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.
Every Astronaut below was previously known by some other name —
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.
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.
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.
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?
Also advertised as the Astronaut, but no labeling is apparent. From a Troutman’s ad in the Indiana Gazette – Indiana, Pennsylvania – Jun 5, 1968.
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
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:
As seen at TypewriterDatabase.com.
© 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.
” “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?!
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.
Interesting also that “Mullers” in Lake Charles was selling the old stripe-top Super-5 Sterling as a “new” machine in 1966.
Interesting! Why couldn’t mine have a cool name? The prefix on my “Royal 240” is “MN”.
Had they inverted the first two digits, I suspect your machine would sell for tons on eBay.
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.
I have a Marksman and the serial number is 1134511 no letters!