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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Superman's Typewriter

When a Victorian couple asked me last year to “give a good home” to their now retired Remington Super-Riter, I naturally said “Superman’s typewriter will always find a roof over its carriage and a warm ribbon in its belly in my home”. This seemed to “go through to the ‘keeper” (or, in American baseball parlance, "through to the catcher"). I explained Clark Jerome Kent used just such a typewriter at The Daily Planet. They seemed sceptical, or perhaps thought I was a bit nutty, until I showed them the indisputable evidence:

It’s a Remington Super-Riter all right. Now even Sydney typewriter collector Richard Amery is referring to it as “Superman’s typewriter”. Actually, Richard is an avid fan of the George Reeves Adventures of Superman TV series. And, after I mentioned this must be the model mild-mannered reporter Kent used, Richard went back to his tapes and confirmed what had already been my impression. I now have two Remington Super-Riters in my collection. Hey, since when is one Superman typewriter ever enough?
If you look at an uncropped version of the photo above, from Jim Hambrick’s Super Museum in Metropolis (where else?), Illinois, you will see there are two Remington Super-Riters among the collection of actual props used in the TV series. The one seen here, on the bottom right, sits beside a Royal and an IBM electric. There is another Super-Riter on a shelf below this one at the museum in the Metropolis Town Square at 517 Market Street (maybe the second one was used by Lois Lane, before she went electric?)
Lois was just (wo)manning the reception desk this day. The rest of the Planet team was out having a long lunch, leaving their crack reporter to keep on eye on things.

The eagle-eyed reader will note that, as Kent leaves the scene (below, February 1976), he’s not carrying a typewriter, so obviously he did leave the Remington back at The Daily Planet in Metropolis.
Wikipedia refers to Kent being able to type “extraordinarily fast” and this cover illustration demonstrates that Wiki isn’t kidding.
And this letter and editor’s reply provides further evidence:
Naturally, most of the other superheroes wanted to emulate Kent’s typing ability. After Clark destroyed Lois's Remington, she got an electric portable
Clark's pal Jimmy Olsen got in on the act (or was it the gorilla?),
Batman and Robin made good crime-fighting use of the 14-ton Underwood Master from the 1939 New York World’ Fair,
Mr Terrific could memorise and type quickly
And Wonder Woman was an adept at the keyboard, too
But when all is said and done - while Snoopy might have been the world's most famous typist in the last quarter of the 20th century (see earlier post),  Superman was undoubtedly the greatest typing superhero of them all:



Duffy Moon said...

Awesomest blog post ever. Well done.

Richard P said...

Who knew there were all these Superman-typewriter scenes? This is great!

notagain said...

Excellent post! My noiseless seems to be in a Super shell. Maybe I'll call it Clark.

Yvette Adams said...

I stumbled upon this post as I went searching for a typewriter ribbon for the Super Riter I bought today. Glad to know I have Superman's #1 choice in typewriters. :)

Do you happen to know where I might be able to buy a ribbon for it? It didn't come with one so that that doesn't help!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Yvette. Fullmark (Malaysian-made) black-only ribbons are on sale at a stationery store in Phillip, between the music stores behind Magnet Mart. They cost about $8.50. Black-and-red Pelikan ribbons are no longer sold here. With this model, you are going to need to use the existing capstan rings and wind on to them the new ribbon - Remington-specific metal-core ribbons have not been sold in many, many years. However, there is an eBay seller in Adelaide who has a stock of very old-style manufacturer-specific ribbons.

Don L said...

I have a Super Riter that got left at a house that I moved into. It was pretty dusty, but a bit of clean up and it's good as new! Tha wierd thing though is that it only types capital letters in lower case mode, - when you shift, it mostly only types + (plus) signs. What's that about? Was it for a telephone/teletype office, or for telegrams?? Love reading your blog every day- cheers me up!! Thanks Don

spaitz said...

I'm looking for information about the super-riter ribbons and I hoped that you could help. I have one of those remington but the original ribbon was totally covered in mould that made it stick toghether, so I had to throw it away.
Now I'm looking to find ribbons online but I can't seem to find the actual super-riter kind. Do you think that other remington ribbons could work? Like the personal-riter or the letter-riter?

Thank You!

Typewriter King said...

From what I remember, the black-and-white Superman TV series used Remington Super-Riters. Sometime after they were colorized, they used IBM model B electric typewriters. Yes, Superman had an electric typewriter. And, to answer spaitz, the Super-Riter is a rather adaptable machine. From what I remember, there are detachable covers that go over the top of the ribbon spool bottoms. I've seen metal spool cores, full spools, and I've even installed ribbon with absolutely no spools at all. This can be done by simply tying a knot as close to the end of the ribbon as possible, and stuffing that down the slot in the spool bottom. Slip the top on, and wind the ribbon, and voila, you have a full spool on that side ready to go. Do the same to the other side, and voila, you're ready to type! All you really need is some half-inch nylon ribbon cut out of a computer printer cartridge (make sure you cut at the diagonal splice). Other typewriters that use this type of toggle mechanism include Remington Noiseless, Remington 17, KMC, Super-Riter, Letter-Riter, Travel-Riter, Electri-Conomy, 300, 25, L25, 26, and all other higher-end Remingtons. Underwood manuals since late 1953 and Underwood electrics since 1947 use the same kind of ribbon mechanism. It's very common.

John Tapp said...

Re-ribboning a Super-Riter is not difficult. In fact, there are several ways: First, if you can get them, flanged spools with large middle openings--the kind that work on Remington KMC, Noiseless, some Remington Portables and Electrics, Underwood 150 to Underwood Touch-Master Five, and their electrics (they stuck with the old style spools for their portables) would all work. The core-type spool for each of these machines would also work--provided you still have the removable round tops that sometimes come with these typewriters. Also, you could tie a knot in each very very end of the ribbon and stuff them down the empty slots on the spool holders, along with using the round tops, and the machine would be very useable. All you need is a half-inch nylon ribbon. Pay close attention to the way the ribbon winds onto the left or right spool. On a Super-Riter, the left spool rotates clockwise at the takeup cycle, while the right spool rotates counter-clockwise at its takeup cycle. I hope this helps.