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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

On This Day in Typewriter History: Happy Valentine Typewriter Day

ettore, what have you wrought?

                        PART 164
It was on this day (November 3) in 1969 that Ettore Sottsass Jr, of 14 Via Manzoni, 20121 Milan, Italy, filed his US patent for the Olivetti Valentine.
The typewriter had, of course, when launched by Olivetti almost nine months earlier, in Barcelona, Spain, on St Valentine's Day, February 14, 1969.
An application had been made in Italy on May 3.
Sottsass cited four previous designs, three of them from Remington typewriter designer Carl Sundberg, from 1960-63. These were for the Monarch and the Envoy II and Envoy III portables.
He also referred to a typewriter he had seen on June 18, 1963, in a Singer Sewing Centers folder, No NA 4285, for a Singer Graduate T-31 (which looks very much like the Remington Monarch):
As well, Sottsass referred to a suitcase designed by Illinois pair Kendrick T.Parsell and Harold Brickman in 1965.
But what Sottsass really had in mind, it turns out, was something like this:

Sottsass had long since disowned the Valentine. But as Olivetti had gone ahead with producing it in Barcelona, and it was clearly going to be a success, Sottsass thought he should at least put his name to the design. He might have been altruistic in outlook, but he wasn't stupid.

Sottsass told the Los Angeles Weekly arts section in a March 2006 interview ("In the Realm of the Senses") how much he disliked the machine. It was, he said, "too obvious, a bit like a girl wearing a very short skirt and too much make-up". He hated being remembered for it before his other great typewriter designs, such as the Praxis 48.
“I worked 60 years of my life," said Sottsass, "and it seems the only thing I did is this ****ing red machine. And it came out a mistake. It was supposed to be a very inexpensive portable, to sell in the market, like pens. It didn’t have capital letters, it didn’t have a bell. I wanted the case to be inexpensive.
"Then the people at Olivetti said you cannot sell this kind of cheap Chinese thing. So, everything was put back: the capital letters, the bell, even the expensive plastic, which I was thinking would be this horrible, cheap plastic. So, it was a mistake.”
Ettore hugs his 'mistake'
Sottsass, an Olivetti consultant, had come up with an “anti-machine machine” concept, for the typewriter equivalent of the Bic biro, a disposable typewriter. When Olivetti disagreed with the idea, Sottsass walked from the project. Under the supervision of the Canadian Albert Leclerc, it was completed by an English designer, Perry A.King.
Olivetti ensured Sottsass’s name was attached to the design work, to enhance the machine’s desirability. But the company was careful with its choice of wording, preferring “devised”, for example, to “designed”.


shordzi said...


Scott K said...

And your green machine emerges from Aladin's cave! It is Magnificent.

And excellent work as always, Robert.

Jasper Lindell said...

If only all our mistakes looked that good.

Bill M said...

Thank you for the wonderful history of the Valentine. I never knew any existed in any color but red. Now I must add a Valentine to my wish list, a green one.

Excellent work Robert.

Robert Messenger said...

Thanks Georg, Scott, Jasper and Bill for your comments. Scott, thanks for the "green" tip to start a great green day. When I got the Streamliner who mentioned in your other comment, I felt embarrassed about having had the Valentine on the same bench. Now that WAS a mistake, Jasper. In other words, Bill, I wouldn't necessary recommend buying a Valentine

Cameron said...

As the owner of two red Valentines (one in pica and the other in elite) I am grateful for this post, Robert!

It fills in a few of the blanks of the Valentine's history for me.

How long were they made, do you know?

Richard P said...

There really are some weird posters in there. Typing in an airplane cockpit?

Those People: said...

Hi Robert,

This is Show from Taiwan designers' week(

I'd like to know, can I use the information and photos on this blog to introduce Valentine?

please reply me via

Tracy said...

Thanks for this lovely post. I just got a valentine on eBay for what I thought was a steal -- but I wonder if you know; I've heard they were expensive in 1969 but I've never seen anything like an actual cost. Just how dear were they?

Thank you again,


Rowan D Story AM said...

Hello. Very much enjoy your blog. Your assessment of the Valentine is, I am sure correct. I have an early model and while it is not as smooth as my Glasgow built 1963 Lettera 22, there is a certain clunky sort of charm with the Valentine - it certainly attracts attention when it is out in public - so for sentiment I use it as well as the Lettera 22. Thank you again for the immense amount of erudite work you put into this fascinating area.
Kind regards
Rowan Story