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Some Typewriters Had a 'Colorful' History

By Neal McChristy
16-Sep-98

The candy colors on the typewriters of the '20s through '40s were red, green, gold and pink. Some arrived in two tones and some were red with decals of gold on the front and sides.

The phenomenon of candy colors has made its way into two Corona portables in the collection of Tim Mayfield, Milpitas, Calif., who has a total of about 130 antique machines in his collection.

There are no hard-core resources on the color phenomenon, said Anthony Casillo of Garden City South, N.Y., a typewriter expert and collector. Most collectibles are much older, he said, and "up until four or five years ago, most of those machines weren't even considered collectible."

From talking to old-timers in the business, Casillo said, color "added another dimension to the machine." Corona had portables in red, green, black and gold from the '20s to the '30s. Royal had a pink typewriter, according to Mayfield. Remington had red and green Model 25s, Casillo said.

"Most of the buyers of those portables were students," Casillo said, " . . . so it was kind of nice to have a different color."

In fact, during the '30s, '40s and '50s, one of the most popular Christmas gifts was a typewriter. So why not have a typewriter other than a black one under the tree?

"Remington went to two tones," Casillo said. "I believe it was just a fad of the times, and like any other fad, it died very, very quickly."

Another collector and expert on typewriters, Jay Respler, Freehold, N.J., said the Dupont-made Duco enamels were first used by Royal in 1926.

"The reason Royal, Remington and Smith Corona moved into colors was primarily the result of marketing studies that indicated that women were more likely to want a portable," Respler wrote, "and that the colors would be more attractive to women as consumers (Kodak made the same conclusion and marketed smaller folding cameras in colors by the late 1920s)."

Most of these colored portables were for a period primarily marketed through appliance dealers (toasters, irons, waffle makers, etc.), Respler stated, and in locations where women were more likely to be reached.

"I should mention that Underwood was an early innovator in colored portables, introducing marble-textured three-bank portables (in green, maroon or gray). I think this was before the Duco revolution. The company continued to innovate with colors, including several wood-grained ones in the 1930s (not my preference, but many like them)."

The only Coronas in colors other than black that Respler says he's seen are post-1926 "X" or "Special" folding Coronas or late '20s and on No. 4s. The other colored models were those from 1931 and later - the "flat top, Sterling" and "Silent" models."

By the early 1930s Corona portables ads emphasized the coordination of its colors with those used to decorate the home, according to Respler. This same theme was also used by Remington for its No. 3.

"The famous Corona red, by the way, was called "Scarlet," Respler wrote. "Variations in the candy-colored Coronas were significant, especially, involving the 1930s use of an elaborate spider-web patterned gold decal applied to the front plate and sides (on Xs, Specials and No. 4s). While also applied to the black ones, these decals make the bright colors look quite different than when they are 'plain.'"

"I have a bunch of ribbon cases," Mayfield said. "All of a sudden, a lot of people are interested in them."

He started his business, Mayfield Business Machines, in 1979, working in IBM Selectric repair. "In this area, Selectrics have become computer companions," Mayfield said, being used for labels and envelopes, "and they're hot right now."

The company also services high-end fax machines and remanufactures HP laser printers and toner cartridges.

When he's not working on a fax machine or a printer, the Delta of multiple streams and rivers that courses from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay is a favorite spot, where he fishes for channel catfish. And trout fishing, which he does with live bait, is a short eight minutes away.

This fisherman has been hooked on collecting antique typewriters for 15 years now.

"One of my customers had their IBMs on service and collected machines," Mayfield said. "He asked if I could restore a Corona, and all of a sudden, I got hooked on it."

Web sites for people quoted in this article: Anthony Casillo has a WWW page at http://members.aol.com/typebar/collectible/typewriter.htm

(Editor's Note: Tim Mayfield is selling his collection. If you are interested in Mayfield's collection, contact him at Mayfield's Business Machines, 154 S. Main, Milpitas, Calif., 95035 or call him at (408) 946-0725.)


 
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