Monday, October 25, 2010

A Mysterious Brown QDL

I have a black 1946 Royal Quiet Deluxe at home that is in fantastic condition. This was the first typewriter I ever bought. It was a Craigslist find and I must have lucked out that day because I made a good purchase. I have seen a great many terrible typewriters in awful condition, but my Royal QDL is not one of those. The body is dark and clean, the chrome is bright and gleaming. It's really spoiled me. Every typewriter I find I compare in my mind to that shining example of craftsmanship. Well, a second 1940s Royal QDL has come into my life. It's in good shape (save some mechanical issues which I will share later) and quite the looker. However, this machine is a bit of a mystery.

The owner, a Phoenix native, bought the machine used in the 1960s. At that point in its life it was already 15 years old. Les, the previous owner, bought it at a business machine store called ABC Business Machines on East McDowell in Phoenix when he was in high school. He went to Arcadia High School (a school nearby this shop) and when he graduated he took the typewriter with him to ASU (I too graduated from ASU). Les reports that he wrote many of his high school and college papers on this typewriter. Well, after his graduation the typewriter sat collecting dust. Then, it came into my possession.

ABC Business Machines was the last retail venue to have this typewriter in its possession, but not the first. After some poking around I found this label.

Bishop Business Machines was once at 4605 East Thomas Road in Phoenix. The Bishop label does not have a zip code while the ABC Business Machines does. This leads me to believe that Bishop Business Machines was the first retailer of this machine predating the 1963 roll-out of zip codes. But, who did they sell this machine to? Underneath the machine, scratched into the frame is a name. It's the name of the first owner.

W. L. Ehrler...Who are you?

Now, to the color. If you are a member of the Portable Typewriter Forum, you might have seen the thread I began on Royal QDLs in colors. What came of that conversation is that any 1940s QDL in any color other than black is special and hard to come by These machines were offered in a dark green, burgundy, brown, black-brown, and black. Pre-war machines in the brown came with a tweed case with leather piping. I am going out on a limb by saying that post-war QDLs in colors came with a matching painted case. It is an odd case and not very luxurious. The paint finish has a scatchy matte feeling. Maybe it was nicer in the past, but I hate it.

When you turn the machine around at look at the back you see something interesting. There is no Royal decal on the back. It's either been painted over or has gone missing. This would bring the provenance of an original color QDL into question. Could someone have painted the entire machine? Further inspection leads me to be live that just the back panel was repainted at some point, but with a 100% matching color. The texture is a little rougher and although the paint matches very closely, the paint on the back panel is newer looking. Under all the other panels the paint is correct. I think that the panel was painted because it was either scratched or damaged at some point during its life. Perhaps ABC Business Machines did this as part of some reconditioning process. Either way, it was done in the past and done with a professional level of acceptability.

Right now, the brown QDL isn't working. The drawstring was broken and I fixed that, but there is something amiss with the escapement. I can't describe it because I don't have the vocabulary but sufficed to say I think that this repair might be out of my league. I am going to poke around a bit more and see if there is something that I can do. Until I can get it working it certaily is interesting looking.

UPDATE: Through sheer skill and a huge amount of guesswork, the Brown QDL is working.