15 October 2012

Smith-Corona Skyriter History

This post is about the entire history of the Smith-Corona Skyriter. My scanner is gone, and I am stopping obtaining typewriters, so future posts will likely contain only text and pictures. I have some typewriters still to post about after this.

The Smith-Corona Skyriter is an ultra-portable typewriter developed by Smith-Corona and released at the end of 1949 along with the new line of Super 5 typewriters. This Smith-Corona Silent is one of the first models (the receipt for it is early 1950, and this is the first style of the new line) of the Super 5 line and it is the first design. Now, the Super 5 series is based on the Speedline style and the main difference between these two are the carriage controls and the body. The actual typing action is very similar and perhaps even the same. This development is part of WWII. The pre-war portable typewriters were mainly released as "Corona" and occasionally as "L. C. Smith & Corona", and during the war, Smith-Corona was preoccupied with the war effort (they made rifles) so there were no developments. Between the start of the war and after it, they had some transitional models, and after the release of the Super 5 series, one could still find Speedline designs with similar keys and finishes as the Super 5 series. This was common for all such transitions, probably to diversity the line and use up old parts.

Before the war, Corona released their first ultra-portable, probably directly inspired by Hermes, and it is called the Corona Zephyr. They released an updated version called the Corona Zephyr Deluxe. These are very basic models, although very visually attractive, and they are the foundation for the Skyriter. The first model was released in 1938 and the Deluxe model shortly after in 1941 I think. The Deluxe model shows the design of the Super 5 series coming to light. The Deluxe model has a right and left shift key and a more ergonomic carriage return lever. Features of the Zephyr Line are:

  • Metal snap on cases
  • Single piece body and spool covers which snap on
  • Single colour ribbon
  • Metal ringed keys

I have seen pictures of soldiers/reports in WWII hold what appear to be Zephyrs and since time machines were not invented until before this, they must be Zephyrs and not Skyriters.

The Corona Zephyr:

Corona Zephyr

Corona Zephyr, carriage return lever

The Corona Zephyr Deluxe:

Corona Zephyr Deluxe

Corona Zephyr Deluxe, carriage return lever

Zephyrs are interesting, but not that great for typing. If the metal ringed keys on the Deluxe seem unusually vivid, that is not an effect...that is what my Deluxe looked like in person. Even though this example was missing its spool covers and had a mechanical issue, I feared to show offer it publicly for fear of those who would destroy it for those keys. I gave both of these Zephyrs away (yesterday) to a young collector who has a site which has some great pictures of his machines. He has some for sale too which may interest you. I am a young collector of typewriters (I am 24) and he is young compared to me. Typewriters have a future ensured.

After the war, the first model of the Smith-Corona Skyriter was released. The features of this new design are:

  • Metal snap on cases, identical to the Zephyr (all Zephyr cases work on Skyriters)
  • Two piece metal body with hinged top
  • Single colour ribbon and an improved way of advancing the carriage
  • Plastic two colour green keys

Smith-Corona Skyriter, 1949:

Smith-Corona Skyriter, 1950

After this, Smith-Corona constantly updated the look of the Skyriter during the reign of the Super 5 and Skyriter designs. Production would move to England towards the end and the last example here will be one of those more unique English versions.

Here is the progression of designs...do not ask me to date them. If you want an individual typewriter dated, ask on the Yahoo Group TYPEWRITERS and Jay Respler can give you a precise answer straight from the records of Smith-Corona.

Smith-Corona Skyriter, no stripes, two tone green keys:

Smith-Corona Skyriter, no stripes

Smith-Corona Skyriter, no stripes, single tone green keys:

Smith-Corona Skyriter, no stripes

Smith-Corona Skyriter, tan body and zipper case and light keys with original carriage return lever:

Smith-Corona Skyriter, tan with light keys

Smith-Corona Skyriter, tan body and zipper case with light keys with long carriage return lever:

Smith-Corona Skyriter, long carriage return lever

Smith-Corona Skyriter, English made, smooth silver body, white keys, and long carriage return lever, with black zipper case with red interior:

Smith-Corona Skyriter, silver body, English made

You see that screwdriver in some of the pictures (I took these in this order)? That was because after the Smith-Corona Skyriter, no stripes and two tone keys, I took its body off. Why? Because that one had a damaged body which was severely warped and prevented the carriage from shifting properly. Its case is also damaged and won't attach to the body so it cannot be used to carry the typewriter safely. What to do? The only way to repair those parts is to replace them...but that would require finding a typewriter which had a good body and a good case, but was broken otherwise. Well, I found one. I found a Skyriter which had a case and good body, but the rest of the typewriter was damaged beyond repair. The platen was trash, the lid was missing, the carriage return lever was missing, and it had mechanical damage beyond what was reasonable to fix. I bought it on eBay for cheap, after all, who else would bid on that kind of trash? Here it is (case looks like this one, although this one is the case for the English made Skyriter:


Smith-Corona Skyriter, black case

Now, after this, something bad happened. Typewriters such as these were not as valued. The climate was changing and people's needs shifted, and high quality machines such as these were no longer in as widespread demand. There was a shift towards lower prices in manual machines and shoving as many features into a typewriter and keeping the price low. People blame "plastic bodies" as the culprit, but this was just a coincidence. Plastic is a fine and very useful material, however, typewriters with plastic bodies did not become widespread until there was a specific decline in the population's need for high quality manual typewriters. The next model would be released under various names, most commonly the "Corsair", and it had many features in common with the Skyriter from which it was spawned, and it is actually a useful design, but the decline had started and what was to follow this design was to be even more shameful.


Well, there you have it. The beginning and the beginning of the end of the Skyriter, perhaps one of the best ultra portable typewriters ever made. All the Skyriters I still have and while they are great typewriters, one can in fact have too many. If you want one...ask me. Shipping is easy and I do not want a lot for them. No more available now.


  1. Thanks for the great post.

    I really enjoy my Skyriters. I have one with 2 color keys and the stripes and 2 mid-50s with all green keys. I bought one so I would have a typewriter to take along on a trip and seemingly over night I had 3 and I am still watching for just the right ones to come along and increase my Skywirter corner of my collection.

  2. Excellent post. I think your camera would work just fine for "scanning" by the way.
    I have only the plastic Corsair, a Zephyr Deluxe just like that Pride Line in script there, and one of the late model smooth silver ones. The smooth silver I have has a case but no ribbon cover. It appears to be unused because it doesn't type. I think it may have been dropped in shipping and used for parts. I've long sought an early or mid model if you have one to spare.

    1. I think I will be using my camera to post a picture of the output of my last obtained typewriter. It is a Hebrew typewriter in perfect condition.

      If you want one of mine, let me know. I think I have one or two which did not make the post due to being redundant. Email me directly if you are interested.

  3. A very workable summation! The absolute end of the line was a machine called the Smith-Corona Courier. Most of these you will see are actually the Courier C/T variant, originally fitted with correcting ribbons.

    1. Please, I would rather not think about Couriers...

      I left out the Tower model, but they are the same as the Smith-Corona with a different label. I never had a Tower typewriter.

      I think there is an electric typewriter which has some Skyriter influence. However, the Sterling Automatic 12 only seems to borrow some aspects: http://typedonpaper.blogspot.com/2012/03/smith-corona-sterling-automatic-12.html

  4. You seriously interested in selling? What would the price be?

    1. Yes, I am.

      The price would depend on which model one wanted, whether one wanted a fresh ribbon included, and what one offered.

      I estimate around $15 plus shipping on average.

      If one wanted more than one, the price per unit would be lower. All of the Skyriters I own now can be used for typing, however, not all are equally suitable for it. One, the oldest, has an issue where the escapement (I suppose) sticks and the carriage will fly back suddenly. One can manually push a "thing" under the carriage to get it to work again. One can usually type for a while before this happens, but it makes for a very...interesting typing session.

    2. Two questions... Shipping to the west, and do you have any that could handle some nano action?

    3. Shipping from PA to the western USA would be around $25 usually.

      Since "nano", as far as I know, is a prefix which is means 0.000000001, I can guarantee no part of this typewriter is made to that precision. The Skyriter is small, but not that small. You probably are referring to something else (I hope) though.

  5. Ooh, I didn't realize you weren't part of the Typewriter Brigade. Most of the rest of the typosphere is.... NaNo= National Novel Writing Month. Check out nanowrimo.org for awesomeness, the Typewriter Brigade, and the Typewriter Mafia. That said, you write a 50,000 word novel. In 30 days. I blew out a spring on my Silent Super a few years back on a 15week, so it's question I have to ask...

    1. I have never used a Skyriter or any vintage typewriter for such heavy volume, so I cannot make any guarantee of future function, only current function. These typewriters are not refurbished and have not been serviced by qualified technicians for decades at least.

  6. Okay backing up... Do you have any you're willing to sell that work well? Service isn't hard.

    1. "Work well" is a vague specification. I do not want to send something that will be unsatisfactory. The design of the Skyriter is not that well suited for that much typing either.

      Perhaps you would be interested in a larger portable? I have a Smith-Corona Silent (like mine here: http://typedonpaper.blogspot.com/2012/03/smith-corona-silent-super-5super.html) which seems to work already, but it needs to be cleaned. I can send that (the one which needs to be cleaned, not the one in the blog post) for just the cost of shipping. It can use universal spools and bi-colour ribbons unlike the Skyriter and it is a better typewriter design, so if you do not mind servicing/cleaning it, it would be the better deal I think.

      Also, if you wanted something cleaner, you can check out the Galaxie II: http://typedonpaper.blogspot.com/2012/03/smith-corona-galaxie-ii-and-changeable.html

      As you can see in the type sample, it has an issue, but that may not be a hard adjustment. It has another "issue", when the carriage is returned, there is a sound I do not think is normal (it isn't the mainspring), but it advances strongly and is a very good typewriter design as well.

    2. Haha I actually have a silent super that I love. I want the sibling pair of the skyriter and the ss, you know? Stents are a dime a dozen where I,m from, but for some reason, they just don't have the same appeal that the skyriter r does.

      By works well, all I'm saying is taht there are no glaring mechanical issues, and it types without being fussy, really...

    3. I think most of them except the first one would work.

      What style interested you? I suppose you'd want to match it with the Silent-Super as best as can be done.

      Contact me at my email address: JosephFrancisONeill@yahoo.com

      For anyone reading this, you can do the same about any of the typewriters I offered to sell here.

  7. Do you have a Zephyr you wouldn't mind parting with, either one that works well, or a parts machine? I have an unusable Zephyr I'm attempting to raise from the dead, if only for parts for another machine. I love these little machines; they fit uncannily well in the saddlebag of a motorcycle or under the seat of a scooter (certain types, like the one I own) and would adore my Zephyr and Skywriter being my bike machines, if I can get them working as they should.

    That being said, I may be interested in a Skywriter as well...

    1. I gave both Zephyrs away before making the post here. Sorry.

      If you would like a Skyriter, contact me about what style you want and what level of function and I can select one. My email is: JosephFrancisONeill@yahoo.com

    2. I have a few typewriters passed down to me.I am willing to sell them.very good condition..I believe all postwar..CARONA ZEPHER SKYWRITER #1....PAYMASTER MACHINE.....A ROYAL.....AND olivetti lettur..please contact me as soon as possible if your interested..

  8. My 10 year old daughter wanted a typewriter for Christmas. She was inspired by the vintage style one that her American Girl doll had. I found a Skywriter with no stripes and two tone green keys in an antique shop and bought it for her. Can you tell me how to get a new ribbon for it? I am new to this and when looking online the choices were confusing to me.

    1. A lot of people that age are asking for typewriters!

      The Skyriter uses specific spools. It uses a single colour ribbon with reversing eyelets. You can get this from Jay Respler by emailing him at: JRESPLER@SUPERLINK.NET. He does business through email like that frequently. Just say you need a ribbon on spools for a Smith-Corona Skyriter.

    2. thanks so much! I found ribbon that cost almost as much as the typewriter did and I wasn't even sure if it was what I needed. Then I found ribbon on amazon for $8-9.00 that might be the right kind but I had no idea really. Also, two-colour ribbons were coming up for it, so I am glad to know that that is not an option. Thanks again for the lead - I will email him!

  9. Thanks for sharing something regards to paper

  10. Just got the Skyriter with solid grey case and solid green keys. I see why you're cautious about recommending a Skyriter as a real writers machine! Even though it's a well made machine (especially by todays standards), it is a lightweight, and I would not do extensive typing on it for fear that it'd wear out, or break something.
    I imagine that it's real purpose at the time was to take on a plane, like a Lockheed "Constellation", or "Electra", or a Boeing Stratocruiser for a long distance trip to Europe or Australia. I'd never use it for office work, but only typing out post cards, or a letter to the folks back home. Still, it's lots of fun!!

  11. Trying to locate the serial number on a Smith Coronal Skyriter dating from the 1950-1953 time frame. It has two-tone green keys and a snap on metal case lid. Where is the serial number located on these models? Thanks.

  12. I have recently gotten one of these in near perfect condition. The ribbon is even old, but faded. Got it an estate sale for $45. Just awesome. I am new to manual typewriters - what is the size of ribbon I need and where do I get one?

  13. I recently acquired a Tower Attaché with its briefcase. The vinyl repair needed is challenging to say the least, but I'm hopeful to have its briefcase case working shortly.

    However, I also like the idea of having the compact metal lid cover. Would the skywriter's metal lid from the earlier models work on the later ones?

    Mine is model number 871.1700