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Sunday 17 June 2012

Carl Sundberg’s European-made Remington Portable Typewriters

To mark last week’s end of Maya Stein’s epic 1300-mile, 40-day poetry-writing Type-Ride from Amherst, Massachusetts, to Milwaukee, toting her Remington Ten Forty portable typewriter behind her bike, let’s take a look at Carl Sundberg’s Sperry-Rand Remington portable typewriter designs, all for machines which were made in Holland and Germany.
But first, a congratulatory flower for Maya:
The Ten Forty (Envoy II series) was one of many Remington typewriters that came from the drawingboard of Sundberg, one of America’s leading late 20th century industrial designers.
Indeed, Sundberg was probably the most influential typewriter designer of the age. Among the many leading typewriter designers influenced by Sundberg were Ettore Sottsass, Henry Dreyfuss, Richard Penney, Charles Jaworski and Ed Johnson, Eliot Noyes, Anton Demmel, Laird Covey, Karl Baughman, Alfons Boothby, David Chase and Philip Stevens. Even the original Barbie toy typewriter was a salute to Sundberg.
Sundberg’s first typewriter design was for IBM in 1955. This was for what we generally call the IBM Executive (Model C/Model 41); John Steinbeck can be seen below using one. Noyes followed Sundberg's design with the casing for the Selectric.
In 1959 Sundberg, working with partner Montgomery Ferar, switched allegiance to Sperry Rand and designed the much-loved Remington Monarch portable. This was the first of the Remington portables made in Holland, after Remington pulled out of Glasgow in Scotland because of industrial disputes (see separate post).
There were larger-sized versions of this same design made, and Thomas A.Russo in his book Mechanical Typewriters (2002) says these are "Believed to [represent] the first appearance of a typewriter with a plastic-like casing. The material was Cycolac, a Borg-Warner product composed of an ABS compound ... It was actually stronger than the traditional die cast aluminium frames. Another added feature is that the colour was impregnated into the material, eliminating the need to repaint." ABS stands for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene ABS was certainly used later in the 1960s, on the Olivetti Valentine, and in later model Remington portables shown below, such as the Envoy II and III series. However, it's my firm belief that the Monarchs of the Sundberg design shown here are made of metal. I also have some of the larger versions, including a standard-sized machine, and to me they are also made of metal.
As well as the Monarch, Remington resurrected other earlier model names, such as Quiet-Riter, Travel-Riter, Letter-Riter, Personal-Riter and, perhaps most notably, Envoy. But many new model names also began to appear, ranging from Starfire to Streamliner to Riviera, Capri (Sears-Tower), Ten Forty, Correspondent, Reporter, Premier and Premium, to name but a few.
In 1961 Sundberg followed the Monarch with the Envoy II series design. This model appeared under numerous names, including the Ten Forty. The Envoy II and III lines were certainly made of plastic, but whether to use of Cycolac was Sundberg's innovation is unknown.
GTHawk Collection
That same year, Sundberg designed another Remington portable, most commonly known as the Fleetwing. This line was, according to Thomas Russo, made in Germany, and is relatively rare, especially when compared with the very common Envoy II machines. GTHawk says his Fleetwing, with the serial number ERF115417, was made in Britain in 1963, which seems a bit odd given it was designed in the year (1961) that Remington moved out of Britain; the company was long gone from there by 1963. The ERF sequence, according to the 1973 British Typewriter Age Guide, starts at 500,000.
The Envoy II was followed by the Envoy III series, another model which appeared under countless names and colours. This used the same base and mechanics and many of the same components as the Envoy II, but had a new, more squared-off top mask.
In 1965 Sundberg designed a fourth Remington portable, the Mark II, one which is also relatively rare compared to the Envoys II and III. Again, Russo says these were made in Germany. 
Duffy Moon Collection
Many collectors have commented on the likeness of this German Torpedo with its Remington-style keytops  to the fourth Sundberg Remington design. I do not have a Fleetwing or a Mark II in my collection and am happy to accept Thomas Russo's word that both lines were made in Germany. It might be assumed, if this was indeed the case, that Remington's connection with Torpedo, which dated back to 1931, was a factor. One will note from the serial numbers below that neither the Fleetwing nor Mark II had particularly long production lives (five and three years respectively).
Among Sundberg’s 160 patents are at least 12 for typewriters, many of them jointly with Ferar and most for Sperry Rand.
Will Davis on his Portable Typewriter Reference Site says of Sundberg’s portable designs: “This line consisted of very small and cheap portables … made in Holland, and which used rocking carriage shift.  There are numerous variations in these machines' body styles, and the line was made from about 1961-1973 or so, as near as we can figure.
“The more interesting machines in this line have black keytops, on which the characters are printed in the same colour as the typewriter body.  [The] Envoy II, introduced in 1965, has this feature, and also has the articulated ribbon cover.  Most have a simple snap-on cover; be careful the first time you encounter a machine of this line, as force is needed to open the snap-on cover, but will damage an articulated one.”
Will says the Sperry Rand logo was first used in 1967, but I tend to think it came in a few years earlier. After all, Remington-Rand merged with the Sperry Corporation in 1955, and Sperry Rand’s name is on the 1961 Monarch.
Ryan Adney Collection
Will adds, “This sort of styling is sensibly the last for true Remington-made machines; in the late 1960s, Remington had begun selling machines which were manufactured by Brother in Japan, only one of which (the Remington Performer) was specially styled for Remington [actually, this is not quite true, either, as the Performer is the Brother Super Deluxe 1450]. 
"These, then, mark the end of the oldest US typewriter manufacturer's production.”
Carl Wilhelm Sundberg was born in Calumet, Michigan, on March 11, 1910. He graduated from Northern High School and attended Wicker Art School in Detroit. He began his career in 1927 designing custom car bodies under Ray Dietrich at Dietrich Body Company, then worked in plastics design at Kurz-Kasch. He joined General Motors Art and Color Section, under Harley J. Earl, where he met Ferar. In 1934, he and Ferar left GM and formed the partnership of Sundberg-Ferar
Company headquarters moved from Detroit to Royal Oak, Michigan, and then to Southfield, Michigan, in 1959.
Sundberg’s enduring achievements stretched way beyond typewriters, of course. Indeed, in this photo, Sundberg and Ferar are seen with many of their designs, and I cannot see one typewriter amongst them!
Sundberg designed computers for IBM and in the 1960s many jukeboxes for Seeburg. On a much larger scale, in 1964 he and Ferar designed the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART), the first new US regional transit system since 1907 set a new typeform for modern mass transit. In 1986 it was adapted by the New South Wales Rail Authority in Australia. Sundberg and Ferar also designed subway and rapid transit vehicles for New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.
Ferar (born in Boston, 1910) and an architecture graduate from MIT (1932), joined Sundberg in designing appliances for Sears Roebuck, Whirlpool, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Carrier, Masco, Chrysler and Electrolux. From 1970-80 Ferar taught industrial design at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. Both he and Sundberg retired in 1975.
Sundberg had helped his friend Powel Crosley in styling Crosley’s late 1940s sedans. Famous car-designer John Tjaarda was paid $5000 to submit dashboard designs for Crosley’s Hotshot, but they weren't used. Instead, Sundberg and Crosley did most of the styling. Ironically, Tjaarda’s son Tom Tjaarda, also a car designer, later took to designing typewriters (see the SCM Ghia-designed Super G).  The 1950  Crosley Hotshot was a small, economical but amazingly well-built sports car that won awards in international racing and sold for half the price of most of its competitors.
Sundberg died in Boynton Beach, Florida, on March 1, 1982, aged 71.
Some more Sundberg Remington typewriters:
From Maya's journey


Richard P said...

Wow, thanks for opening my eyes to the work of this talented designer.

Powel Crosley is still a local legend in Cincinnati, and I grew up with BART trains, which still look modern to me 50 years after their design.

Ton S. said...

As always, an amazing, comprehensive post. I learned so much, Robert, many thanks. I don't even consider ozTypewriter a blog anymore; it's really a typewriter encyclopedia.

You got me interested in the Remington Reporter/Fleetwing. It looks slick. How's the typing feel?

Ted said...

We have just one example of a Remington from this era, a Ten-Fourty in blue that looks a lot like the one Maya Stein took with her on her epic journey. I expect most of them must be OK to type on, but ours is terrible, with sluggish, stiff action.

Another thing that people should be aware of when considering buying one of these machines is that the typewriter does not attach to the case baseboard like earlier machines do, so it literally rattles around in the case when it's put away or carried in the case.

They are awfully pretty, tho. (:

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Richard, I Dream Lo-Tech and Ted for your kind words. I have since updated this post a little, to include Thomas Russo's comments about the early use of Cycolac (although my Monarchs are definitely metal, I'm certain) and also German production of the Fleetwing and Mark II models. I note GTHawk says his Fleetwing was made in Britain (?!) It's possible I suppose that the use of Cycolac to case the later typewriters was Sundberg's innovation.
@I dream lo-tech: Unfortunately, I don't have a Fleetwing, but it looks to be a very nice machine. There don't seem to be any performance reviews on the net.
@Ted: The case Sundberg designed for the Envoy lines (including the Ten Forty) is very snug fitting, with the base of the typewriter the bottom of the case. I'd find it odd that portables in this line came in any other sort of case. Some of my earlier Monarchs come unattached in a large square vinyl case, with padding around the machine, some snuggly in a zippered case.

Nick Bodemer said...

Is it just me, or does the Envoy III series look somewhat like the Remington Portable I and II from the 1920s and 1930s?

Nick Bodemer said...

I just bought a Remington Fleetwing, serial number ERF 125117 that was also made in the United Kingdom. My Remington Travel-Riter (Monarch design) is definitely metal.

Duffy Moon said...

Catching up now on some of your old posts, Robert. This one is awesomely comprehensive. Well done.

Mike M. said...

Hi. Recently purchased a seafoam green Ten Forty, black keys with matching green letters. Strange thing is the serial # is FY609143. The FY prefix is clearly stamped and does not match the AY or CY prefixes listed on the Typewriter database site. Any thoughts anyone?? Thanks and love the site!

Robert Messenger said...

Mike, my copy of the Typewriter Age Guide goes up to October 1971. This means the sequence continued on from CY after 1971, possibly to FY by 1973 or 1974, maybe even later (judging by the annual production numbers, almost 100,000 in 1970 and 1971).