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The Astronaut

Royal Astronaut Typewriter

Out of this world

“Astronaut” is not a line of typewriters, but rather a mark Royal applied to any variety of machines in the 1960s and early 1970s, no doubt reflecting people’s enthusiasm for space flight. My Astronaut is a late 1960s “Sprite” model, a line of machines that bore several other names including Swinger, Marksman and, of course, Sprite. The “Astronaut” label was applied to different machines within the Royal product line, but not to any particular model.

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Every Astronaut below was previously known by some other name —

Lake Charles American-Press - Lake Charles, Louisiana - Apr 21, 1965

Following the form of the Futura line of typewriters, this machine was marketed as the All-American in 1961. On some models, the silk-screened label on the front of the machine is truncated, leaving the typewriter unlabeled (see here). Why the machine above was advertised as an Astronaut is unclear; it’s possible that “astronaut” does not appear anywhere on the typewriter. Some collectors mistake this machine for the Royal Heritage, which looks similar. This ad is from the Lake Charles American-Press – Lake Charles, Louisiana – April 21, 1965.

Troutman's ad - The Daily Courier - Connellsville, Pennsylvania - Sep 2, 1965

Here are three Royals: The “65” (note, the ad was placed in 1965), the Astronaut (so labeled), and the Telstar, named after a satellite system launched in 1962. From a Troutman’s ad in The Daily Courier – Connellsville, Pennsylvania – Sep 2, 1965.

Lake Charles American-Press - Lake Charles, Louisiana -Dec 4, 1966

Now the Astronaut (formerly the All-American) is the Telstar, and yet another machine is the Astronaut. Is this a marketing error? From the Lake Charles American-Press – Lake Charles, Louisiana – Dec 4, 1966.

Read's ad - The Bridgeport Telegram - Bridgeport, Connecticut - Apr 19, 1968

A labeled Astronaut, from a Read’s advertisement in the Bridgeport Telegram – Bridgeport, Connecticut – Apr 19, 1968. What other names did Royal apply to this machine?

Troutman's  ad -The Indiana Gazette - Indiana, Pennsylvania - Jun 5, 1968

Also advertised as the Astronaut, but no labeling is apparent. From a Troutman’s ad in the Indiana Gazette – Indiana, Pennsylvania – Jun 5, 1968.

St. Petersburg Times - Jun 5, 1970 at Maas Brothers Florida

Finally, an Astronaut like the one in my collection. Notice also the “Galaxie” and the “Jetstar.” From the St. Petersburg Times – Jun 5, 1970, placed by Maas Brothers Florida.

Roll call: Astronaut, Galaxie, Jetstar and Telstar. You might also add the Apollo 10 (see my listing at the typewriter database here).

The Spritely Astronaut

Royal Astronaut Typewriter in Sapce

The “Sprite” line of typewriters was introduced in 1968, with the Astronaut hitting the market sometime in 1970. (The Marksman also seems to have appeared in 1970.) It’s possible that these various labels were created to accommodate retailers who wanted unique brands. Apart from two models, the Swinger and the Fleetwood, which incorporated transistor radios, the machines are all the same.

(Note on serial numbers: The prefix for the Astronaut and Sprite is “NM;” the Swinger “NR” [“r” for radio?]; the Fleetwood “MR.” I haven’t seen a serial number for the Marksman, but I’m guessing it is also “NM”.)

Here is the Astronaut:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

As seen at TypewriterDatabase.com.

© 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • M. Höhne February 18, 2014, 4:26 pm

    ” “Astronaut” is … no doubt reflecting people’s enthusiasm for space flight.” Leaving us to imagine the entusiasms that “Swinger” reflects from that same era. Works for me, but what was Royal thinking?!

    == Michael

    • Mark Adams February 19, 2014, 3:59 pm

      No doubt the intended meaning is “trendy,” but, yeah, it does seem like an unfortunate choice. I just got a Swinger (box included!) and I’m working on a post for it. My impression is that “trendy” was the more common definition in the late 1960s, though the other meaning may have been in circulation too.

  • T. Munk February 18, 2014, 7:20 pm

    Interesting also that “Mullers” in Lake Charles was selling the old stripe-top Super-5 Sterling as a “new” machine in 1966.

  • Steve K February 19, 2014, 10:51 am

    Interesting! Why couldn’t mine have a cool name? The prefix on my “Royal 240” is “MN”.

    • Mark Adams February 19, 2014, 3:57 pm

      Had they inverted the first two digits, I suspect your machine would sell for tons on eBay.

  • Lauren July 17, 2017, 6:27 pm

    I just bought a royal that looks just like this model but its clear. I believe it might be clear because it could have been used in prisons so the prisoners couldn’t hide contraband. I tried looking up more info about it but couldn’t find much. If anyone has any information about it please let me know.

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