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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ribbon Vibrator Mechanism on Patria-Swissa Piccola-Voss Portable Typewriters

It's always difficult to try to help out a young chap - or young lady for that matter - with a typewriter problem when the typewriter is not within easy reach - and the person with the problem is probably thousands of kilometres away. I most certainly would never call it "easy-peasy". I don't know where Joji Furukawa lives, but I'm guessing it's not just around the corner.
What I do know, because he told me so, is that Joji is 14 and has just got himself a lovely little sky blue Patria portable. And the ribbon vibrator doesn't work. He doesn't have the money, he says, to pay for a typewriter technician to fix it for him, and he wants me to help.
The best I can do, in these circumstances, is to shoot a video of the ribbon vibrator mechanism in operation in these models, and take some photos of it. The typewriters I used were a Swissa Piccola and a Voss Learnette, both the same machines as Joji's Patria.
Joji, if I were you I'd be looking closely at the photos and comparing them with all the lever and spring connections on your Patria's vibrator, and watching the video to see how they all work together to lift the ribbon to the print point with each key stroke. Good luck with it!
And now for something completely different ...
Typewriter Anatomy Quiz
What brand of typewriter does this ribbon spools set-up come from?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Typewriting's Boy Wonder

This is Parker Claire Woodson, born in Chicago on August 31, 1895, who in August 1910 emerged as the "Boy Wonder", the "Marvel" of the speed typewriting world. In January of that year, Woodson had entered a business school in Chicago to learn shorthand, and while there took up typing. Within six months, and still aged just 14, "Master Woodson" mastered the impressive art of carrying on a conversation while simultaneously typing at extraordinarily rapid speeds - exceeding 230 words a minute!
As the Tacoma Times said on March 14, 1912, "Can Go Some On Typewriter - WHEW!" - "Greased lightning is slow compared to Parker C.Woodson ...":
On December 6 that same year, the Urbana Daily Courier reported:
Born the son of James and Bessie Hurst Woodson, Parker C. Woodson first came to public attention in 1910 with this little item in the trade journal, Typewriter Topics. Woodson, living at the time with a widowed aunt, Florence Reber, in Chicago, won a typing contest in Omaha, Nebraska. Despite his tender age, Woodson was immediately snapped up as a demonstrator by the Remington Typewriter Company and started giving exhibitions of typing, such as in Brooklyn later in 1910.
By 1911 he had moved to New York and was demonstrating his amazing skills on a Remington 10.
In 1912 Woodson was much in demand, travelling to New Jersey, Helena, Montana, Fargo, North Dakota, and Riverside, California, to give exhibitions of his typing:
An edition of Remington Notes (Volume 2, No 10) in 1913 ran this item, which was reproduced in ETCetera (No 47) in June 1999. The then ETCetera editor, Darryl Rehr, referred to Woodson as being a professional, but at this stage, given he was still 17, he was not classed as such, even though he was working for Remington:

On January 2, 1914, Woodson, aged just 18, married Francis Farris in his home city of Chicago.
By 1915, now living with his wife at No 525 146th Street West, New York City, and describing himself as a "typewriter demonstrator", Woodson had entered the major national and international speed typing competitions as an amateur. Using a Remington, he found himself well off the pace of the crack Underwood team members. In the Boston amateur half-hour test, he finished fourth behind future (1919) professional world champion William Friedrich Oswald (1896-1963), and in the world championships in New York he moved up to third behind Oswald. Woodson was, nonetheless, the fastest of the Remington typists, amateur or professional, and finished away ahead of future Underwood great George Hossfeld:
World championship, New York 
Still ranked an amateur in 1916, Woodson dropped further down the finishing order, behind 1915 novice champion Hortense Stollnitz (below), using a Remington, and Hossfeld. Oswald finished second behind Margaret Owen in the professional event.

 William Oswald
 A young George Hossfeld
Margaret Owen
By 1917, Woodson had seen the light. At the time he registered for military service in World War I, he too had switched camps and joined the Underwood team:
Woodson served in the last few months of the war and afterwards packed up his typewriter and in 1920 went back to Chicago with his wife and young son Parker Jr to become a private secretary. After marriage break-ups he married Ruth O'Brien and moved to Detroit to be an advertising company manager; then married Minnie Lee Collins and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia, as manager of a meat packing company, Wilson & Co. He retired to California and died in Novato, north of San Francisco, on March 21, 1981, aged 85.

Imperial Model D Typewriter looking for new British home

Marion in Essex in England's south-east is 75 and "having to 'clear out'" her house. She acquired this Imperial Model D many years ago from a friend who was running a charity shop at the time; "it was not selling in the shop, and she thought I would be interested in it. Sadly, I just put it away in the loft, and more or less forgot about it." It has a case and a small box of tools.
If any of my friends in Britain are interested in making Marion an offer, please let me know and I will forward Marion's contact details on.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

No Kidding - Kidder Made No Din: Prototypes of the Noiseless Typewriter

These two early 20th Century Nodin (get it, "no din") prototypes of the Noiseless typewriter are in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. As Dutch typewriter historian Paul Robert once described them, they look like a cross between the Empire (aka Wellington) and the Noiseless.
 My collection
Wim Van Rompuy Collection
The name of the proposed typewriter was discussed in correspondence between the inventor Wellington Parker Kidder and the company founder Charles Carroll Colby in the late 19th century and early 1900s. "Nodin" and "Silent" were both considered before "Noiseless" was settled on.
An article by Alexander Sellers in the September 1995 issue of ETCetera (No 32) regarding correspondence between Kidder and Colby can be downloaded in PDF form here.

Noiseless Typewriters: Remington v Underwood I

Anyone who studies typewriter history quickly comes to realise that Remington gave nothing away for free. Its hard-nosed business approach to typewriters started the day Philo Remington and his private secretary Henry Harper Benedict first met James Densmore and George Washington Newton Yost, in an Ilion, New York, hotel in February 1873, and continued through its subsequent dealings with Densmore and Yost, until the point was reached where it held all the patents and controlled the manufacture and the sale of typewriters. In the early 1890s, Remington's determination to maintain market domination and dictate terms in the evolution of the typewriter resulted in the formation of the Union Trust.
So how did to come to be that in September 1929 Remington started to make noiseless typewriters for its greatest rival, Underwood? This is a question which has intrigued and perplexed typewriter enthusiasts for many a year.
Well, oddly enough, this fresh-faced and hardly hard-nosed young military cadet had a lot to do with it. The thing was, he had something Remington badly wanted, and Remington was prepared to bargain for it.
His name is Jesse Alonzo Braddock Smith and he was born in New York City on October 23, 1880. 
At 9.20 on the morning of Tuesday, May 4, 1915, a 34-year-old Jesse was working for his father, the general manager of the Underwood Typewriter Company in New York City, when first his father received news that his good friend, the great typewriter inventor Lee Spear Burridge, had suddenly died at the age of 54, and then his father, Stephen Terhune Smith, collapsed and died too, aged just 61.
Stephen Terhune Smith
Almost exactly a year earlier, Stephen Smith had applied for a patent, assigned to Underwood, for a typewriter copy-holder. It was not issued until 18 months after his death, but in the meantime Jesse had taken up the project and made it his pet - expanding it to a sheet-collating device. He applied for a patent for this in June 1916 and it was issued in October 1918. By that time, the device had already become known as the Underwood fan-fold biller machine:
And in 1929, just before the original Stephen Smith patent was due to expire, Remington made it known it wanted to make its own fan-fold machine, albeit one in the Underwood style. Remington, through Arthur William Smith in 1915, Clio Brunella Yaw in 1919, Morris Wright Pool in 1921 and Oscar Woodward in 1923, held four fan-fold patents, but had not gone into production with any of them; none could match the established efficiency of the Smith-Underwood device.
With an enormous array of patents, from the Smiths to Lester Adelbert Wernery (1914 onwards), Benjamin Paskel Fortin in 1916, Christian Albert Marschel and Earle Henry Wheaton in 1917, Julius Duckstine in 1918, Lee Fisk Messenger and Ellis Wildes Cooper in 1919, Arthur Albert Johnson, Joseph Frank Allard, Hiram Stickle Lasher, Daniel Thomas Glackin and John Waldheim in 1920, Burnham Coos Stickney (1922-24), Henry LaFayette Pitman and William Ferdinand Helmond in 1922, Hervé Schwedersky, Maximilian Richard Urban and George William Renz in 1923, Adolph Gustav Kupetz, Clarence McKinnie Crews and Carl Emil Norin in 1924, Alphonse Edward Imbus, Harry Elmer Cripe and Raymond Hanus in 1925, Alfred Gustav Franz Kurowski in 1926 and John Toggenburger in 1927, Underwood had all the bases covered. Between them - a remarkable 28 different inventors - these men held more than 140 patents on the fan-fold, the vast majority issued to Jesse Smith himself.
Underwood has a fan-fold in its wide range 1922, above, while in 1926 Remington, below, doesn't. But it does have a Noiseless:
Underwood had placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on its fan-fold, as one of its innovations, with this vast number of patents covering every single aspect of the machine. Thus Underwood had the whole thing well and truly stitched up, leaving Remington virtually no room to manoeuvre. Remington was thereby forced into negotiating, if it wanted its own fan-fold. And the Noiseless become the negotiating point.
Once Remington's move toward a fan-fold became apparent, Jesse Smith quickly moved to strengthen his and Underwood's hand. He tried to get his patents, and those of Underwood design engineers such of Wernery and Waldheim, re-issued by the US Patent Office. The Patent Office, however, was having none of it, and rejected Jesse's applications for "want of invention". Represented by Underwood patent attorney Burnham Coos Stickney, Jesse appealed, but lost again.
The Remington version, when it eventually appeared in electrified form.
Jesse was merely trying to buy time, and in doing so to ensure Underwood was secure in its bargaining position. Underwood wanted a noiseless typewriter, the Remington patents for which were even fresher than Underwood's on the fan-fold machine. By the time the Court of Customs and Patents Appeals had found against Jesse a second time, on December 30, 1929, Remington had already started to make (on July 1, 1929) and then ship noiseless typewriters from Middletown, Connecticut, to Underwood.
That latter process had begun precisely three months earlier, on September 30, 1929, and the Underwood Noiseless, the Model N, was introduced to the market in January 1930, with No N3600001.
Jesse Smith retired from Underwood in 1952, after 52 years with the company, and died in Stamford, Connecticut, on February 4, 1967, aged 86. In some obituaries, he was credited with 400 Underwood typewriter patents, a Braille typewriter and the Teleprompter.
As for his father, here is a letter Stephen Terhune Smith typewrote to a newspaperman in 1906 about his own typewriter career: