Friday, April 29, 2022

The Synela brand, a Dutch typewriter made in Italy for Spain

The Synela portable typewriter is clearly a S.I.M. machine, one of the rarer name-variants. 

Online mentions of Synela typewriters are few. In ETCetera number 79 is noted that in HBw-Aktuell of May 2007 there is an item about the Synela portable (SIM name variant). Then one more mention in ETCetera number 93 of March 2011 of a Synela arriving new on a collector's shelf. Apart from those two machine-mentions, only the name is included in listings of the many-varied names that S.I.M. produced. No trace anywhere else of Synela typewriters (or macchina per scrivere, máquina de escribir or schrijfmachine). Based on this, there may be three Synela machines in existence (although the 2007 and 2011 mentions may even be one machine). So the Synela-brand is fairly rare. 

For a name-variant to be produced by S.I.M. some volume would be expected - making the tooling to stamp the new name would not be done for only a hundred machines (or would it?). Who or what then is Synela? ( It may be that the HBw-Aktuell item of May 2007 has the full story, but haven't got that publication - if anyone has, please do tell :-) )

The Synela was made by S.I.M. in Turin, Italy, it has a Spanish keyboard layout and was found in the Amsterdam area in The Netherlands. Searching then a bit more on the Italian, Spanish and Dutch language web actually yielded a mention of the Synela in Spain! In the Spanish National Archives is a paper document with a proposal for the supply of typewriters of the Synela brand by the agent of the Dutch syndicate Synela in response to a government tender.

The document itself is not scanned, but the item is listed on the portal to the archives. The offer is dated as October 1938, so not clear who issued the tender. The document itself probably contains more information, e.g. about the number of machines offered. No indications found so far if an order was ever granted, this was towards the final stage of the Spanish Civil War. This Spanish-keyboard Synela portable typewriter almost certainly is linked to this Spanish offer. It is however not clear if machines in existence are samples to support the offer, or actual delivered machines.

The Dutch syndicate "Synela" mentioned in the Spanish archive was the Syndicaat voor Handel en Industrie "Synela", with offices at De Dam 2a, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (i.e. Syndicate for Trade and Industry "Synela"). Ergo the 'Syn' is for syndicaat, not clear what the 'ela' is for. Could very well be the initials of the founder, or could be 'energy and aviation', the a could be for Amsterdam, etc.

They e.g. get mentioned on page 8 in a small notice in De Nieuwe Leidsche Courant of September 27, 1958 for having won a defence contract for aircraft maintenance and parts.

They again get mentioned several times in the 1960s in 'International Commerce' (published by the US Bureau of International Commerce to promote international trade). They are listed as an interested party for e.g. power generators and aircraft parts - i.e. items that would be sold to governments. An address in central Amsterdam - De Dam no less - also fits that profile. The company even has a NATO CAGE code - probably still active mid 1970s. The company (CAGE code H5181) then is listed with an address in Voorburg. When the company was dissolved, it was located in Mijdrecht and/or Naarden.

So the Synela brand portable typewriter was probably made as a one-off, ordered by the Syndicaat voor Handel en Industrie "Synela" as part of their bidding for a Spanish government (which?) contract for typewriters. As a trading company, they looked for a source and then went to the major OEM maker of typewriters at the time; the S.I.M. company of Turin. They will surely have had samples made to support their bid. It is i think uncertain if the order was ever fulfilled by them.

Next to any extra information about the 1938 bid, it would also be interesting to be able to compare the serial numbers of all three (?) known surviving Synela typewriters. Also curious if all known Synela machines indeed have a Spanish keyboard layout. ( Anyone with a Synela portable typewriter; please do share! )

This particular Synela portable typewriter as found near Amsterdam was likely never supplied to Spain, but kept at the company in Amsterdam. It probably dates to 1938 or 1939, lost its carrying case (if it ever had one) and was (ab)used, inexpertly serviced at some time and finally damaged further in transport.

This particular Synela was then in 2022 stripped down, to see if it can be revived:


  1. Nicely researched! I hope you can uncover more (:

    1. Am hoping for more Synela's (or is it Synelae?) on The Database :-D

  2. Interesting... Maybe they dovetailed "SYndicaat" and the "NEtherLAnds"?

    1. Ooo, good one - that may actually have been it