Saturday, August 21, 2010

Smith Corona Clipper Black Portable Typewriter (1949)

The typewriter on which I composed my last typecast, this is fast becoming my favorite machine, both to type on and to look at. As with every other U.S. machine I have come across, I was really excited to see this in Switzerland. Another bidder tried to barge in at the last moment, but there was no way I was letting this get away. The few extra francs that I paid were well worth it.

I was smitten with the machine as soon as I ripped apart the box and discovered that classic PanAm logo that typifies the '49 Smith Corona Clipper. The typewriter was very dirty and had obviously lain unused for a long time, but it was otherwise in good shape. Well, it also smelled badly of mold, but I dove in headfirst anyway. Will Davis writes that some of the best U.S.-made typewriters were Smith Corona's Super 5 series (Silent Super, etc), but since I have so far been unable to find those pastel-hued beauties in my neck of the woods, this Speedline series will do just as well.

The curved top and the side profile of this Clipper remind me of other European machines I have seen/ looked at from that era, or even a decade or fifteen years later: Olympia's earlier SM series, Hermes 3000, Triumph Perfekt, Optima Super, and so on. Of course, Smith Corona's own Super 5 series would later continue with this shape.

This is one of the oldest machines I have, as I tend to lean towards the late 50s and 60s in terms of preferred typewriter styles. As a result, this is the only machine I have with glass keys. I must say, writing with this is really quite fantastic. My fingers fit snugly into the scooped tops, and the smooth, cool touch of the glass is a welcome change from the impersonal feel of plastic keys. Afterwards, when I move on to the next line, the swoop of the carriage lever is the perfect shape for a crooked forefinger. Magic.

The font is a perfectly respectable Pica, clean and crisp and easy to read.

And here it is, nestled in its case.

Final impressions: The Smith Corona Clipper was a lot more compact than I thought it would be, from the pictures I had seen. The case takes up slightly less space than the Hermes 2000. In terms of typing action, the basket shift is great to have in a machine of its age, and puts it right up there with the Hermes 3000 and Olivetti Studio 44 in terms of usability. While the black is a tad somber, the aircraft detail lightens it up, and the glass keys look very elegant. I actually find that it fits in well with the twenty-first century aesthetic, while the brash curve of the Hermes 3000 does evoke its era rather strongly.

Collection, this one. No doubt about it.


  1. I just purchased this style of typewriter on ebay and your review helped build my confidence in bidding on this machine. Thank you!

    1. your review was great. i have a1949 smith corona clipper all it needs is new ribbon and a cleaning
      listing on ebay or etsey

  2. I have been looking for an old typewriter for a few months now. Found this exact one at an antique store. After seeing other make and models for $100 plus, I was excited to get this one for $29. Needs a little TLC but all in all great shape. Thank you for review it helped me to learn a bit more about my "Clipper"

  3. I have a Clipper that I inherited from my mother, who used it while in high school in the early '50s. I in turn took it to college in the mid '80s, just before computer word processing came into vogue. That was the last time I used it regularly, but I've always loved the compactness, action, and features of this machine. With the specialness of it having been in the family since new, this Smith-Corona is definitely a keeper. Next step: find a reputable typewriter shop to give it a good tuneup and I may start using it again. :)

  4. I have just got a pale blue clipper portable in perfect all round condition.Was wondering what it was worth as cannot find one to compare in this colour.

  5. I found one of these typewriters at a local antiques store and although the case needed some repairs the typewriter is in relatively good shape; less some needed cleaning. I am curious as to where the serial numbers are located on the machine so I can do some further research. Do you know where I should look for these numbers?


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