The takeaways

by | Sep 10, 2018 | Adler, safari, Smith-Corona, Underwood | 13 comments

Congratulations to ZetiX for guessing the four winners from Friday’s typewriter safari!

1. This Adler J4 was an obvious choice at just $29.99. It’s an uncommon and well-made portable with interesting styling (reminiscent of its notorious big brother from “The Shining”).

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy:

And—bonus!—this J4 has a beautiful typeface known as Esquire (Rodrian 88) (thank you, Ted Munk):

2. I couldn’t resist the Underwood Master, on sale for $40. I’m fond of this somewhat ridiculous attempt to streamline the boxy Underwood, and I’d been thinking that if I found one in nice shape at a good price, I might pick it up. Notice that this one even has a rare ribbon cover on the left spool.

It’s not quite a giant, but it is a very beefy writing machine. It was made one year after the New York World’s Fair.

Here’s what it looks like after extensive cleaning and adjusting. I had to replace one foot and part of the backspacing mechanism. I found the second ribbon cover languishing in the innards of the typewriter!

3 and 4: These two Smith-Corona Classic 12s also came home with me.

Why? Look closely:

The scale on this 12-inch carriage only has markings up to 66 characters. And …

… notice the lack of a red ribbon option.

Yes, these are magnatype machines, 6 characters per inch.

For $29 apiece, this purchase was a no-brainer.

The two keyboards are not identical: notice that the first keyboard below includes the usual symbols #, %, and &, but the second one replaces them with +, ÷, and =.

Both typewriters include this peculiar key:

Both typewriters actually print the same characters, including + ÷ =. One of the typewriters has an old ribbon, but I think the typeface is identical.

The weird character is an em dash (–), as opposed to an en dash or hyphen (-). The em is a little longer, and also prints a little higher on the page: see the ems and ens between the two typing samples above. I’m really not sure why you’d need both kinds of dashes, but I guess the em looks better as a minus sign.

The typeface is similar to Speech-Riter (another grateful tip o’ the typebar to Rev. Munk). However, note that the a and 4 are obviously different from Speech-Riter, and there are other, more subtle differences. Sight Saver isn’t a match, either.

According to information scratched into the back of one of these typewriters, it belonged to a fabric supplier in St. Louis. Now both of them are going to WordPlay, either for kids to use or for sale to the public.


  1. Ted

    Excellent pickups! (:
    I was thinking those SCM's might be Primary Type, but I can't find an exact match for the "4" and "9".

  2. David Brechbiel

    Well done! The kids will love these 6cpi typewriters. My Underwood Master is ready to come to my bench after waiting a year and a half. I can hardly wait to get to it!

  3. Erik Bruchez

    I would have jumped on the Master for that price too. Good picks.

  4. John Cooper

    I don't know why an em dash should appear on a typewriter, nor why an em dash and a hypehn should be printed at different heights. Unless the two marks produced by this machine are printed side by side, they're very difficult to tell apart. The em dash on this typewriter is about the width of a traditional en dash.

    In traditional publishing, hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes have different uses, and each is distinct from the others.

  5. Piotr Trumpiel

    Ha! :) I had that Adler – a very good machine for day-to-day typing IMVHO – although with a standard typeface so this one is really great find. I love the boxiness of the Underwood – I hope to find a nice one someday. I wouldn't have a clue that the Classics are magnatype just by looking at the scale (another lesson learned – thank you) but I would've taken a look at the typeslugs anyway (so I hope) therefore I'd have grabbed them both as well :).


  6. Bill M

    Very nice typeface on the Adler. I really like my J4. It is the best portable I've found. Beats all in my collection and all that I've used. Great find on teh Classic 12s also. Now to look for ribbon covers for my Master.

  7. Ping A

    Yes, the Adler was a no-brainer. The magnatype S-C is brilliant, though!

  8. Anonymous

    Cerca la bala!

  9. Unknown

    Holy cow! What a find. I used to collect typewriters. Then sewing machines. Now I'm collecting vintage double-edge razors. I'm crazy, I know. : )

  10. John Cooper

    Another thing occurs to me…that special symbol on the comma key doesn't appear in the type sample. Could it simply be a way to quickly identify a magnatype machine?

  11. Richard P

    I still guess that it is intended to refer to this kind of dash, an em-dash, which does look different from the hyphen when it's typed. But for us magnatype-spotters, this may be an easy way to spot such a typewriter!

  12. The Road Whisperer

    Here is a brief description from the Chicago Manual of Style, on the use of hyphens and dashes. Probably pretty universal in publishing, though different style manuals might have different tweaks.


    Just as a more correct way to ‘publish’ or type an elipses is . . . with a space between each period. Rather than this …

    An em dash on a typewriter would be more useful and fun for me than fractions, but two hyphens works as well and is understood. The en dash is lost in translation.

    Lots of punctuation tricks to play with if one is interested.

  13. John Cooper

    Oh, of course! I should have spotted the association in the type sample.


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