Did You Guess the Typewriter?

I recently posted a challenge to guess a certain typewriter. This question was originally posted to The Portable Typewriter Forum, and proved a fun brain-teaser for me. I thought I knew the answer (Alpina SK24) but after a closer look it turned out I didn’t.

The correct answer is: Optima Elite 3. Based on examples shown on the Typewriter Database, I believe this one was made manufactured between 1953-1957.

Here’s the photo again, plus some tip-offs below:

Hmm. I wonder what typewriter is in the picture?

The mystery revealed: Optima Elite 3

Here are some tip-offs that helped narrow down the choices:

  • The prominent pop-up, extending paper support is a common feature on German portables.
  • The ribbon cover slopes upward and is rather bulbous and the solid expanse of ribbon cover in the pic suggests that the opening in the middle is rather small. This is not unlike the Alpina SK24 (my first guess), but the platen knobs and margin release levers didn’t look right.
  • The margin stop buttons are below the top of the carriage and are adjusted from the rear.
  • The shape of the rear left decal looks like an East German quality mark (which it is).
  • The variable line space button on right platen knob (seen on the left side in this photo) is highly stylized. After about 1958 it’s just a small cylindrical button sticking out of the center.

For a better look at the entire machine, you can see a spanking good specimen on the Typewriter Database. For more info about Optima portables, see the great post on X OVER IT.

The other fun part of the search was learning about Jane Jacobs. She was a self-taught historian and activist who helped defeat the Lower Manhattan Expressway from running through SoHo and Little Italy as well as prevented rampant development in her own Greenwich Village. Ms. Jacobs is best known for her book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” To learn more about Jane Jacobs and how her work influences urban planning and city living today, I recommend the following links:



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