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Pinky rests here

Notice the “Rest” key that is attached to the right side of the frame. It’s a non-operational key.

A functional, non-operational key

Ernest Hemingway celebrated the Corona 3 with a poem — “…the mill chatters in mechanical staccato…” — but he must have been a two-fingered typist, for a full set of fingers simply isn’t welcome on the Corona 3. Sporting three rows of compact keys, there is no place for the right pinky finger to rest (typically the :; key on a standard keyboard). Practiced touch typists must have agonized over the keyboard, for out of position, one might easily punch “r-g-w” instead of “t-h-e”. In the correct position, the pinky dangles: it does not march with the others.

Despite this obvious shortcoming, the Corona’s ultra-portability won over consumers, and the machine sold in the millions over a span of two decades. By the late 1920s, the Corona 3 keyboard was expanded to include additional keys (a right shift key and a figure key), thus providing a place for the pinky finger to rest. Until then, Corona’s intermediate solution was to offer an attachable “rest” key. This functional, non-operational key is today highly sought after, as Paul Lippman writes for ETCetera:

One may keep a lookout for Corona tools and accessories. In addition to oilers and type-cleaning brushes, my Corona items include a unique finger rest. It’s a key top that clamps to the Corona farm at the place where other machines would have a semicolon or right-hand shift key. It was available for ten cents to give the typist’s right little finger somewhere to be in the absence [of] the extra key. And probably it was an aid to a touch-typist.”1

The pinky patent

Corona 3 Typewriter Finger Rest

As early as 1915, Corona contemplated a solution for the pinky problem, filing this patent for a “rest key.” The application states the obvious:

“The primary object of the invention is to provide a rest key located at the side of the machine for the typist to rest his little finger while manipulating the keys in order that the hand may be properly positioned at all times. The key is particularly advantageous while operating the machine under what is know as the ‘touch’ system and permits the typist to operate the keys readily and in a correct manner.”

An illustration of the keytop displays “rest key,” but the actual product reads “rest.” This novel key was invented by Otto Petermann, the lead designer of the Corona 3.2

Advertisements for the rest key are sparse, but here’s one from 1922:

Quirky keyboards

The touch typist is by no means the superior typist. As a budding journalist in the early 1990s, I marveled at writers’ ability to punch keys quickly with but two fingers. One reporter used two pencils! And I am reminded of Robert Messenger’s very interesting post regarding disappearing e-mails, in which he also described his very unique typing style — see here.) I am a great admirer of typists and their varied methods for typing. I, for my part, am a touch typist, but by no means an elitist. (Until you can type 100 words per minute while holding a conversation, as one of my colleagues [a former Navy typist] can do, no one should boast.)

Holy Grail?

Though highly desirable — and quite rare — the “rest” key is not precisely the “holy grail” of typewriter accessories, as some eBay sellers persist in claiming. One seller had asked $2,500 for the key, and another offered the key for $1,000. Neither price is remotely realistic — no one is going to pay that amount. Further, Corona 3s with “rest” key appear periodically on eBay and elsewhere and usually garner between $150 and $200, though sometimes more. The accessory is not common, but neither is it particularly uncommon. One is generally available every month or so online, but one does have to keep an eye out.

Here is one of the more extraordinary listings:

eBay Corona 3 rest key listing

Writes the seller, “I’ve received a lot of questions regarding the price for this key, so let me say I know the price might seem absurdly high…but in reality, it might actually be a bit low. If you had bought every single Folding 3 on eBay in the past three-ish years (or at least all of them that I’ve seen, and I’ve probably seen most them while obsessing for one of these keys) you would have spent a FORTUNE and still would not have come up with one of these..”

There is a certain logic to the seller’s argument, but a keen eye can locate one of these attachments for a much more modest sum.

Here is another listing:

Writes this seller: “Up for auction is the holy grail of typewriter collectables, The Corona Model 3 REST key. This was an after market add on for the model 3, to make touch typing easier. The last picture shows a clip from a typewriter blog, where someone had the same key i am offering listed on eBay for $2500 buy it now, due to its rarity. I have seen other similar blog posting saying that they wish they could laugh at this price, but that they could not. Unlike this seller I will not be seeking top dollar, however i will be starting the bid fairly high, with no reserve.”

© 2018 – 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. “Collect Folding Coronas,” Paul Lippman, ETCetera, July 8, No. 4, archived here. []
  2. See http://www.antikeychop.com/corona-3. []
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Site transfer

The digital world is enduring, but maintaining a website requires some effort. I’ve lately transferred Type-Writer.org from HostGator to SiteGround, both excellent web hosts, and am now working to see if all my data ported over correctly. In the transfer, two posts got left behind, my Christmas message (which I likely won’t repost) and “All I wanted was an electric train…” which I will, especially as it features very early typewriter art.

Plans for 2018? I hope to relaunch my YouTube channel with new videos and a new focus, creating small documentaries. I’ll post the videos to a new domain, Typewriter.Website (The Typewriter Website). Further, I aim to take my many posts at Type-Writer.org, and create more established articles. In my vernacular, a post is quick, informative document; an article is an edited, up-to-date document. One comes on the fly; the other is maintained. I imagine this will be a slow process, especially as I will continue to write at Type-Writer.org.

Keeping one’s posts and pages up to date is an important but difficult task. As I research typewriters, I am constantly aware that much of what’s on the internet is outdated. I don’t find this problematic (it’s not hard to determine how current a site is), but it is something a researcher must keep in mind.

Likely, the next most important step in blogging will be some way to automate updates for past posts. For example, as new information is posted to the internet, previous posts would simply update. Yes, this sounds incredible, but the internet makes the incredible credible. Already, in 2017, I am astonished at how far the internet has come in terms of historical research. It’s a brave new world.

© 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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All I wanted was an electric train…

“Specimen of Ornamental Typewriting. Written on a Remington No. 5 machine by Franklyn T. Rudiger, South Omaha, Neb.” From the Phonographic Magazine, April 1, 1893, Vol. 7, No. 7.

I was a five-year-old boy, thumbing through a K-Mart catalog when I came upon the electric trains page. Glorious towns lay before me, scenes encircled by HO gauge track that seemed to go nowhere, but everywhere.

I wanted one.

All I wanted for Christmas was an electric train.

Dictating a letter to Santa, I began carefully and deliberately: “Dear Santa, I want an electric train like the one in the K-Mart catalog.”

(FULL STOP)

My parents looked at me. Was there anything else I wanted? Perhaps Santa would think I was too young for a train.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Santa… dear old St. Nick… the man whose lap I sat in and whispered my precious request (he never said anything about my being too young)… this man whose sole job in the world is to grant little children their wishes, would deny this erstwhile little child his ONE, SINGLE desire? I was confounded. Such a Santa did not exist.

That Christmas there were many fine gifts under the tree… but no train.

I began to question the meaning of the universe.

But I was a child of faith. Each year, I wrote to the jolly old denier of gifts that ALL I WANTED WAS AN ELECTRIC TRAIN. I knew I was risking much, for if my letter contained no other requests there was a possibility that no toys would find their way under the tree for me. But Santa was not vindictive. Each year there were many other toys (some that I secretly desired) for me under the tree.

Santa played a mean game — “mean” in the sense of shrewd — and he was a crafty old man who knew how to give and how to take away. He bested me each year.

In my ninth year (O, a glorious year it was), there came the miracle of the train. I had written a long letter to St. Nick, outlining my argument for the electric train and somehow I prevailed. I was now old enough for an electric train. (Yes, I placed my hand carefully on the track, and I did not get electrocuted — that was a myth.) I was now old enough to clean and maintain a model railroad.

And round and round the train spun. I was enamored.

I do not believe that I ever thanked Santa for the set, for the year afterward I asked for another set. And the year after, a Santa Fe engine… but, thanks, Santa. You’re a swell guy.


Merry Christmas, everyone. Included in this post is one of the earlier examples of typewriter art (the earliest?), a “No. 5” train, created by Franklyn T. Rudiger, a renowned stenographer. Commenting on his work, The Stenographer wrote: “Mr. Rudiger has executed some of the handsomeness specimens that we have ever seen of typewritten work, and is certainly an artist in the line.” Rudiger worked for the Cudahy Packing Company in South Omaha, Nebraska.

He also composed the following poem:

Another of his works is below:

© 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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