Tools of the Trade No.2 – The Remington Quiet-Riter
Model: Remington-Rand Quiet-Riter, S/N QR2454389
Year Built: 1953
Price Paid: $25
Ah, the 1950′s… When men were repressed, women were oppressed, and typewriters were typewriters. At the midpont of the 20th century, The Remington Rand Corporation was a business-machine behemoth with ties to just about every kind of mechanical industry. At the height of World War II, a Remington Rand typewriter factory was churning out .45 ACP caliber pistols for the U.S. Government. At the height of the Cold War, they were producing UNIVAC computers for various branches of the government and armed forces. It’s a family that the Quiet-Riter fits into quite nicely: it’s built like a tank.
Typewriters of the 1950′s were beginning to go the way of many other consumer goods–highly stylized and intended for domestic consumption by a newly-revived economy, they were crammed with new conveniences, the workings of which were hidden from view by large covers. The skeletal body and mechanical accessibility found in desk-sized typewriters of the 20′s and 30′s had been phased out and replaced by full-bodied designs that encapsulated the entire mechanism, and required access through hinged doors to perform tasks such as ribbon changes or oiling. In an attempt to keep the living room from sounding like a newsroom, these panels and doors were often lined with soundproofing.
In an era of domesticated typewriters for domesticated homes, the Quiet-Riter is a fairly standard example. It was among the first models to have a mechanism for setting tabs from the keyboard (the lever at the left side of the keyboard). This feature would go on to separate higher-end machines from economy models for at least the next decade.
However, in an era when a Smith-Corona Silent Super could be had in pink, the Quiet-Riter was unerringly drab. It was offered in four colors, all in a textured, “crinkle” finish: “Desert Sage,” “White Sand,” “Mist Green” (this example), and “French Gray”. The Quiet-Riter is not a storied machine. Nor is it an ostentatious machine. Nor is it even a particularly pretty machine. It’s simply a workhorse.
The Quiet-Riter is my favorite machine in the A/S collection, and not simply because the misspelled model name so often echoes the linguistic failings on my pages. In truth, the machine is an absolute joy to write with. It never malfunctions, and has hardly needed so much as an oiling since being purchased at a second-hand store in rural New York several years ago, for $25 with a color-matched case. The action is not nearly as crisp as many of the typewriters in the collection–it thunks more than it thwacks. But the heavy machine stays put no matter how furiously one types, and you can almost feel the momentum of the heavy carriage advancing each time you thumb the space bar.
The weight and bulge of the upper cover also make this a fantastic machine to pound one’s forehead into during a particularly persistent bout of writers’ block.
Simply put, this is an inelegant beast of a machine, far too common for collectors, far too ugly for flea-market junkies, but exactly heavy enough to keep a frustrated writer from impulsively throwing it out the window. I expect it to outlast me by thousands of pages.