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Domesticating the typewriter

Portable typewriters gained ascendancy in the 1920s and 1930s, but for most consumers portability meant simply that it could be moved around the house easily. In the 1930s, recognizing that consumers mostly left their machines on desks or tables, Remington offered an alternative to the traditional carrying case: a decorative cover. Advertised sometimes as a “fibre” cover, though some may have been made of wood, the facade showed a variety of themes: ships, maps, a coach-of-four, or a Japanese garden. One model, the 3B, was offered with racing stripes.

Certainly, a fiber or wood cover reduced production costs for Remington, but for the consumer, the manufacturer suggested it could be used “to mask [the typewriter’s] stark, metallic, office-like efficiency. To make it belong on your library table fittingly as a cigarette box,” or so read an advertisement published in women’s magazines in the early 1930s.1

Covers may have been offered as an after-market item by Remington. In the 1930s, to reduce prices, carrying cases were sometimes optional. Or, these decorative covers could have been sold as an alternative to the carrying case at the time of the purchase.

It does not appear that many of these covers have survived, nor is it clear how many were sold. If consumers opted for the cover, the bottom portion of the case was included nonetheless. As the covers were made from paper or wood, it’s not difficult to imagine that these decorative items simply deteriorated over time.

In the case of the 3B, Remington stopped offering the “fibre” cover in the middle of 1936 (the machine was introduced in July 1935). From around April of 1936, Remington offered the machine with a full carrying case only, raising the price from $31.50 to $34.50. Previously, a carrying case was an option. One senses the domestication of the typewriter failed: consumers still expected a fully carrying case.

One last note: when the 3B or 3 Bank was first released, it is likely that neither a case nor cover was offered. Remington advertised the machine as the “Home Typewriter” (i.e., meant for the home library, not toting?), and images in advertisements show neither case nor cover, nor hinges.

Note: If anyone has one of the more decorative covers, please send images to netadams (AT) gmail.

© 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. Vogue and House & Garden in 1930. []

8th Dayton sold on eBay

A black Dayton Portable Typewriter was just sold on eBay for $1,341.74. It is the eighth known Dayton — serial number BN 366. Congratulations to the buyer.

Munk lists the previously known seven machines here. Six of the machines are green; two are black.

© 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


After a period, two spaces.     Or one.

It’s a generational thing. If you learned to type on a manual typewriter, you likely put two spaces after a period.    Like that. If you learned to type on an electric typewriter or a computer (most everyone), you likely put one space after a period. Like this.

I learned to type on an electric at school and a manual at home. I was a two spacer.    Then I purchased a Mac Plus computer, and I became a one spacer. I prefer one space.

Business Insider’s Farhad Manjoo, offers this commentary: Why You Should Never, Ever Put Two Spaces After A Period

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M).

Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here’s the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s.

© 2017, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.