Designing a typewriter shop receipt for the 21st century

by | Dec 9, 2017 | paper, WordPlay | 10 comments

In the 19th and early 20th century, typewriter manufacturers and dealers, like other businesses, printed marvelously intricate images on their stationery and bills. (See Peter Weil’s story in ETCetera No. 95.) Here’s a nice example.

But I’m personally more fond of mid-20th-century designs, especially Art Deco graphics such as these:

The other day I found a series of receipts from Spain online that particularly impressed me with the density of their imagery. You could buy a couple of typewriter ribbons and get a receipt with a beautifully designed, multicolor letterhead, an elaborate typewritten account of your purchase, a signature, a rubber stamp, and a tax stamp. The receipt was itself a treasure!

REMER, or Reconstrucción Española Máquinas Escribir y Representación (Spanish Reconstruction of Typewriters and Copiers), produced its own typewriter 3 years after this receipt was typed. (Story in ETCetera no. 87.)

The signature on Señor Trumpy’s stationery reminds me of Donald Trump’s:

I particularly love this image of the tiny repairmen clambering over the typewriter (or is it normal men and a giant typewriter?). A bit of research uncovered this image, uploaded by Georg Sommeregger:

This ad for “over 200 bargain typewriters” dates from 1935, a year later than 1934, the date on the Spanish receipt shown just above. So I don’t know when the graphic was originally produced, but the machine shown is indeed a Continental from Germany.

Spanish repairmen seem to have loved images like this, to judge from this sign I saw in 2015 in the window of a Madrid typewriter shop (which was, sadly, out of business).

These drawings, probably inspired by the Continental image, show Hispano-Olivetti M40 standards, the most plentiful model of large typewriter manufactured in Spain in the first half of the 20th century.

Even though I don’t systematically collect typewriter-related paper, these receipts made me contemplate starting a new collecting line.

But then I had a better idea: I was inspired to try designing a receipt for my own typewriter services (benefitting WordPlay Cincy) which would share some of the charm of these old documents. I had a fine time last night and this morning dreaming it up, along with a business card.

I’m having these printed up by Vistaprint. Now I look forward to providing some collectible paper of my own to the customers of Urban Legend Typewriters.

The oh-so-appropriate image (the skyline even reminds me of Cincinnati and the Ohio River) comes from this August 1930 cover of Fortune magazine (which really was meant for the fortunate few—who else could afford to spend $1.00 on a magazine in 1930?).

View from Cincinnati’s Carew Tower:

If you like the fonts I used, you can download Geomancy and Royal Vogue for free. Geomancy has lots of interesting details, and it’s really two capital-letter fonts in one, with shifted and unshifted versions.


  1. Ted

    Very nicely done! :D

  2. Unknown

    Well, now I obviously have to buy a typewriter.

  3. Bill M

    Great work Richard!

    I wonder what became of Harrisburg Cycle and Typewriter Company. That was in my fire district, but in the late 70s most of that area was being rebuilt. Before that I think there was a bookstore in about that area.

  4. Words are Winged

    That's pretty kickin. I also love the old receipts, and how much care was put into their design. And that fortune cover design certainly blends perfectly with everything you did on your receipt

  5. SteveK

    Nice job. There's a lot more typewriter-related paper to collect than many people imagine. If you look hard enough you can still find newly-issued typewriter-themed covers and stamps.

  6. Mark

    I think the one you made looks fantastic!

  7. John Cooper

    Really interesting images, and the receipt you designed is excellent. I particularly admire the little typographical touches such as the i nestling in the crook of the L, and the AT mark in the email address.

    $1 in 1930 was about $15 today, which matches my initial guess. There are a few specialty magazines today that cost about that much, for similar reasons of exclusivity.


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