I’ve tossed around the idea of creating a new Typewriter Serial Number Database to address the deficiencies of TW-DB. I’ve asked around a bit and it appears that TW-DB is no longer being updated or maintained by its creator, although it remains the best and most complete serial number database on the web. Those of us who use it fairly regularly, however, know that there is quite a few gaps in the data (Smith-Corona portables from about 1962 to the 1970’s are absurdly common in people’s collections, yet there is zero data on them in TW-DB), and some of the info is just plain either wrong or possibly misinterpreted. If the original maintainer were still doing updates, these could be easily fixed, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Originally, I thought of creating an online game with a new serial number database and collection galleries and such, but that idea’s out the window just because of the complexity involved. Now I’m thinking “Keep It Simple, Stupid”, and just re-compiling the existing data into a relational database, fix what’s incorrect or re-jigger what’s confusing, and trying to fill the gaps. The “collection gallery” idea has morphed into just adding the ability to upload typewriter photos to each make/model/year category, so we can upload examples of that particular category’s machines as a visual aid to assist identification.
In preparation for this project, I’ve picked up many of the recommended reference works on typewriter history and identification to beef up my own admittedly limited knowledge of the subject, and now I’m identifying problem areas with TW-DB and coordinating alternate sources to see if these areas can be made more accurate. You folks in the Typosphere can be very helpful in this task. I’m certain some of you have even better sources than I do, and know better than I where TW-DB could use some correcting. I’ll be depending on your help quite heavily, if you’d like to assist. (:
As a start, there have been a couple of posts in the Typosphere on very early Royal Portables. Both posters took TW-DB’s list and dated their machines to the early ’30s, but were clearly not content with that assessment and were sure their machines seemed more like 1920’s-era models. See:
My own source, the late 60’s NOMDA line book that I scanned from Bill Wahl’s collection of ephemera, seemed to have better numbers, which put their machines in the late 1920’s. This *seems* more accurate, but it would be nice to verify against additional data, if anyone happens to have any.
Here’s what I have on Royal Portables:
As you can see, this list is slightly confusing as well, with the first column showing serial numbers from 1926 to 1956, and a second column with a different set of serial numbers between 1932 and 1942. My interpretation of this list is that the P,OT,O,RA,AG,A,B,C,CG,RF,F and RC prefixes go with the first column, and the E,ES,J,JC,BJ,CD,U,D,UR and UB prefixes go with the second column. Teeritz and Notagain’s examples seem to confirm this interpretation, as does my own Royal QDL #A-1551587 which dates to 1948 on this list, but dates to 1947 according to TW-DB, which seems absurd given the body style – newly redesigned by Henry Dreyfuss in 1948.
Anyone have further data/confirmation or corrections to this interpretation? I’d like to lock down the Royal Portable fixes now while it’s fresh in people’s minds.
EDIT: Hey, check it out, Richard Polt happens to have a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy of a Remington produced serial number list, which has some interesting notes on other manufacturer’s machines, such as Royal. He’s forwarded me the Royal section of his list, which, if you examine the 3rd page “Royal Portables” agrees pretty closely with the NOMDA list.
for comparison, here’s the list of Royal Portable serial numbers from Wilfred Beeching’s 1974 “Century of the Typewriter”. His data is vague and doesn’t exactly match the NOMDA data, but it seems, well, somewhat close: