Remington Typewriter History

There are several main brands of typewriter that most people will recognize the names of.  But one of the best of them all – and one that can also lay claim to some notable firsts – is the Remington typewriter.

For starters Remington can lay claim to being the company that created the very first typewriter, way back in the 1870s.  One of the earliest users of the typewriters produced by the company was none other than Mark Twain.  History disputes whether he was actually the first writer to produce a typewritten manuscript to send to his publisher, but he was certainly one of the first.  The price of an early Remington typewriter would have set you back between $75 and $150 at the time.  The exact same model bought now would set you back a lot more, simply because of its history.

In total more than two dozen different main versions of the Remington typewriter were produced over the years.  The company first started life as E Remington and Sons, taking the name of the man who founded the company way back in 1816.  It would be nearly sixty years before they manufactured the first Remington typewriter however.  In the meantime they were responsible for designing and making Remington rifle barrels.

Remington is notable as a brand of typewriter for the simple fact that their first two typewriters had features that are still in use today on every single computer keyboard in the world.  The very first typewriter they created was known as the Sholes and Glidden typewriter.  It was Sholes who was credited with inventing the typewriter as we know it today, and he also came up with the QWERTY layout that we are all familiar with.  This first Remington typewriter featured this layout.

Five years later Remington produced their second typewriter model, the Remington No.2 – and once again this achieved a new first that is still very familiar to us today.  This time they were able to add in a shift key, which quite literally did what it said.  The carriage was shifted to another position to enable the typist to type capital letters as well as lower case.  This was the first time this had been done, and the gravity of this invention is obvious when you consider that the same key is called the same thing on our computer keyboards today.  It’s quite something considering that it no longer shifts in such a literal way.

Another notable feature of the No.2 was the ability to buy it in a variety of colors as well as the standard black.  A poster of the time features six different colorful varieties, each bearing their own number and color combination. For example the No.17 was a fetching tan and Pompeiian Red.  With this in mind – and the other main features the model displayed - it’s no small wonder that the No.2 typewriter sold over 100,000 units over the years.

Remington was clearly a major player in the typewriter field.  And yet the original E Remington and Sons business gave up the typewriting field in 1886.  The new owner, the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company, bought the rights to continue using the Remington name though; clearly they knew the value and integrity of the name and its association with mass market typewriters.

Indeed many well known authors have made good use of the Remington machines to type various successful novels and other works.  Agatha Christie, the world famous mystery novelist, used the Remington Portable No’s 2 and 5, while Quentin Crisp preferred the No.3 model.  Rudyard Kipling also made good use of the Remington Noiseless model in his later years.  And a Remington Portable No.3 was one of the typewriters of choice of “Gone with the Wind” novelist Margaret Mitchell.

Another notable shift in the history of the Remington typewriter occurred with the release of the Remington No.10 in 1908.  At this time more and more people were demanding frontstrike typewriters, and up until this point, Remington typewriters had all been what were known as upstrike models.  This basically means the keys move upwards to hit the paper.  The No.10 was the result of the company’s decision to move to the frontstrike kind of typewriter instead, which worked as the name suggests.  Remington had decided to move ahead according to the dictates of the market, and this was not to be the first move that it made in this sense.

It would be another twelve years before Remington brought the No.10 model up to date however. Finally, three years after this date the Remington No.12 model is released. This is essentially a modernized version of the No.10, with a cover fitted to reduce the noise that is made when using the typewriter.  This was largely to do with the fact that the company had bought out Noiseless.  And in fact many well known people made good use of the Remington Noiseless model – not least the World War II correspondent Bill Boni. The novelist William S Burroughs also worked his way through many a Remington typewriter during his years of writing during the Fifties.

Even though the classic Remington typewriter is now a thing of the past, its legacy lives on in many ways.  Indeed in the 1980s an NBC television program called “Remington Steele” starred Pierce Brosnan as its title character.  The name was a nickname, with the word Remington referring to the typewriter owned by the other main character in the series.  This is just one example of how enduring the Remington typewriter really is.