Every once in a while a comment is posted on Typewriter Review that coincides with something I’ve been thinking about lately. Unless you troll the comments sections, this might’ve been something you missed. Not only is it a timely comment, but the response it provoked expands an evolving theme found in recent posts.
William Craig commented on the post Titans of the Typosphere, where the merits of the larger office standard were reviewed:
I took your advice yesterday and bought a standard 1957 Royal FP. It turned out to be my least expensive typewriter ($25) and suffice it to say I agree with everything you say in this article.
The FP needed a lot of TLC (totally gummed up); but all the typewriter needed to get it working was a good cleaning (as in several hours of squirting naphtha and brushing with brass, steel and nylon brushes). Just as you say, this standard typewriter is in an entirely different league than my small collection of portables (’47 Smith-Corona Silent; ’48 Royal QDL, early ’60s Olivetti Lettera 22 & ’64 Olympia SM7). Interestingly, while the foam insulation of the FP is completely shot; to my ears the FP seems no louder than my Olympia SM7. In fact only the Royal QDL is appreciably quieter than the FP.
I’m surprised the standard typewriters get so little attention, I wish there was a fraction of interest and information on the standards as there is regarding portables. I suspect the many of the qualities that make the standard so good, make it less interesting. It appears the last comment on this article was 2 years ago! I thank you very much for this information; I think my typewriter may just have found me; and it turned out to be the standard Royal FP. It would never have found me had you not written this article!
Many thanks for your comment! And so happy you found your match. I might’ve emphasized this in a previous post, but worth repeating in case others want to follow in your footsteps. Look local for a standard typewriter. While portables might be flimsy in comparison, they usually hold up to the rigors of shipping better. They were designed to be locked in a case, stuffed in a trunk and transported in the coach carriage. Standards were delivered to the office in a wooden crate, unboxed and setup by the typewriter dealer. They didn’t move. They worked all day. When they needed a tune-up, the typewriter tech came to the office. When they were no longer serviceable, or the newer model came out, they were rounded up and dropped off at the second-hand office supply store.
Perhaps that’s why they’re harder to find and are often in worse condition than the portable. The portables we find today were most likely cherished members of the family. Many typewriter stories I’ve heard often included fond memories of going through college with their trusty portable. All those term papers! The long, solitary hours with a steady friend. When they graduated, their typewriter went with them, sometimes kept in the closet, other times used for creative projects, letter writing and when the grandkids came over, a novelty to play with. The office standards were used by paid typists. When the job was done, they went home and forgot about the typewriter. Once the office had no use for the typewriters, they sat with perhaps dozens of their forgotten comrades through the decades in a dingy, cold warehouse, the soft lubricating glaze gumming up, the joints stiffening through lack of use and the supple rubber hardening. They’d served their purpose, locked in purgatory, waiting for that day when they’d be relieved of their burden and buried in a landfill, or rescued by a writer motivated to find their voice.
And this might make what I’m about to say troubling — or challenging, depending on your views.
It’s hard to explain, and I’ve hinted at this topic in previous posts, despite fears of not being taken seriously or labelled a kook. Since these long forlorn standards lacked the love they deserved, the creatures that channeled their energy into the much loved portables often passed the standards over. Who was more likely to hear their voice, the over-worked office typist or the struggling writer seeking inspiration? OK, perhaps you don’t subscribe to such nonsense. But, spend enough time over the typewriter, alone, undisturbed, connecting with your inner voice, and you might tap into an undiscovered vein of creative energy. That’s where the muses live. Activate one and you’ll hang onto that typewriter until your dying days. It’ll never leave you. So what does this mean if a standard typewriter has come into your possession? It might take a bit more effort to summon a muse. They’re not used to hearing the call from a standard. But, put in the time, believe this to be true and you’ll find that voice.
William, you’ve prepped your standard typewriter for all the love it deserves. Cleaned her. Rescued her. Saw the potential. Enjoy the magical journey. And who knows, with such a mighty typewriter, you might find a mighty muse!