Remington Portable 1

Remington Portable 1

Remington Portable [#1] (Oct. 1920-Jan. 1925)

Serial numbers: 2-letter, 5-numeral code beginning with N
Number made: 600,000?

These little machines were marketed aggressively and were a great success. They were the first truly portable typewriters with four-bank keyboards, and in this category they had no competition until Royal and Underwood introduced four-bank portables in 1926. The „folding-typebar“ mechanism raises the typebars to a 45-degree angle, the printing position, by means of a lever on the right side of the typewriter. The typebars must be lowered again when the typewriter is returned to its case. The carrying case is sometimes wood or metal covered in leather or imitation leather; usually (as on all subsequent Remington portables), it is wood covered in black cloth. In 1924 the price of the Remington Portable was $60. It was sold in France as the „Smith Premier Portative.“

According to vol. I, no. 1 (August 2, 1926) of The Remport, a newsletter for sellers of Remington portables, „The Remington Portable was first exhibited at the New York Business Show in October, 1920. Its manufacture began shortly thereafter but for many months only a limited number of machines were available for delivery. … the first dealership contracts of record were entered during September, 1921.“ (Thanks to Ed Neuert for providing this publication.) For almost a year, then, production was limited and experimental. This is why you should keep your eyes open for a very early #1, such as the one pictured above on the left. It appears at first glance to be just like the later #1 (on the right), but notice that it has no right shift key. In fact, the early #1 has many features which the company soon changed. The new features were phased in beginning around spring 1921, and then became standard on all Remington portables. Today it is quite difficult to find a specimen that has all the early features. What follows is my best guess about the order in which the early features were changed.

  1. The base of the early carrying case has studs that pass through holes in the body of the typewriter, and the machine is attached to the base with cotter pins that pass through holes in the studs; there is also a lip that runs around the edges of the base. Later machines (starting July 1921 or earlier) are simply screwed to the base, and the base is flat.
  2. The early type guide is a rectangular piece of metal with one rectangular opening. This was changed to a more A-shaped piece of metal with two openings. Still later, the piece was widened slightly and the teeth that guide the type were made slightly smaller.
  3. The early shift lock is separate from the shift key, and has to be depressed after shifting; shift lock is connected to shift key on later machines.
  4. The paper table on earlier machines is curved; on later ones, flat and shaped differently (see pictures above).
  5. Later machines include „rabbit ears“ behind the paper table which can be extended for further support of the paper; early ones do not.
  6. Early machines have only two screws visible at the very top of each side panel. Two more screws were then added, below the top screws and slightly towards the front of the machine. Still later, these screws were doubled. Apparently Remington kept trying to hold its machines together more and more tightly!
  7. The early machine has no automatic ribbon reverse. When the ribbon reverser was added, the construction of the ribbon guide was improved; it originally was held together with a cotter pin. (To inspect this detail, view the machine from the back and look at the devices that guide the ribbon on its way into or out of the spools.)
  8. On the early machines, the paper release lever is pulled forward to release the paper; later, it is pushed backward.
  9. According to Remington serial number records, a longer carriage was introduced with #NC10474 (October 1921).
  10. Early machines have a left shift key only. This is the most obvious sign of an early Remington Portable. Mine has no slot for a right shift key. However, I have also seen a Remington Portable from 1921 with a slot for a right shift key, but no key there. According to Remington serial number records, the right shift key was introduced in March, 1922 (#NL20211). Note: machines exported to Europe often had a shift key only on the left, even into the 1930s.
  11. The printing point on early machines is directly on top of the platen; the later design moves the printing point slightly toward the front of the platen. Accordingly, the early shift mechanism moves the carriage backwards horizontally; later mechanisms raise it up slightly as well as moving it backwards.
  12. The early ribbon vibrator is nickeled and roughly n-shaped on each side; the later ribbon vibrator is black and roughly U-shaped on each side.
  13. The variable line spacer (a lever on the left side that allows the platen to be turned to any position, instead of forcing it to move in fixed increments) is longer on later machines.
  14. The manual ribbon reverser/spool turner on both machines is a shaft that protrudes from the sides. This shaft originally ended in a flat, disc-shaped knob; the later knob is bigger, an elongated cylinder rather than a disc.
  15. The line gauge or aligning scale — a triangular piece of metal that indicates the bottom of the current line — is directly above the printing point on early machines, and was later moved to the right. On early machines, the shape of the aligning scale can vary: the opening can be either a plain triangle, or a sort of upside-down, fat T.
  16. The platen knob is thinner on early machines.
  17. On early machines, the paper is advanced with a pinch-lever mechanism; later machines have a vertical lever which both returns the carriage and advances the paper. This is a big improvement. (One machine from August 1924 has been found which still has a pinch lever, but I think by this time most had a vertical lever.)
  18. Early ribbon spools are locked into place with a catch attached to the axle; later machines have no such catch, but the spool is held onto the axle by a tab attached to the ribbon guide.
  19. The paper release lever on the right side of the carriage is flat on early machines; it is a bent rod later — an odd development, because the later design looks more primitive.
  20. There is no right-hand carriage release lever on early machines.
  21. The early line spacing selector is a bent piece of sheet metal; later it is a knob.
  22. The early space bar is a little narrower.

An unusual color variant of the #1 is black on top and gold on the sides. Before colored enamel paints were available, this was as radical a departure from basic black as you could get. Decals may or may not be present. (Pictured: #NM11229, made Feb. 1921.)

Another machine to look out for is the Remington Portable #1 DeLuxe. It has an ivory-tone finish and comes in a brown leather case. Available in very limited numbers around 1924, it sold for $75. (Pictured: NZ30670, made Nov. 1923, courtesy of Jim Dax.)

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