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Remington 7 - 1895  
Understrike typewriter   










Remington 10 - 1910  
Visible typewriter   











Remington Junior -1914
'Luggable' typewriter













Remington Portable  1920   


























Remington Portable #2 1925















Remington Portable #2 1927





















Remington 3 Portable 1933














typewriterRemington had been the leading maker of desk typewriters since the company produced the first successful machine in 1878, after buying the patents of Christopher Sholes and his co-inventors. This commercial dominance  was due primarily to William Wyckoff, Clarence Seamans and Henry Benedict - names that adorned desks all over the world on Remington 7 and Remington 10 desk machines (see left).  But by the time the First War ended in 1918, the industry had changed radically - typewriters had become portable. 
     Remington's first attempt to adapt to changing markets was the Remington Junior of 1914 - the result of a joint effort between Remington and Smith Premier (the two companies had merged in 1893).  It was manufactured in the old Smith Premier factory in Syracuse and the design seems to have resulted from a collaboration between Arthur Smith and John Barr of Remington, and Emmit Latta of Smith Premier. It differs from the Remington 10 desk  machine in several important respects.  Most obviously, it has a three-row keyboard with two shift keys to provide the full range of characters. The Junior’s mainframe is fabricated from pressed steel, rather than cast iron. This results in a significant weight saving, but the machine still weighs 16 pounds (against the Corona 3’s 7 pounds) making the Junior ‘luggable’ rather than truly portable. The machine also employs the idiosyncratic ribbon mechanism designed by  Emmit Latta for Smith Premier in 1904.  In this arrangement, the ribbon spools are mounted at the rear of the machine and fed under the carriage. It was so fiddly, that Remington provided a special tool with each Junior for snagging the ribbon end and drawing it through.  It’s thought that machines made for export to Europe bore the letter J on the paper table, rather than the name ‘Junior’, like the machine illustrated here. The Junior was manufactured until 1919 when Remington finally caught up with its main rival, Underwood,  and responded to market demand for truly portable machines.
     In October 1920 the company unveiled the Remington Portable shown below left.  The Remington Portable of 1920 was designed primarily by John H Barr, a professor of machine design and mechanical engineering at Cornell University. Barr was granted the patent for the Remington four-bank portable on October 28, 1919. Almost exactly one year later the machine went into production at Ilion in New York. According to the first edition (August 2, 1926) of The Remport - a newsletter for Remington portable sellers, "The Remington Portable was first exhibited at the New York Business Show in October, 1920. Its manufacture began shortly thereafter but for many months only a limited number of machines were available for delivery."  The wait proved to be well worth while. Barr and his team had created a sleek, low-profile machine with a full four-row keyboard, just like its best-selling Remington 10 desk machine, but with the works slimmed down dramatically.   To appreciate  fully the extent of the design team's achievement, compare the Remington Portable with the company's standard desk machine of the time, the Standard 10 (shown below).  The keyboard is the same size and layout as that of the desk machine, but everything else has been miniaturised and crammed into a sleek box only an amazing three inches high. This streamlined, low-profile design was an augury of the times, heralding the Art Deco movement that was to typewriter revolutionise industrial and interior design in the 1920s and 1930s -- indeed the Remington Portable design is so far ahead of its time, it is reminiscent of machines of the 1950s.  The side view shows how successful the Remington engineers had been at meeting their design brief for the slimmest most modern looking portable possible with current technology.  The Remington Portable of 1920 was  not only beautifully designed, it was also very easy to use because the shift mechanism moved the carriage - not upwards - but smoothly backwards, almost horizontally, with scarcely any effort.   Remington quality was evident throughout in the engineering and the marketplace greeted the new machine in much the same way that IBM customers reacted to the introduction of the Personal Computer in 1982.   They bought the Remington Portable in tens of thousands.  The Remington factory in Ilion, New York, shown here, extended its production capacity still further and the picture postcards boasted it was able to manufacture a typewriter every minute. Perhaps the one design flaw with the early Remington Portables  was that the engineers failed to deal satisfactorily with the need to lay the type basket flat when the machine was stowed away in its case, and so resorted to the clumsy device of having a typebar raising lever (see left) that had to be pushed home to raise the typebars to the ready position before typing could begin.  This clumsy device was eliminated from the Remington Portable model 3 onwards, introduced in 1928 (see below left) and competing with the Remington Noiseless as one of the most beautiful portable typewriters ever produced. As early as 1876, Remington had a factory in London. What was manufactured in London is not known with any certainty as every Remington desk typewriter carried a clear message that it was "Manufactured by Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict, Ilion New York ." It may be that US-made export machines for the British market were adjusted here. However, after the introduction of the Remington Portable, the company began shipping manufactured parts across the Atlantic for assembly at its London factory. These British machines carry a notice informing customers that they were "Assembled by British labour at the London factory of The Remington Typewriter Company Ltd." Usually they did not carry the familiar red Remington seal announcing that to "save time is to lengthen life" although the example illustrated here does have it.The huge market success of this machine prompted Remington to embark on a design spree for portables that lasted for fifty or more years.  The company produced a bewildering array of designs, variations, colours and specifications.  It also pressed into service well-known typewriter brand names that it had acquired, such as Monarch and Smith Premier.  Remington's most successful acquisition was the Noiseless Typewriter Company,  whose silent typing technology they incorporated into a successful range of both desk and portable machines (including the machine shown as the Home icon on this site.)  In 1927, Remington Typewriter Company merged with another office equipment company, Rand Kardex, to form Remington Rand. In 1949, Remington Rand introduced the first business computer, the Remington Rand 409. Instead of an auspicious new beginning, however, the computer signalled the end of the Remington name. In 1955, there was another merger, with Sperry Corporation. This time the Remington name was dropped and the new company was known simply as Sperry Rand. Although no longer on the letter heading, the Remington name continued to appear in the 1950s and 1960s on a range of portable typewriters and electric desk machines, before finally disappearing with the advent of the computer age it had helped found.


     One aspect of the Remington Portable that is of interest to collectors is that its design underwent a very large number of minor changes over the first few years of production, especially the first year. Remington records describe the later, modified version as the Portable #2, leading collectors to refer to the original October 1920 model as the Portable #1. In reality, there is a whole spectrum of changes between #1 and #2 and both versions are sought after by collectors, but the very earliest one is naturally the most desirable. Below is a list of differences to look out for.  

Remington Portable #1
Points distinguishing early model

* The most obvious feature is that early machines, such as the one illustrated above, have only one Shift key, on the left. According to Richard Polt, Remington serial number records show the right hand Shift key as being introduced in March, 1922 (#NL20211).
* The aperture cut in the top plate to accommodate the typebars terminates in rectangular openings rather than curved ones.

* There are no curved guards protecting the ends of the pop-up type basket.

* Serial numbers are punched in the carriage bed rather than rear metal cover frame

* Corners of cover frame underneath have raised blisters for feet, rather than rubber grommets. Front frame has two holes for ‘push-through’ metal retaining pegs in case bottom.

* There is no carriage return lever on early models and the paper is advanced with a simple pinch-lever. Later machines have a vertical lever that both returns the carriage and advances the paper (strikingly similar to the Columbia Bar-Lock typewriter.)       

* The platform on which typebars rest has no felt to cushion typebars when in the ‘down’ position. This platform is a simple flat plate, with the works visible under it. In later models, the plate has a circular protective edge.

* Space bar is made of wood, not plastic

* The paper table is curved in the direction of paper travel while later ones are flat with rounded corners.

* The paper table on later machines has fold-away paper supports while early ones have none.

* The line gauge or alignment scale -- the black triangle of metal that shows the current line of typing -- is positioned centrally over the printing point on early machines, but in later machines is positioned to the right of centre.

* Richard Polt observes that on early machines, the shape of the aligning scale can vary: the opening can be either a plain triangle, or a sort of upside-down, fat T.

* The type guide on early machines is a simple rectangle with a single rectangular hole, while later models had an A-shape with two holes.

* On early machines the platen knob is only around ¼-inch thick; on later machines it is twice this thickness and slightly barrel-shaped.

* The external cover panel is held in place by two screws at the top and two at the bottom of each side. In later models two more screws were added at the top. Later still oval cut-outs appears through which it is possible to access pairs of screws on the internal frame.

* There is no automatic ribbon reversing mechanism on early machines. This is visible in several ways. First there are no helical slots in the knurled knobs at the ends of the ribbon reversing rod. Second, the knobs themselves are relatively narrow and coin-shaped, rather than cylindrical. Third, there is no pawl visible on the ribbon reversing ratchet beside the ribbon vibrator.

* The Line gauge (behind the ribbon carrier) is fixed by screws through two holes, rather than two slots. (This makes it almost impossible to replace if removed!)

* On early models, shift lock is separate from the shift key, so the typist must first shift, and then lock. On later models the Shift key and Shift lock key are linked so that the shifted platen can be locked with a single keystroke.

* The ribbon spools on early machines are held on by a small latch , in the form of a cam, on the top of each spindle. On later machines, the latch is absent and the ribbon spool slides straight over the spindle.

* Early machines do not have a right-hand carriage release lever.

* The line spacing lever on early models is fabricated from thin metal sheet instead of a knurled knob.

* On early models, the paper release lever is pulled forward to release the paper. On later models, it is pushed backward.

* There seem to be at least three distinct case designs, two of which are illustrated here. The earliest case is 1-1/2 inches narrower than later cases and its leather handle is fixed by slits over two round metal buttons rather than under fixed rectangular retainers. The typewriter is fixed in place by side and rear leaf springs in base of case. Two metal retaining pegs in base of case hold front frame of typewriter.

* A later version has four metal studs in the case base which pass through grommets in the typewriter frame and is attached by cotter pins to the studs. In this version there is a lip that runs round the edge of the case.

* In the final version, the case base is flat and the machine is simply screwed to it.typewriter




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          Last revised: 16 October 2016

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