The author of the Maggie Hope Mystery series
writes about KBO, cocktails, code-breaking, and red lipstick.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mr. Churchill's Typewriters

Winston Churchill's secretaries used specific typewriters — both portable and noiseless. Churchill wanted his secretaries to type his words directly, as opposed to taking them down in shorthand and then typing them up later. It caused them no end of anxious moments.

Elizabeth Layton Nel, one of his typists during World War II, had this recollection in her memoir:

"In those days, he was in the habit of dictating straight on to the typewriter, in order to save time, the war being most anxious and pressing. One used a noiseless typewriter, and as he was finished dictating, one would hand over the Minute, letter or directive ready for signing, correct, unsmudged, complete. He would then sign or initial it, buzz for the Private Secretary, and it would be dispatched, frequently topped with the bright red sign stating, 'Action This Day ' " ....

The font at the heading of this blog (and also on my web site) is from a Remington Noiseless Portable typewriter, probably very similar to those Winston Churchill's typists, including Elizabeth Layton Nel, used. The font was recreated for the computer by antique typewriter aficionado and expert Richard Polt.

According to Richard, the font was created from his own "beloved Remington Noiseless Portable Model Seven.... Using and a scanner [to create a] Remington Noiseless TrueType font that you are welcome to download here and use as you please. If you want other 'typewriter' fonts, try this site."

For all of us who love fonts, particularly old typewriter fonts, thank you Richard.


  1. Hi Susan,

    I enjoyed reading about Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.

    There is a remarkable collective experience that we all have towards typing and an incredible nostalgia for the typewriter, with an intellectual and emotional investment in it as the symbol of writing.

    I am a collector of 19th century typewriters (1880s & 1890s) and have been enthralled with them for twenty years. There was an incredible variety of ingeniously designed typewriters from the latter part of the 19th century, with over 300 models coming forth from many industrialized countries.

    For anyone interested in seeing some of the world’s first typewriters, please visit my website.

    Happy typing and all the best with your new book.

    Martin Howard

  2. Dear Martin,

    Thank you so much for your kind words.

    I looked at your site and it is BEAUTIFUL. What gorgeous machines and the site design is lovely as well.

    All best wishes!


  3. Thank you Susan for your kind enthusiasm.
    I am so pleased that you love these early typewriters too.


  4. A few years ago, I gave Tony a vintage typewriter for Christmas. It's an apple red Smith & Corona. I can't remember the year it's from, but I'll send you a photo of it. Our nephews have enjoyed playing with it, so I need to repair the ribbon. It's such a beautiful writing tool. I adore old typewriter fonts, too! The man I got the typewriter from also made jewelry out of vintage typewriter keys, and it was beautiful stuff.