July 2016: 1955 Underwood Universal
From the mid to late ‘50s Underwood displayed what appeared to be a scattered, if not manic approach to the design of its portable typewriter cases. Four different designs existed over the five year span, and even the Underwood logo that badged each machine seemed to be the subject of a constant evolutionary flux. In hindsight, when you factor in the company’s close association with (and eventual takeover by) Olivetti at the end of this period, it’s easy to view this chapter in Underwood’s history as the death throes of the company’s identity.
The ranging designs from this era included everything from curvy, deco-inspired shapes, to pragmatic and stoic enclosures. Occupying the middle ground of these design extremes is this ’55 Universal with its white enamel front cover that makes the typewriter look it belongs alongside the stoves and fridges found in American kitchens during the nifty fifties. It was daring for Underwood to present the typewriter as an appliance, and the distinctive design earns this Universal Typewriter of the Month honours.
June 2016: 1957 Smith-Corona Super
This top model of the ubiquitous Super-5 series arguably represents the zenith of Smith-Corona’s portable designs, and yet it is often overlooked by today’s typewriter buyers. Despite its remarkable performance characteristics, and a proven record of robustness, most contemporary buyers only see a machine’s aesthetics, which is perhaps the only fault to be found with the Super-5 typewriters.
In isolation the Super-5 design is wonderfully organic and streamlined, but much of its nuanced details are lost in the drab colour palettes that Smith-Corona used for the majority of Super-5 models it produced. The bland brown-grey-green paint covering most Super-5 models effectively turns what is a sexy typewriter into a stodgy-looking machine, but not so with this ’57 model, which is one example of the less frequently seen colour variants. Literally rocking the Super design, this lava black finish with light grey accents and ivory-coloured plastic is transformative, and it makes this machine worthy candidate for Typewriter of the Month.
May 2016: 1946 Smith-Corona Sterling
It’s only fitting that the very first Typewriter of the Month should be the first typewriter I ever bought. Every time I pull this machine off the shelf I pause to reflect on the role it played in kick-starting my fascination with typewriters, and how things could have turned out very differently: Had this Smith-Corona Sterling not been such a gem to use, it’s very possible that my current obsession would have been stillborn, and that I would have never followed up this typewriter with another machine.