typebar lifting mechanism was jammed and needed some coaxing up, but the machine still works. A bit of oil on some spots was all it took then. This is another massive credit to the people at Remington who designed and built this amazingly compact and full featured machine. After probably decades of neglect and really bad storage conditions it still functioned pretty much as designed.

It is a 12 cpi machine - surprise. Shouldn't have been surprised really, just hadn't imagined the Portable being made with anything but 10 cpi type.

Types a treat, quite smooth still.

Serial number NV72446, made in the month of July in the Summer of 1927...


  1. Just amazing - has seen some mileage, but still typing away. These old machines were built to last. This looks like a great project.

  2. Ouch. It's astonishing that it still works after all the neglect. I think a new paint job would be great on it, though! I'm excited to see the result.

  3. Nice find. I would venture it has a French keyboard layout, if only because it has the Ç character and both ` and ´ accent keys.

  4. Confirmed it's Portuguese. The small a is for ordinals, 1st 2nd etc (but then in Portuguese...)
    The origin may be sephardic - in the thirties I'm told many Portuguese jews fled to Holland, hoping to be safer in a neutral country.
    Small snippets of history come with older items, echoes...

  5. These are very sturdy.

    I didn't realize there were anhy Portuguese Jews in the 1930s. I thought they were all expelled or converted, like the Spanish Jews, soon after 1492. So thanks for pointing me to this article (but it claims that there was no anti-Semitism on the part of the Portuguese government in the '30s):

    1. Ah, yes. Hm. My info is from Portuguese expat working here. Maybe the official stance, but possibly still reasons to worry and want to leave. Salazar was leaning to the axis + how things changed in Italy, ... Can imagine that little not-a-power Holland seemed desirable (like e.g. Audrey Hepburn).

      (very sturdy, am beginning to like these :)