Mar 18 2012

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How Old Is My Typewriter?

First let me say, I was pleased to see an article in USA Today about typewriters making a comeback.  I’ve always loved the old machines.  People who know me know that to be a fact.  Typewriters are cool.  They are deliciously mechanical word processing wonders that were built to stand the test of time.  Plus, they are to be honored for setting the stage for how we interact with keyboards today.  Remember, the QWERTY configuration has been around for a very long time. More than a hundred years, to be exact.  You could say computers and smartphones are nothing more than newfangled typewriters.  (Or maybe not.)  But you get the point.  When you consider that many great novels and newspaper articles were written on typewriters during the 20th Century, the deserve a collective nod. I also believe every person should own just one.

I have several old typewriters in my collection and the question I always found myself asking was, “How old is it?” Fortunately, there are many websites that can help narrow it down or even give you the exact year.  This site is my favorite for quick checks of typewriter manufacture dates.  Just find your particular model on the list and, voilà, you can see what year it was made.


Oliver No. 3 typewriter (1898) This is my second Oliver. It has much better graphics than the first Oliver I bought, and even has the original wood base and metal cover (not pictured). Olivers have rounded typebars that stick up on both sides, giving it the appearance of having wings. The typebars fly down in a “down strike” motion. These unusual machines have been spotted in many movies. The Oliver 9 is featured in The King’s Speech.


The best site for typewriter collectors and enthusiasts is The Classic Typewriter Page.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you’re just not looking.  This site has it all.  But fair warning, going to this website will make you want to buy an old typewriter on eBay.  There are tons for sale, and if you don’t mind forking out $20-$30 to have one of these “boat anchors” shipped to your house, it’s a great way to acquire a vintage machine.


This early 1900s Royal typewriter sits on a file cabinet beside my desk at work.


The above typewriter was given to me by a News 4 viewer who read on the station’s website that I’m a typewriter buff.  She didn’t have room for it and wanted to make sure it went to someone who would cherish it.  (I love it when people donate their typewriters to me.)  The sheet of paper in the platen tells the story of how this machine was used by her father at bank in Georgia in the 40s and 50s.  Knowing the history makes its that much better.

So let’s get collecting, shall we?


Permanent link to this article: http://timwaller.com/2012/03/18/how-old-is-my-typewriter/


  1. Dennis Weathers

    Tim, this one has to have been made just past 1920 and before 1930. Pre-1920 they did not put caps over the ribbon spools. They also had a two color ribbon, red and black in them. I had saved one from the old Police “Barracks” from 22 W. Broad Street when we moved to LEC in 1975. Had put some ribbons up, too. I don’t know if it is still in the Detective Division or not. We kept it because we were using IBM Electric’s and Capt. Watson worried about what would happen if we lost power! We had to pound hard on the keys because we were typing reports that had 5 copies! The “.” period key, always left a small hole punched when we used it! Fingers would kill you by the time you finished a report! These typewriters are used a lot by interior designers now!

  2. Tim

    Thanks, Dennis! I’d love to know if the old typewriter you’re talking about is still upstairs in the detective division. I’ll have to ask the next time I’m there.

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