vrijdag 13 mei 2016

My Corona

When you have been living with an object for many years, it tends to become invisible, even if it’s a much cherished one. It often takes a visitor, new to your house, singing the praises of said object, to make you look at it with fresh eyes and to once again appreciate its beauty.


This Corona typewriter has been living with us for about 15 years after it had been languishing unloved at my sister’s house. It’s a family heirloom, as it used to be my paternal grandfather’s.


Somehow, I don't think this summery Vinetta dress, which was one of the first vintage dresses I ever bought, would have been considered the right attire for a secretary.

Louis in the army, 1929-30





Louis, my grandfather, was born in 1909 into a large and relatively poor farming family.



















My grandparents with my dad, 1934-35



After meeting and subsequently marrying my grandmother in 1931, they moved to a village near the city of Antwerp, where my grandfather found employment at a large and well-known factory. He was the only one in his family to move out of the rural area his ancestors had lived in for many generations, and was therefore considered by them to be quite the “townie”.


Like many of his generation, my grandfather grew vegetables in his back garden. Later, he was able to get an allotment, eventually becoming chairman, ruling his flock of allotment keepers with iron hand, and writing many a letter to the authorities on their behalf.

In my mind’s eye I can see him sitting at his drop-leaf desk in the corner of the cramped little dining room of my grandparent’s house, furiously typing away at the Corona and venting his frustration with the ways of the world.


As I’m used to touch typing, I would only be able to type gibberish on this machine, as its keyboard is neither AZERTY (as used mainly in France and Belgium nowadays) nor QWERTY. In fact, the top row of keys forms the tongue twisting AEUZFM.



A quick search on the Internet reveals that, although it is marked as No. 6 (for which I have not been able to find any info), it is very similar to the No. 3, which came on the market in 1912 and remained in production for nearly 30 years.

My guess is that my Corona dates from the late 1920s or early 1930s.


I could only find it with a QWERTY keyboard though. Further googling unearthed that mine has a so-called Belgian keyboard, invented by a 17-year old boy in the late 19th Century, with the vowels on the left and the consonants on the right.

Apparently, the Belgian keyboard was available for 50 years alongside the standard French AZERTY arrangement - although not as popular - and was discontinued just before the Second World War.


A unique feature in the typewriter’s design is its ability to "fold" in order to fit into a case. The carriage is hinged and folds over the keyboard, making it more compact for storage. The machine was so practical that it was chosen by the British Army in the First World War.

On another note, it is said that Hemingway once declared that the Corona No. 3 was the only psychiatrist he would ever submit to!


Our Corona has a label of the shop in Antwerp where it was bought. The street, St. Kathelijnevest, has been Antwerp’s typewriter mecca for many decades, and it is actually the very street where my office is located!

My grandparents with my mum and dad in the mid 1950s
I wonder what my grandfather, who died in 1994, would have said if he knew his Corona was still around and being cherished by his granddaughter in 2016?

And that she's blogging about it too, which would have been a mind-boggling concept for him. 

But then again, he might have taken to it as a duck to water and be a blogger himself, having kept a diary when he was a soldier in the Second World War ...


21 opmerkingen:

  1. How wonderful that you are able to keep a piece of family history in operating condition. Our old Underwood has stuck keys and I wouldn't know where to begin looking for a ribbon if I wanted to restore it.

    You could have worn that dress in a 1960's/70's office in America-it would have been considered professional attire in many places.

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    1. It took me ages to type "polyester princess" as not only did I know where any of the keys were, they got stuck as well. xxx

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  2. How wonderful that you are able to keep a piece of family history in operating condition. Our old Underwood has stuck keys and I wouldn't know where to begin looking for a ribbon if I wanted to restore it.

    You could have worn that dress in a 1960's/70's office in America-it would have been considered professional attire in many places.

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  3. What a fabulous post full of interest and cool old photos. My mum had an old typewriter that we were allowed to tap away on as kids. I remember learning to touch type on something slightly more modern when I was at school, and you never lose those touch typing skills.

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    1. It's strange that you never lose touch typing skills, even if I wasn't good at it at school. xxx

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  4. Lovely post Ann. I have an old typewriter in my garden, it's completely rusted up and was like that when I got it but my friend has one in her house which is perfect. Itdoesn't have the provenance of yours though.
    I love the family photographs
    Lynn xx

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    1. I didn't know much about it, apart from it being my grandfather's, so it was really interesting to find out its general history on the Internet too. xxx

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  5. I've swooned over one of these at a car boot sale but the price was outrageous! What a miracle of engineering it is. As a grammar school girl I wasn't taught any useful life skills like typing - it takes me an age to send a text message!!!
    You look gorgeous in your sunny yellow dress and I love the photos of your grandparents. xxx

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    1. I know they can be really expensive and it seems there are quite a few collectors out there. I was the Belgian equivalent of a grammar school girl too, but we had the option of extra typing lessons, which my parents thought would come in handy. I was notoriously bad at it, though, and it was the only subject I ever failed in. I'm still surprised that I can touch type. xxx

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  6. I've never seen a keyboard like that - I'd never realised keyboards were different in France and Belgium. (The QWERTY one makes no sense, so I thought it was universal.) I bet your grandfather would be pleased to know his typewriter is treasured.

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    1. I never knew about that keyboard until I researched it on the Internet. I hadn't even noticed that the vowels were on the left and the consonants on the right. I couldn't type on a QWERTY one either ... xxx

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  7. It's such a perfect and tiny little thing! So cute. And wonderful to have all the family history. Mind you the placing of those letters would mess with my head. That probably makes it really rare and unique. I think your grandfather would be delighted to see his typewriter being cared for by you! As for the wonderful sunny yellow dress, I think it would be perfect for every occasion. Xxxx

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    1. It really is a cute little thing, and I love it, especially because of the family connection. The dress is a favourite too, as it was one of my first vintage dresses which I got right - I made many mistakes when I started buying vintage ... xxx

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  8. Oh this is so lovely! I love that you have this memory of your grandfather to cherish and what a beauty it is. I've always wanted to buy a 1930s typewriter and have it on display but I just don't have anywhere to put one. xx

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    1. Thank you Cate. I don't have much space either, and the place where it's dislayed is not ideal. Neither is it easy to keep it free of dust. I do have its case but I can't remember where it is ... xxx

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  9. What a lovely story behind a really attractive and historical object! And how interesting about the different Belgian keyboard! It is delightful!

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    1. Thank you Kezzie. I'm thinking of doing some more posts like this, featuring a much-loved object. xxx

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  10. What a sweet, lovely post. It spoke to both the vintage lover and the passionate family genealogist in me. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful typewriter and family photos alike with us, dear Ann.

    Many hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

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  11. Thank you Jessica. I loved writing that post too, and I learned from it to boot. xxx

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  12. How wonderful! I love old typewriters and yours is a beauty! I adore the family photo you showed, how glam is your mum xxx

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    1. I love that photo very much. I have one of my late mum on her own, wearing the same suit, probably taken on the same day, which I love even more. xxx

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