Bringing a 1940’s Royal Typewriter Back to Life

Royal Typewriter Circa 1940

A while back I had the idea that it would be cool to have an old typewriter in my office as sort of an homage to how far computing and communication have come in such a short time. My wife mentioned that there was an old one collecting dust at her grandmother’s house. When we expressed interest in it she was gracious enough to give it to us.

Last year I spent a few hours on a Saturday cleaning it up and learning how it worked. I can’t find a place to identify the exact model number, but in doing some research I’m fairly certain it’s the 1940’s Royal from this video. It took a few tries, but eventually I purchased the correct ribbon and was able to get it working! We typed up a letter and sent it to my wife’s grandmother along with a photo as a thank you.

These machines are fascinating. This was a “portable” typewriter, but must weight 25 lbs or more. It is not light. The crazy amount of engineering that went into mechanically being able to type up a letter is almost mind boggling.

My favorite fun fact: there’s no #1 key or exclamation mark on the keyboard. After doing some research I learned that to save space these keys weren’t included. To type the number 1, simply type a lowercase L. To type an exclamation mark, type a period, backspace, then apostrophe. I always tell people this and they immediately have to try it out!

Every time I glance over at it I’m reminded of how lucky I am to live in a time where we can progress from that typewriter to a smartphone in less than a generation.