In part 4 of this series, I guessed the appearance of the Silver-Seikos and Adlers in Royal’s lineup in 1970 to be the death knell for the Portugese Sabres. This turns out to not be the end of the story after all. In the comments, Mr. Royal himself Nick Bodemer mentions that he’s seen advertisements for the Sabre and Custom IV in ads dating up until about 1984 (roughly when most of the major manufacturers gave up on portable manuals), so the venerable Model “A” continued up to the advent of laptop computers. Additionally, if we can imagine the Sabre being produced from 1968 to 1984, we suddenly find ourselves with a contender for the longest-running unchanged model in the Royal lineup. :D
But, that deserves more research. I suppose we really don’t know the end of the line of the “A” Model Royal, but finding out will be fun. Another thought exercise you might try is to wonder what happened to the “A” Model manufacturing tooling after 1984. Clearly Royal had no use for it – they never made another manual portable of that design again. Was the tooling scrapped? .. or was it sold off to another concern somewhere in Portugal or Spain? Could there be a locally-produced and marketed machine made somewhere in those countries in the 1980’s with deep mechanical roots in the Royal “A” Model? Who knows until we look. And that’s another part of the fun – pondering what might have happened and then finding out “oh yes, that *did* happen” or “No, *that* didn’t happen, but *this* did”, –all a part of the puzzle we’re putting together.
I’ve been a bit hesitant to type up this fourth and last post detailing what I’ve learned of the history of the QDL, because I’m sad to get up from the immersive bath I’ve taken into the Royal portable serial number lists & galleries and say goodbye to the venerable Quiet De Luxe.
The line ended on a high note, as we saw for Christmas 1955, brightly colored QDLs become all the rage. Available throughout 1956 in six choices of finish, the model sells 30% better than previous years. This year of production has become a favorite of collectors of all stripes.
In 1958, the finish is changed to an off-white gloss, and the “Royal” logo is changed to a push-button plastic crown that doubles as a ribbon cover release button. This feature also appears on the new Futura model, which is released in 1958. This is the end of the line for the “Quiet De Luxe” Model “A”, as it has now morphed into the “2A” Model “Futura 800″. 1958 is also the final year of the “B” Model “Aristocrat”, which had been restarted only two years before in 1956.
Throughout production, the line stayed quite high-quality, and each of these models I’ve tried out has been a pleasant typing experience. A fabulous line of machines, and thanks to it being a favorite in the collections of Typewriter Hunters, we now know a little bit more detail about the history. (:
With the end of World War Two, Royal starts up “A” and “C” Model production right where they left off in 1941. The 1946 “Quiet De Luxe” and war-hero “Arrow” models are snapped up by a typewriter-starved public, and you can have any color you want, as long as it’s black. The middle-market “Aristocrat”, un-needed in the high-demand seller’s market of the late 40’s and early 50’s, doesn’t make a comeback until 1956.
In 1947, not much changes. The “A” and “C” Models are flying off the shelves, but Royal decides it’s time for another masque update. They commission Henry Dreyfuss to design a new shell. The result is what I think of as the most attractive of the Royal Portables: the 1948 “Tuxedo Model” with glass tombstone keytops. Dreyfuss’ design is also executed in gold plated models with either light grey crinkle or black enamel offset colors. I’ve read in several places that this was done to celebrate Royal’s Golden Jubilee, but that happened in 1954, so I don’t know how you could explain them appearing as early as 1948 by that logic. Instead, I believe these were just special presentation models, and they are often engraved with the owner’s name on the back plate.
On a personal note, the ’48 QDL was the $4.95 typewriter I found at a thrift store in the 90’s that started me on my collecting path, and I can’t think of any machine that could set the hook deeper, iykwim.
The “Tuxedo Model” only lasted a little over a year, classy as it was. Early in 1949 the two-tone paint is changed to a monotone, lighter grey and a chrome strip is added to the front to break up the monotony. On a plus note, the gold-plated presentation model continues.
At the end of 1950. the shell is changed again with a wider opening in the ribbon cover and “winged” chrome accents around the levers. The front chrome strip is removed and the tombstone keytops are now plain plastic, except on certain special-order and foreign keyboards, where the glass keys are retained. The Model prefix is changed to “AG”. Gold presentation models are also changed to the new body style, and seem to continue at least until 1953. If they lasted to ’54, that might be where the “Golden Jubilee” legend comes from, or Royal may have just utilized what they already had on hand to create a Jubilee Model.
The design stabilizes through 1952, with subdued earthtone colors and green or grey plastic keys. In 1953, the chrome “winged” accents are removed and the levers re-arranged. A ribbon cover release button is added. The serial prefix is changed again, to “RA”. This is about the ugliest the QDL ever gets.
The serial prefix changes again, but this time it’s “Ax”, where “x” represents the color scheme. But before we head into the new colorful era of the QDL, let’s do a quick recap of the decade’s “C” Model “Arrows”:
The budget “C” Model seems to have been far less popular than the “A” Model in post-war America, and by 1950 the Royal “Arrow” is discontinued again, leaving only the Quiet De Luxe to rule the Royal Portable bullpen until the fateful year of 1956. Stay tuned tomorrow for part 4: “The Colorful End of the QDL, and What it Became”.
The Quiet De Luxe “A” Model that Royal introduced in 1939 had direct parentage in the “A” Model “De Luxe” and the short-lived 1938 “Quiet”, but it looked like neither one. Royal had consolidated all four of it’s 1938 higher-end models into just three variations of a single brand-new design: The “A” Model “Quiet De Luxe”, the “B” Model “Aristocrat” and the all-new low-end “C” Model “Arrow”.
On the *very* lowest end of it’s line, Royal still offered Depression-era Varsity and Signet models in new shells, but that’s a different serial number series, and we’ll get to them later. Presumably the new “C” Model had been introduced with the intent of obsoleting those models, but the Depression portables manage to stick around a few more years, and Royal’s Portable lineup ends up being not all that much simpler than it was in 1938.
The “Aristocrat”, as we saw in the previous article, preceded the “Quiet De Luxe” by one year, but that’s a technicality because I don’t believe the first-year “B” models actually had a name. In 1939, the QDL came onto the scene and immediately became popular, selling very well until disaster strikes just 3 years later and brings everything to a grinding halt. We’ll get to that in a moment…
Of course, the disaster that brings it all to a halt happens on December 7, 1941. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into World War II. At Royal, all civilian-model portable production stops entirely by the beginning of 1942, as they re-tool for War production. It is WWII that hammers the final nail in the coffin of the Depression-era serial number line “Signet” and “Varsity” models, not the “Arrow”, but it’s the “C” Model “Arrow” that goes off to War. The 56,000 Royal portables that our sources say were made in 1942 and 1943 are very likely all U.S. Navy Radio Mill “Arrows”: