“I know, it’s weird, isn’t it!” he says with a smile. He became interested in vintage typewriters because his grandmother has an old, Royal KMM typewriter that caught his eye when he was a small child. “I was fascinated by it; I loved it so much,” he remembers. Eventually, he began collecting vintage typewriters on his own.
Preston’s first collector piece was a 1955 Smith Corona typewriter he discovered in an antique shop in Grand Blanc. Later on, at a Bargain Barn, he found a 1977 Royal Adler TW. “I then found a 1948 Royal KMM of my very own at a flea market for $20!” he exclaims. Preston now has six vintage typewriters in his collection. And, he is always on the lookout for more.
Lately, the teen has been working on a typewriter project at the A.J. Phillips Museum in Fenton. Several vintage typewriters donated to the museum were in need of some work. Preston repaired the machines and they are now in pretty good working shape.
“They all work with the exception of one,” he reports. Some of the parts needed for the repairs are hard to find, so Preston has learned to make the parts himself.
His entire collection is now on display at the museum. “When people come in to see the display, I pretty much talk their ears off,” he shares, laughing. One of the machines displayed there is an old stenographer machine, used for court proceedings, which he found stored away in an old box.
What Preston enjoys most is researching the history of the vintage typewriters; he does most of his research online. “I know the exact age, background, history, and all of their values,” he admits. He enjoys the mechanical aspect of how the machines work, as well. “I also like to repair them,” he adds.
This isn’t Preston’s only hobby – he also enjoys collecting vinyl records and old glass bottles. When he was ten years old, his Boy Scout troop was doing a service project, creating a playscape at St. Paul of the Cross in Detroit. While he was digging a hole for a post, he found an old bottle that was cobalt blue in color. After doing some research, he learned that it had once contained Bromo Seltzer, a popular antacid medicine back in the day. “I also collect old Coca Cola bottles and I have one of every bottle ever made,” he boasts. “I’m always looking, everywhere I go.” He searched for the 1923 Christmas bottle and finally found it in an antique shop in Copper Harbor, MI.
His typewriter collection is, however, his primary interest and he would one day like to write a book about vintage typewriters and all he has learned. Preston’s future plans include going to college with the goal of becoming an accountant or a teacher. In the meantime, he will continue working on the museum’s typewriter collection and adding to his own. “It’s just fun and something I enjoy!”
Photography by Eric Dutro