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Saturday 16 June 2012

The Imperial Remington Torpedo: A German Regent. Work That Out!

Now here’s an interesting thing. I have in the past on this blog speculated on the exact nature of the 1928-32 relationship between the Imperial Typewriter Company of Leicester in England, the Torpedo typewriter company of Frankfurt in Germany, and Remington, which bought into Torpedo in 1931.
A very large piece of this jigsaw puzzle surely presented itself to be slotted into place this morning when this “Regent” made by Imperial in Leicester appeared on Australian eBay. It is clearly a Remington portable.
But is the puzzle now complete? I don't think so. First, I think we'd have to see this Imperial-made Remington Regent and try to work out when it was made - in other words, where exactly it fits into the picture.
It looks like a Remington Model 3, but the serial number (#123433?) has no lettered prefix. The Model 3 was made between 1928-38, with the serial numbers starting at V131519 (the 1925-28 Model 2 went from V100000 to V131518). Or is it a Compact Portable? Or a Model 4, or an Envoy? Hard to tell from these images:
Although we have seen in Alan Seaver’s Machines of Loving Grace collection the (presumably) later Deutsche Remington, based on a Torpedo model, I have not previously seen a Remington Regent. Nor, more importantly, a Remington made by Imperial!
Speculation about the links between Imperial and Torpedo has previously centred around the first Imperial Good Companion portable, which has long been believed to be a Torpedo design.
It has been accepted that Imperial bought the design from Torpedo to make its first conventional portable. Also, that a forerunner to the Good Companion (which first appeared in 1932) is the Regent (1930-31), which was the brand name of an export version of an early Torpedo portable.
Richard Amery, the Sydney typewriter collector-politician who specialises in Imperial Good Companions, has an early Regent, which is obviously a double for the first Good Companion. This machine, another very sizeable piece of the jigsaw puzzle, can be seen here:
My collection
Richard Polt Collection
Wilf Beeching says an even earlier (“about 1928”) Imperial model based on a Torpedo machine (and possibly built for Imperial by Torpedo in Germany) is the Mead.
From what we can make out of the Mead from Beeching’s Century of the Typewriter, it looks pretty much the same as the Klein Torpedo, which Richard Polt has in his collection.
Richard Polt Collection
The slightly bulbous top reminds one of the later Remington Model 5-Streamliner, but I'm sure it's a somewhat smaller machine.
My collection
Nonetheless, expert eyes, such as those of Richard Polt, have spotted distinct similarities between early Torpedo and Remington portables in the first Imperial Good Companion (the collar and the receding typebasket on the Good Companion are perhaps two giveaways).
On an earlier post about Torpedos, I pointed out that after taking over the German company, Remington sent experienced English-born typewriter design engineer Herbert Etheridge to Rödelheim to work for Torpedo. Etheridge later returned to England to work for Imperial. He is yet another fascinating piece of the puzzle.
The accepted wisdom has been that: “Around 1928, the company [Imperial] began to collaborate with German manufacturer Torpedo, who had also introduced interchangeability in its desk machines.  One fruit of this collaboration was the Regent machine, which eventually Imperial bought out entirely and re-christened the Good Companion, which remained in production in different forms until 1963.” 
I am now wondering whether this Torpedo portable isn't a Remington, too, with a badge simply cut into the collar (and a different carriage lever):
So can I celebrate putting this puzzle together yet? Unfortunately not. Something is still raining on my parade:


Trent Reker said...

either remington sold patents or other companies obtained remingtons and engineered similar machines.

both scenarios allow for other companies to simply copy the original with minor aesthetic or functional changes.

without having corporate documentation, it is a mystery. maybe one of us will contact the heirs and spend some time digging through boxes...

Martin A. Rice, Jr. said...

Amazing how popular and copied (?) that remington style was. One thing you might look into is if the possible remington copies also have the geared type-bar mechanism. That would go a long way towards clinching who copied whom.

Anonymous said...

Where on earth do you find time to do such sleuthing? That's some serious (and excellent) work you put into this post.

Good show!

Richard P said...

Robert, I hate to say this, but from the photos I do not think that your Regent is a Remington design. It looks more like Richard Amery's Regent to me, with some small differences.

The Torpedo you show near the end of the post doesn't look like a Remington to me either. I would hazard a guess that this Torpedo is a basket-shifted machine, to judge from that big, distinctive return lever (which much later showed up on the basket-shifted Good Companion 5).

Bill M said...

Very nice looking machines. It is interesting in the similarities. I wonder what the internal workings look like.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Trent, Martin, Steam Line DeLuxe, Richard and Bill.
In the present dire circumstances, I won't be spending the $99 to buy it, especially not in this condition, but it sure looks like a Remington case, anyway!
@streamlinedeluxe: I'm ashamed to say it, but I find the time by neglecting many other things, such as replying to emails and other messages and comments. But thank you for your very kind comment. Sleuthing on typewriters takes my mind off other more pressing but depressing matters.

Jack Zylkin said...

This is really informative... I have always thought Good Companions looked suspiciously like various Remington models but I never knew why -- that said, I have never seen any Imperials in person, so I don't know what they look like inside. But I'd love to know more about the similarities and differences. Can you post pictures of the underside of this Imperial, possibly next to a comparable Remington? The outside appearance is only half the story... Thanks!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Jack. Thanks for your interest. I have since writing this acquired an Imperial Mead, which I believe might be the missing link. It seems to be the same, or almost the same, as a Regent, the export version of the Torpedo. The mechanics of the Mead look almost identical to the early Remington, but not quite. I do intend in the coming weeks to compare all these models mechanically and otherwise. It does seem highly likely that the earliest Imperial portable, rather than being a Torpedo design, as has long been assumed, is in fact a Remington design. Since Remington took over Torpedo in this period, that adds up.

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MancFrank said...
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