Typewriter Classifications

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This page is here to describe and show the different styles of typewriters that are out there. Since typewriters were made and designed over a period of 150+ years, there are many different kinds and styles of typewriters. This page should help classify and name the different trends over that period of time, and help you to identify what may be lurking in your garage.


Typewriters come in a few different sizes.

Type Description Traits
Standard Like their name implied, these are your "standard" desktop typewriters. Often big, heavy, and hard to move, these machines were intended primarily for office work and generally type well regardless of make or age.

Exceptions Exist for All Traits.

  • Weight of between 15-50 lb (manuals).
  • Generally caseless. Cases for standards often take the form of a wooden base with a tin or metal lid on top, and are usually quite rare.
  • Tend to be taller than their portable counterparts.
  • Tend to have features such as color selectors, tabulators, and touch control systems.
Portable Cased and ready-to-go, these are usually about 1/2 to 1/3 the size of standard typewriters and were intended for home use or the travelling market. Note: some standards have cases as well; however, portables are much lighter and often smaller.

Exceptions Exist for All Traits.

  • Come with carrying-cases.
  • Generally shorter, vertically, than standard machines.
  • Tend to have features such as color selectors, tabulators, and touch control systems.
Ultraportable Just like portable typewriters, these came in cases -- but were designed to be even smaller, lighter, and slimmer. This often came at the cost of features like a tabulator and touch control.

Exceptions Exist for All Traits.

  • Come with carrying-cases or snap-on lids.
  • Tend to be extremely light and usually quite flat as well.
  • May lack features such as tabulators and even margins or color select in lieu of being lighter and more portable.

Carriage Width

Typewriter Carriages come in several different sizes. From as small as 8 1/2" wide to up to 4' wide. Most wide carriage machines are standards, although there are a few slightly-wide-carriage portables out there.

Print Method

Print Methods Description
Upstrike Typewriters Upstrike typewriters were the first typewriters manufactured, with the Sholes & Glidden/Remington Number 1 being the first typewriter. In this layout, typebars hang down from the top of the machine and strike upwards towards the bottom side of the platen, leading to their other name as "blindwriters". These machines often use 1 3/8" ribbon, and have right hand return levers. These are the oldest common found typewriters. Most ceased manufacturing around 1905, with Remington ending the production of the Remington 7 & 8, but rare examples like the Burroughs Moon-Hopkins were built until 1941.

The two most common upstrikes are the Smith Premiers and Remington upstrikes.

Front-strike/Visible Typewriters These are the most common found typewriters found today. These were manufactured from around 1900 until today.
Down-stroke Typewriters Downstroke typewriters type with the typebars above the platen, set up to swing down onto the platen. The most common example of this is the Oliver Typewriter. Other, more obscure downstrike machines are the Williams and the North Typewriters.

Type Element/Type Shuttle Typewriters

Not all typewriters have typebars! Type element machines or typeshuttle machines are typewriters that use a small piece of metal or vulcanized rubber, called a type element or type shuttle, to print characters onto paper. These shuttles & elements are often interchangeable, and you can change the pitch/size and typeface/style of the characters. Examples of this would be the Hammond Typewriter, Blickensderfer No. 6, and IBM Selectric.

Keyboard Types

Type Description & Examples
Dual Keyboard Instead of shifting, these types of machines "shift" by having the entire keyboard integrated twice on the machine. One keyboard of capitals, and one of lowercase. Special characters are also scattered around the edges and in between the two primary keyboards. This type of keyboard is found on the American Caligraph and the Smith Premier Typewriters.
4 Bank Keyboard A four bank keyboard is the most common type of typewriter keyboard. It is the most common kind of keyboard used today. Each key has two characters, one for lower case and one for shift. Characters are arranged on the bottom 3 rows, and numbers & special characters are all at the top and far right hand side of the keyboard.
3 Bank Keyboard A three bank keyboard is very similar to a 4 bank keyboard, but it is missing the top row that is dedicated to characters only. Instead of locating extra symbols on the top and side, they are put on each letter key and are used utilizing the secondary shift. These typewriters often have a QWERTY layout for the letters, but symbol layouts vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
2 Bank Keyboard This is only found on one type of German typewriter, the Helios-Klimax. It has two rows of keys, and has three shifts.
Index Typewriter Index typewriters have no keyboard, but rather a legend and a stylus. You move the stylus to whatever character you would like to print, and press the print key. These also have a space key, and sometimes a backspace key. This layout is found on the Mignon, and many other budget typewriters. It is also found on the Simplex and other toy typewriters.

Not to be confused with keyboard layouts, keyboard types refer to the arrangement of keys on the typewriter.

Keyboard Layouts

Name Description
Standard This refers to any standard keyboard. However, this may vary in foreign languages. Generally keyboards are named by the top row or the most important row; i.e., the standard American keyboard is called QWERTY. Germany uses QWERTZ, France uses AZERTY, Italy uses QZERTY, Belgium is a mess.

It's worth noting that Greek and Cyrillic typewriters exist, but are rarer in the USA.

Math Math keyboards have symbols such as divided by, times, plus, equals, subscript numbers, pi, and other types of math-related symbols that are not found on a standard keyboard layout.
Pharmaceutical These keyboards feature special characters (Rx, M, etc.)for measuring small amounts of substances. These symbols are often out of date and no longer used, but are cool to see on a typewriter
Mill A "Mill" refers to any typewriter designed and built for transcribing telegraph messages or for use in a telegraph office. These often have simplified keyboards so that the operator can type at high speeds. These typewriters often are missing shift keys, print only in capitals, and have a few special characters like a 0 with the cross through it and the degree sign.
Nazi SS & Nazi Keyboards SS typewriters have the "SS" lightning-bolt rune on them above the 5 key. Sometimes, this "SS" rune is scratched off and the slug removed to de-Nazify it. Even fewer typewriters print the Nazi Swastika. Be sure to watch out for these machines, as they are very valuable. SS-typewriters are hard to find, due to the fact that many Nazi objects were destroyed post WWII. In fact, you will often find these machines marred in some way, either to hide or remove the fact that they were once related to the Nazi Regime.
"Scientific" Keyboards Various attempts to streamline typewriting existed. Belgian, Turkish, and Portuguese are examples of this; however, other examples include Dvorak and DHIATENSOR.
Dvorak was developed in the 1920's by August Dvorak as an attempt to improve typing speeds. The layout is as follows:(Top, middle & Bottom rows) ',.pyfgcrl   aoeuidhtns  ;qjkxbmwvz , and is rarely seen on typewriters. 

DHIATENSOR was designed for, and exists only on, the Blickensderfer typewriter.


The typeface of a typewriter refers to the style of the characters it prints out. This is commonly mistaken with the word "font". Typeface refers to a family of fonts that are related, while font refers to the modifiers given to a typeface (such as stretched, italicized, etc.). Not all typefaces have fonts.

Name Description
Pica & Elite This is the exception to the rule above. Pica and Elite are the same typeface, but have different sizes. Pica is 10 Characters Per Inch (CPI), while Elite is 12 CPI.
Script Script is any sort of cursive typeface.
Italics Italics are any sort of typeface that has a slant to it.
Vogue Vogue is a special kind of typeface introduced by Royal in the 1930's. It is a very spaced out (and sometimes hard to read). It is an extremely sought after typeface. It is pitched in 10 Characters per Inch.
Fraktur Fraktur refers to the old German typeface found on few old German typewriters, and fewer American ones. It is very sought after, about as much as Vogue is.

Identification Guide