By the 1930s, typewriters were firmly established in the workplace. While American portables were viewed as the less capable offspring of their office parent, it seems the German typewriter company Seidel & Naumann had focussed their efforts on perfecting the portable without an office standard looming over it.
And perhaps for this reason they named their typewriter Erika and made it the most visible label on the machine. Moreover, it’s in a unique type style that speaks to the brand rather than the company. Most other typewriter companies made sure you knew who made their typewriter. And if their typewriters had names, they usually said more about their function rather than their form: Smith Corona Silent, Royal Quiet Deluxe, Remington Quiet-Riter.
Olympia didn’t even bother to add a name label to most of their typewriters, since they were often obscure letter number combinations like SM3. Not exactly something that inspires. Olympia probably decided they’d let their typewriters do the talking. After all, they are superb machines.
But a name says much about what a company thinks of their product.The Teutonic roots of the name Erika suggests something that means noble. And among the Erika line of nobility, the model M is Queen, from her one-piece outer shell to her reinforced carriage rail and levers and silver-ringed glass top keys, she’s not only pleasing to the eye, but has a firm touch that retains a lightening quickness. This is not a typewriter that lives in an ordinary office, she’s meant to grace the desk of a writing aficionado.
At first you might think she’s carriage shifted, but when you actually use the shift, you’ll notice only the platen roller is lifted, making for a lighter experience. About the only quirk is the placement of the margin release. If you look closely, two silver buttons flank each side of the space bar. The second from the left is the margin release. The others are used for setting tabs and margins. The margin set is nice, rather than hunting in the back of the machine to set them, just adjust the carriage to the position you want and depress a button. Royal has a similar function called the “Magic Margin.”
While you can find Erikas with an English QWERTY keyboard (rare!), the more prevalent style is the German QWERTZ layout, where the Y and the Z have been switched. Normally I wouldn’t recommend this layout if you write in English, but typing on the Erika M is pleasing to the soul in ways other typewriters fail to touch. And if you’re not concerned with producing final draft copy on your typewriter, let the Ys and Zs swap lives, you’ll still know what the word is, mazbe. (Hint: that’s maybe) If nothing else, it’ll make for humorous copy.
Some have suggested the M, in the Erika M, stands for Meisterklasse, or Masterclass. While this seems appropriate, I like to think of her as Erika the Magnificent. She’s also in a class by herself. There is no equal.
You are right about Olympias. I have tried before the Olympia SM 9. It’s a square cuteness, worthwhile for any who likes to write in general terms. It seems the daughter of the Olympia SG 3…xD
I would really love to have an Erika M someday. Thanks for the report.
Has anyone ever used an Erika 9?
Thanks for your information. I just bougt an Erika M from a local fleamarket ($25) in perfect condition, wit case and brushes.I just fell in love with this machine and now i’m looking for soms more information. All photo’s On the interenet show the Erika with white keys, but mine has black (glass) keys, it’s qwerty also. I can not find any information about this model.
(I live in The Netherlands)
Black keys! Wow. All black — way cool. And QWERTY! And you practically stole it! Enjoy the grandest of them all.
Very rare model, I’d love to have this great find love writing as well my
Name is Erika M. Awesome you came
Great hearing about your Erikas..I’m looking for a ten. I have fives,a six?????What?…some M’s and a 9. The nine is still superb…but those M’s and fives are just special I would not be concerned about the qwertz keyboard as regards the Z and Y swap…I find that’s easy. The thing I like least is the apostrophe is sent to the corner lower right..upper case. The Erikas have a superb key action. I have SM-3’s ..they are excellent machines…but personally I find the touch of Erikas DELIGHTFUL..snappy fast..light (the keys are engineered differently from all others…look in the space vacated by the typebar when you type you’ll see a spring where no other typers have them,….I do delight in many other portables…Groma N’s, Kolibris, 40’s-50’s Torpedos….Triumph Perfekts (I have an american keyboard one..from MAINE???..Royal P,O and Quiet deluxe …Remington 5’s ahh what bodies…Smith Coronas(many great machines…40’s 50’s sit down and write a novel..)Olivetti Studio 44’s…key action not sexy..but what fine machinery…….The Erikas 5 up to ??..I havn’t tried 10,11,12’s yet…are beautiful machines….the 5’s great compact portables..among the very best..The M’s are in a master class…..The carriage shift is better than most (better than an SM-3)…..My Erikas have a NUMBER of keyboards even the german ones vary…my four Erika 5’s are all slighty different..I THINK one is swiss??….and I found two english keyboards..here…worst faults…the rubber-platen-feed rollers are more prone to slippage than other makes…not alot but more than normal..so check on that before buying…good luck typing…Nick
thank you for the Article. I have a question. What do you think of the Erika Modell S?
I live in Germany and in the internet there are usually some of them for sale.
I think Modell S is very beautiful, like all of them… 5, 6, M… from that old series.
Maybe there are a view more Numbers, I don’t know yet.
Hello there! In these pre-war Erikas are all basic mechanics same, models differ in design and features as previously mentioned tabulator, margin button, carriage catch and so on.
Thank you for an interesting article and view about the Erika’s.
Absolutely stunning machines. I have an Erika 5tab in perfect condition – with white qwertz keys. Bought as a memory from my first trip to Germany back in 2006 were i together with my german girlfriend at that time visited her parents in Munich. I fell totally in love with this machine and the 5Tab was the real start for my fascination for typewriters.
Never cross my mind before you mentioned it that most manufactures promoted their own company names on the machins first and foremost – except a few like Seidel & Naumann’s Erika’s. That is a sweet twist – the story behind the name is tho even more sweet – and you are right, there is something noble, teutonic or should we say cherisable about the name – the machines are namely named after Naumann’s only grand daughter – Erika! (Hermine Marie Erika Naumann, 1907–2000).
Btw, quite remarkable just the fact that Erika herself lived into this century!
Wonderful story about Hermine Marie Erika.
Nice article about very nice typewriter. Erikas are impressive machines, but you can’t forget also their bigger brothers — Seidel & Naumann Ideal. Ideal D33 has been my first typewriter since my childhood that we have at home. I still have it and love it, it’s big desktop machine, very certain in his workout, can be hard typed as well as surprisingly lightly. Heavy shift is a little downside that is on the other hand nicely balanced.
So it isn’t true that S&N wasn’t making desktop machines — Ideal A1, A2, B, C, D, D33 were these bigger ones.