The Typewriter Man


Typewriter of the Month - 2018

Each month, one typewriter will be featured on this page of the website.
It may be a machine that I have been working on, or something that I think might be of particular interest. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

  • Dec
  • Nov
  • Oct
  • Sep
  • Aug
  • Jul
  • Jun
  • May
  • Apr
  • Mar
  • Feb
  • Jan

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

1935 Ideal DZ33 Standard

Siedel and Naumann of Dresden, Germany started in the 1870s as makers of sewing machines, but by the early 1900’s had diversified into many other lines including bicycles and typewriters. Later on, typewriter manufacture became the largest part of the business and the sewing machines were quietly dropped. S and N sold their typewriters under a number of names. The portable typewriters were called ‘Bijou’ or ‘Erika’ (named after Herr Naumann’s grand-daughter). ‘Ideal’ was the name chosen for the office-size typewriters. Like some other German manufacturers before the war, they tended to copy and improve upon the best selling products of other factories. Certainly, S and N followed this route with blatant copies of Singer sewing machines and they also did this with typewriters. The Bijou folding portable typewriter was such a close copy of the American Corona 3, that the Corona factory was able to threaten legal action and make S and N discontinue production. Less successful was Underwood who it seems were unable to stop the Ideal ‘Underwood Five copy’ from being manufactured. Clearly the Ideal DZ33 was derived from the Underwood, although in many respects it was an improvement. To remove the carriage on an Underwood Five involves taking out four screws and a bracket. On the Ideal (and the Continental for that matter – another German ‘improved’ Underwood) it is only necessary to operate a concealed lever and pull the carriage to the left. The drawband is neatly and automatically parked and with the carriage off, the machine can be cleaned or repaired very easily. When the war ended, S and N found themselves on the wrong side of the East/West divide, and eventually became subsumed into the East German state industries. Still using the ‘Erika’ trade name for their portable typewriters, manufacture continued until as late as 1989. Utilitarian but well-made, the Erika portable typewriter was one of East Germany’s most successful exports.

When this particular typewriter was made, Germany was fully under Nazi control. In fact I have read that Hitler’s personal typewriter was a Siedel and Naumann. Certainly the German military were using them, and I was told that this typewriter was ‘liberated’ from a high ranking German official’s office during the latter stages of the war. The owner’s father had done the liberating and had then carried the machine all over Germany in his kit bag before finally coming home and being de-mobbed. Since this is a heavy office typewriter, he must have been tough ! The chap went on to be a policeman in civilian life, using the machine to type all his police reports until he retired. Originally with a German keyboard (of course), he had had the machine converted to a standard English ‘QWERTY’ keyboard for his personal use. The right hand side of the machine had been engraved with a German word which means ‘Property of the Reich’. I wonder if he took the machine into work with him, and if so, what his colleagues must have thought of it. An excellent quality machine, no wonder it survived its original use and then a second life typing police paperwork.

Sadly, by the time the machine was brought to me it was in a rather rusty condition. Its original owner had passed away, and his daughter had carefully wrapped it in polythene before placing it in a damp shed. Instead of protecting the machine from the damp, the plastic had actually trapped the moisture like a wet poultice – attacking the plating. Only the original high quality of the enamel finish had saved things from being far worse on the framework. Large parts of the mechanism had seized, but I was able to free it all off in the end and partially re-paint the machine. It could never look as it did when new, but it now works and is once again capable of typing a letter – or even a police report !