17 February 2012

Smith-Corona Galaxie Twelve and Changeable Type

I am tired, and have to do some "babysitting", so I whipped up this post while having nothing to write, so I was doubly excused for just showing off my Changeable Type kits.

A short background: The Smith-Corona portable typewriters before and after WWII were very similar. The Speedline body (pre-war) was replaced by the Super-5 body, and there were some enhancements to the design. The last model of the Super-5 line was the Silent-Super (the introduction of the features of the Smith-Corona Silent into the Smith-Corona Super, and a new tabulator), and this was the basis for most future designs, including the first electric portable (Smith-Corona 5TE) which was essentially a Silent-Super with a motor and clutch system rather than the regular typing mechanism (but otherwise, it was the same design). The new body in the 60s was the Galaxie body, and they were often Silent-Supers inside new cases. There were a bunch of different models in the Galaxie body, and one new feature was the "Changeable Type". There are type slugs which can be removed, and the key tops of their key can also be removed, and new ones put on easily. Normal models have one such key, but the models with twelve inch carriages such as the Galaxie Twelve, have two.

These kits had four slugs and four key slugs and came in a wide variety of options. They were cheap and easy to obtain. I've seen the order forms for them.

But, over time, people retained the large portable typewriter, but the kits...well, they sometimes show up, but few people value them. Sometimes, they get put on sale and people who do want them have to leap at them before the auction ends with no takers. And since there are usually none available on the usual channels at any given time, it is often a matter of obsession or luck that one finds them when they do come up.

Plus, like most of Smith-Corona's line, there were many rebadged versions. Sears Roebuck and Co. and J. C. Penney Company, Inc. had their typewriter offerings under their own names, many of which were Smith-Coronas with new tags, such as (the Sears Courier a red Lettera 22 made after the Lettera 32 was offered by Olivetti-Underwood and a variety of Japanese made machines. But, most of Smith-Coronas line was offered by them in some form. While I have a Smith-Corona typewriter, it is their Changeable Type kits, offered under the names "Add-A-Type" (J. C. Penny) and "Change-A-Type" (Sears), but they are the same as the Smith-Coronas in terms of design and use.

I have three kits (one just arrived today...which is why you may notice a distinct change in the typed example. I started the beginning two days ago, but wanted to wait until the Engineering Kit arrived). I found the latest one, the Engineering Kit, by accident on eBay. I was at work waiting for the shift to start and browsing on my phone and the search "typewriter" had it come up in the top few listings with 17 minutes to go. I bid and then paid on my first break. My first one was the "Foreign Accent Kit" which is lacking two of the four slugs, but it has the original slugs and key tops in it, so I am assuming that the original owner used her typewriter for French. I had bought this one by finding it by accident on Etsy, and I had intended to try to trade it for the Mathematical Symbol Kit, but the person who wanted the foreign accent kit had given me the Mathematical Symbol Kit (thanks, R. K.!) because he realised he had (apparently) Spanish language typewriters around somewhere.

They generally only cost a few dollars online and there isn't much that can break (they usually come out of the cardboard holder in shipping, but it isn't a danger to them).

Now, the Galaxie Twelve is a cool typewriter. This model is my first Smith-Corona, and I worked back from there. It is handy its size and it types quite well. It types very evenly without much care for how much pressure is used. The Galaxie bodied machines are colourful, and I think less elegant than the previous designs, but they are good typewriters and full of features.

Here is the picture. This one is brown, and I have a blue one (which is available for cheap if anybody wants it. The backspace doesn't work, and the case won't latch, but for the cost of shipping, I'll send it to you) available. I also have an Electra 120, which is essentially a Galaxie Twelve with an electrical motor. It has the same manual carriage. That is a pretty good typewriter, but given the quality and ease of using the manual, it isn't much different.

Next to the typewriter are the three Changeable Type kits I used (despite being easy to use, it is not very convenient to swap out while typing, especially since the carriage return handle can't be over the top when you open it).

Maybe I'll get some sleep before work tonight...I can only hope.

Smith-Corona Galaxie Twelve and Changeable-Type kits


  1. I am so jealous! I can't find those anywhere! I'm thinking of using a 3D printer to make my own if I can get some time on one...

  2. Very nice post, informative also. I have a Classic 12 that I can change type on, but I never found any font kits. I would love to find them, but so far none. My Classic 12 looks identical to the Galaxie 12 except mine is blue and white. I've never been able to find the definitive difference. Maybe one is not made in the USA or before or after Litton owned the company?

  3. They are hard to find on purpose. You just have to be open to finding them. The variety of names and lack of real value mean one has to usually look at pictures and recognise them. The ones I found came up in searches and browsing for general typewriter terms.

    The difference would be in the keyboard options I think. The tabulator and keyboard were the main differences between the main typewriter line of Smith-Corona for most of the later history.

  4. I am looking for accent mark in Spanish-English (Spanish-American as shown in manual) for my Smith-Corona same as the one in picture above... example >>>> á é ó ú í <<<< the single mark over the letters... any help finding such type would be appreciated very much...my email is rogskel@gmail.com.... I will be waiting for a response, thank you anyone

  5. What is the little box for that comes with the kits?