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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Skylarks, Skyriters, Zephyrs and Other Typewriters Blowin' in the Wind

Having established, at least in my own tiny mind, the late 1960s design connection between Italian brands Antares and Olivetti in an earlier posting, I have no intention of attempting to do the same thing with Dutch-made Royals and British-made Smith-Coronas of a similar period.

Nonetheless, when a Royal Skylark arrived from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, this week, I was immediately struck by how much it looked and felt like one of the series of SCMs which came out of Britain in the late ‘60s.

I bought the Skylark largely because I’d never seen the model before and was overcome by curiousity – I wondered at first whether it was actually made in the US. It was only after it arrived that I checked with Will Davis’s Portable Typewriter Reference Site and saw the Skylark there – but as a late version of the Quiet DeLuxe.

Will says of it: “The ‘last hurrah’ for the old Halberg-based Royalite design is shown here, in this Royal Quiet de Luxe. This is a very re-engineered machine, and was not built for very long at all. The Japanese-made machines were likely less expensive to build, and the Portuguese-made machines eventually proved more profitable still.”

On another page, Will explains about the Halberg design. “The design, the tooling and the factory were all sold to Royal Typewriter Company, who formed a subsidiary known as Royal Typewriters Holland NV to produce the machines … Royal itself evolved into the Royal-McBee corporation (in 1954) … The Holland-based subsidiary then became Royal-McBee Nederlands NV, which is the label you'll find on the vast majority of Holland-made Royal machines.”

While the body shape, weight and general design are far closer to the British-made SCMs than earlier Dutch-made Royals, the Skylark appears to have evolved from the 1950s Royalite, and at least the keytops remain the same:

Indeed, I came across another listing for the Skylark design, one which names it as a Royalite:

On the subject of later model SCMs, Will says “the Cougar Deluxe descended from the Zephyr/Skyriter. The Skyriter was made in England by British Typewriters Ltd (a subsidiary) after 1960 and further developed there, including fast spacer and tabulator.

“You can find machines such as this one carrying various labels, such as Corsair … The Ghia-designed ‘Super G’ is actually mechanically the same machine with a new body and case style. Also, the very late machines (as shown on my page about the last designs produced by the US makers) are the same again, but with a number of small design and engineering changes - and a totally different look. These are found labelled SCM Smith-Corona Courier and Courier C/T.”

The "Golden Shield" Courier, which descends from the original 1938 Zephyr and the 1958 Skyriter, is one of the very favourite machines in my own collection:

As with Remington and, for example, the “Monarch” model name (the later metal machines were also made in Holland, starting in about 1959), SCM kept on resurrecting “Zephyr”.

As well as the Royal Skylark, I also received this week this SCM Zephyr II, which is an adaption of the Corsair DeLuxe to which Will refers.
Still, in this guise, it’s a very attractive machine:
Getting back to Royals, another model of which I wasn't previously aware has come up on eBay. It's a Century:

And finally, back to the back of my new Zephyr, and to the tale of the tail of the Royal Skylark:

PS: With all this talk about Skylarks and Skyriters, maybe I should also have mentioned another Dutch-made machine, the Remington Starfire:

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