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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

On This Day in Typewriter History: Royal’s Magic Margin Men

PART 133
There are many Typospherians who would agree with this sentiment
Irish Magicians Weave
a Right Regal Invention
How Henry Hart illustrated the Magic Margin mechanism
in his patent application in 1938
On this day in 1938 (September 30), two Irish-Americans, Bernard Joseph Dowd and Henry Joseph Hart, applied for a patent for the mask of Royal’s famous KMM (“Magic Margin”) typewriter.
Dowd and Hart worked together on all the components of the Royal KMM, including the “Magic Margin” mechanism itself. Hart applied for the patent for this latter invention on October 1, 1938, the day after he and Dowd had applied for the mask design patent.
Hart’s patent application drawings look like a right Royal Magic Maze.
The input of Dowd and Hart even extended to the KMM's keytops and the ribbon spool mechanism. Dowd designed the distinctive keytops (also applying on October 1, 1938), now sadly so favoured by keychoppers, while Hart designed the devilish ribbon and spool arrangement.
The KMM was introduced to the market in 1938, picking up the “K” prefix from the thread of Royal standard typewriter serial numbers and adding “MM’’ for Magic Margin.
David McCullough is one of many writers
who have shown a preference for the KMM
Tennessee Williams was another
The KMM represented Royal’s first major break in typewriter design from the Ed Hess-Lewis Myers era, which had stretched back to 1905. While Royal continued to market the Quiet DeLuxe portable (its mask was redesigned after the War by Henry Dreyfuss), the mechanics of this smaller machine were still essentially the work of Hess and Myers. The KMM line, however, was a marked change, a pronounced step away from the input of the company's founders - mechanically and in many other ways.
Apart from the "Magic Margin", Dowd and Hart also introduced touch control.
So into the big shoes of Hess and Myers stepped, with aplomb and much success, Bernard Dowd and Henry Hart. Dowd was born on April 17, 1883, in Cavan, Ireland, while Hart was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 1898 and started work at Royal as a young draughtsman. By 1949 Hart was vice-president of Royal.
Royal KMM designer Bernard Dowd's war-time registration card
One thing that didn't differ from the Hess-Myers era was Royal's heavy promotion of a new product. It had set the trend under George Ed Smith in the 1920s, and its marketing men did the KMM proud, as can be seen by the adverts below. 
As well, Royal backed the KMM by luring away from Underwood its world speed typing champions, the legendary Albert Tangora and Stella Willins - to promote the Royal machine.
Stella Willins at a Royal KMM
Willins had set a new world women's speed typing record in 1937 with 128 words a minute for a full hour without a single mistake. Another champion to switch camps was Cortez W.Peters, who continued to promote Royal typewriters after the War.
While Willins was given a job as its "schools manager" by Royal, for Tangora, the team change brought different rewards. He is seen here, left, with a stack of boxes of Royal KMMs and his specially-built 1940 President Club Sedan Studebaker (painted, I believe, in "Royal purple"). 
Miss Willins, meanwhile, was smokin' ...
Royal never missed a beat in gaining positive publicity for its typewriters and in 1951 presented Pope Pius XII with a special white KMM with the Papal crest on it. The KMM was given to the Pope at Royal's Canadian plant. It had a white and gold case with scarlet lining.
Among other writers, journalists and artists who preferred the Royal KMM were Murray Kempton, Australia's own Christina Stead, Pearl Buck and Rod Sterling:


Bill M said...

Very nice article. I really like those old ads. If I ever can find room the KMM is one of the typewriters I'd like to add to my collection.

Richard P said...

This is great. Now I know whom to thank for my KMM! It may not be the flashiest or fanciest or rarest typewriter around, but it is arguably the best. I have never found a manual typewriter that operates faster or has a snappier feel than this one.

Ryan Adney said...

Of all the Royals I do have, the KMM is not one of them. I have two KMGs and of course the HH, but the KMM has eluded me still. I have always liked the black paint. It seemed like a very comfortable, sober typewriter. Great post on the MM. It seems to me like MM was the most complicated solution possible to something pretty simple, but without that complexity my blog would be called Margin Set. Fantastic post!

shordzi said...

Excellent ads, thanks. And I particularly like the photo with the car in front of the stack of typewriters.

Will Davis said...

An excellent article. I did use a machine of just this model for some time way back when I had the process of typing all my online work before entering it in the html editor.

I do have to be that one dissenter, though; I have a fair number of machines on which I can type much faster, error and jam free, than this model Royal. Having said that, it's one of my two favorite Royal standard machines to type on (the other being the regular No. 10 Standard Royal.)

Thanks for all the work that went into this article!

Ken Coghlan said...

Those have to be some of the most complicated patents I have ever seen! Even the keytop looks complicated, with all of the numbers and lines surrounding it.

Anonymous said...

Just purchased a KMM as a gift for a friend of mine, based on serial # was manufactured in 1947. hope he likes it..

Larissa said...

I have a KMM typewriter. Got it at an antique store for 55 dollars. I own this, a smith Carona and an Underwood.

Anonymous said...

I'm Bernard Joseph Dowd's great-grandson, and I wanted to say we really appreciate this article. I have a KMM that I still use.

Tom Hitt said...

Fantastic article- thanks for all the info. A friend of ours just gave us a KMM from 1948. I'm halfway through cleaning it up, I'm very excited to get it back into use. ~Tom~

G Fautley said...

Thank you for the wonderful article on the Royal KMM. I picked one up at a local thrift store today. I'm just a few months shy of 60, and this may have been the same model my Mom had when we were growing up (although it MAY have been a similar vintage Smith-Corona). During WWII, she worked at Hamilton AFB (then the Army Air Corps) in Novato, CA as a secretary. One of her jobs had to do with visiting entertainment for the troops on base (being 18 years old, she naturally got many autographs, including Burl Ives and Phil Silvers). Anyway, I assume she got to keep the machine at the end of her job. One of these guys got heavy duty in our home (with 3 kids), typing school report after school report. Mom passed away in 2005, and I never knew where her machine ended up. Maybe this one??.....