Saturday, April 7, 2012
Meet Margo: The Gold Royal with Star(let) Power
"Give us that, Deagol my love."
"Because it's my birthday, and I wants it."
Thus began Smeogol's slow descent into madness. Fortunately, I didn't need to drown anyone or scale Mount Doom to acquire the Precious now known as Margo. But I had a birthday, and I wanted a gold plated Royal.
What is it about gold? The whole concept of a gold based economy always mystified me. Why not big stone discs or beads? Obsidian. Yeah, it's durable and relatively uncommon. Why not obsidian?
To understand the whole concept of gold, one must gaze upon it and think of a time past where few shiny things existed unscathed in our corrosive atmosphere.
Whole empires rose and fell with gold symbols and artifacts at their center. Wars have been fought over gold. And why? Maybe because it is just so pretty. We covets the Precious.
As suggested in the title, Margo is a typewriter with Hollywood starlet power. Fortunately, the warranty card came with the machine and provides at least partial provenance.
The trail is a bit cold. There is no absolute proof that this typewriter belonged to the actress, Jane Wald. She would have been 22 when this machine was purchased in Hollywood. That at least fits a narrative. And even though the ebay seller stated that "It looks like it has never been used!", it in fact had plenty of evidence of extensive use including paper shreds, eraser shavings and lack of mechanical upkeep.
According to the Typewriter Serial Number Database, this machine was manufactured in 1948. That at least gives a hint that it was not built to order other than the name plaque.
Margo had two primary mechanical issues along with a number of clean and lube related eccentricities. She was missing an odd screw widgy thingy that actuates an armature for the back spacer. Also, every shift was accompanied by resistance followed by a "cla-clunk!" That turned out to be a lever out of adjustment. I think its purpose was to keep the type basket from moving around during transportation.
The seller was located in Florida; a sensible place to retire. The case sure smelled like the perpetual mildew that is Florida (no insult intended to Floridians, but every hotel and rental car I've been in there smells of air freshener or mildew). I removed the side and back panels for mechanical access and to remove the irredeemably stinky wool sound deadening pads. Relatively damp storage helped keep the rubber parts supple and the only evident pitting was at the high contact points. Richard Polt has commented on the relatively thin plating on these machines.
I used the Cape Cod Polishing Cloths for Fine Metals to clean the gold plate. The innards were mildly corroded and required a bunch of PB Blaster, mineral spirits and elbow grease to get everything cleaned and loosened up. I think she looks lovely.
The bodywork is really a lovely bit of industrial design by the renowned Henry Dreyfuss. I have a Gray Magic once owned by a professor and the beat-to-heck Arrow featured at the beginning of Royal week. http://vintagetechobsessions.blogspot.com/2012/04/royal-study-in-toughness.html
But, in my opinion, neither of these color schemes bring out the design detail the way Margo's contrasting black and gold does.
Henry Dreyfuss was concerned with aesthetics and the human/machine interface. The keys are shaped just so. The glass tops are slightly concave and have just a bit of texture molded in. For a great writeup on Henry Dreyfuss and the the QDL, visit Robert Messenger's blog at
There are a few more gold Royals living out in the Typosphere.
Towards the bottom - this is Richard Polt's collection
The main claim to fame for the gold plated Royals is that one was the weapon of choice for Ian Fleming of James Bond fame. I can see the attraction.
The gold plated QDLs were reportedly a limited edition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company. It's only fitting that I share images of the Royal portable and its shiny first generation ancestor.
What's in a name? Why is this typewriter named Margo? Well, MEK and I like Wes Jackson movies. The machine is all shiny and glitzy, but rough around the edges like Royal Tenenbaum. This machine doesn't look all that masculine to us, especially with Jane's name on the paper table. She is vaguely exotic, has a mysterious past and is a little tarnished. So Margo Tenenbaum it is. Bonus: She even likes guys that are rough around the edges, just like Margo!
One thing that I absolutely love about this machine is that Royal didn't skimp on the number of gold plated parts. How many modern "special edition" cars have you seen with a carbon console insert and some chrome bezels on the dashboard? Even portions of the ribbon vibrator are gold plated.
Here are a couple of parting shots for the road.
Unless a zealous dragon or hafling takes Margo away, you will see more of her. It's going to be hard to put her in a case since she complements the slate bench so well. So shiny is the Precious...