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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Raiders of the Lost Press Gallery

Queensland Typospherians Scott Kernaghan and Steve Snow broke their road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne by calling into Canberra today. Apart from the Australian Typewriter Museum, they wanted to see some other sights, so we headed off to Old Parliament House. (Australia's first permanent Parliament House wasn't opened until 1988; the "temporary" Parliament House used from 1927 is now a tourist attraction and is referred to as "Old Parliament House"). Steve had the idea to use and photograph typewriters in some interesting Canberra spots.
The day didn't dawn too brightly, but it got a whole lot better once the fog lifted.
Steve, left, and Scott get down to some serious typing in the plush leather Federal Opposition seats in what was for 60 years the House of Representatives.
 The view from the Press Gallery.
The first time I came to Canberra needing to wire copy overseas, in 1979, I was guided by a fellow New Zealander, the late Michael Foster, on how to do it. Late at night, one had to climb up a vertical ladder on one wall of the locked Parliament House, walk across a roof in complete darkness, then crawl through this window to gain access to a telegraph operator. It was the only way back then!
 Working conditions for political journalists are replicated above and below.
This Underwood four portable typewriter belonged to William Farmer Whyte (1877-1958), Bombala-born journalist and author, who joined the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra in 1927. There, for the rest of his life, he conducted the Federal News Service, supplying political articles and his Canberra Times column ('Over the Speaker's Chair') to country newspapers throughout Australia. In 1937-39 he edited a monthly magazine, Australian National Review, about which he corresponded with Corona 3-user Miles Franklin. In 1952 Whyte edited the Australian Parliamentary Handbook and in 1955 published an extensive, though not definitive, biography of the prime minister whom he had known for much of his own career, Corona 3-wielding Billy Hughes. Farmer Whyte worked to within a few days of his death, just short of his 81st birthday.
 A radio network news room.
This Adler Contessa portable typewriter belonged to New Zealand-born Miringa Gay Davidson (1939-2004) of The Canberra Times, the first female chief political correspondent for a major newspaper in Australia and the first woman president of the Australian Commonwealth Parliamentary Press Gallery. The "blokey" culture of the Canberra Press Gallery never caused Gay Davidson to pause. Indeed, at one point, she sought and obtained permission to use a male toilet, near her office in the Press Gallery, because the nearest women’s toilet, at that stage, was “too far away”. She explained, as she pressed her case, that there would be “no embarrassment” as most of the men in there would be “facing the wall.”  She was a former daughter-in-law of Mount Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary.
This Remington Quiet-Riter portable typewriter belonged to Alan Douglas Joseph Reid (1914-1987), nicknamed 'The Red Fox', who worked in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery from 1937 to 1985. He is noted for his role in the Australian Labor Party split of 1955 and his coinage of the term "36 faceless men" to describe the members of the Australian Labor Party's Federal Conference. Reid was born in Liverpool, England, and grew up in poverty. At the age of 11, his father, a New Zealand-born sea captain, had an accident that ended his career, and emigrated with Reid to Australia; they lived in the Sydney suburb of Paddington.
Reid retired due to illness in 1985 and died from lung and stomach cancer, related to his smoking habit, in 1987, at the age of 72.
Some of the portable typewriters donated to the Press Gallery exhibition by former political journalists. In this lot is a Waverley (Consul), a Silver-Seiko, Nakajima Tippa, Gabrieles and Contessas.
 Scott proudly proclaims where Australia's Prime Ministers once stood.
 Scott and Steve leave Old Parliament House, heading for the Aboriginal Embassy across the road.
As envisaged more than 100 years ago by Marion Mahony Griffin, the wife of Canberra designer, Chicago's Walter Burley Griffin, this is the present day view from the forecourt of the "new" Parliament House, looking down at the back of Old Parliament House and up Anzac Parade to the Australian War Memorial, at the foot of Mount Ainslie. Between Old Parliament House and Anzac Parade, out of sight here, is the man-made Lake Burley Griffin.

Steve types merrily away in front of the "new" Parliament House.
 Scott's Olympia portable typewriter sits waiting to be swung into action.

Alex Rose's Typatune

Typatune inventor Alex Rose at his "musical instrument" in August, 1939, the month his patent was issued, at the Inventors' Exposition of the American Hobby Association at the Spears Building in New York City.
Photo courtesy of PETER WEIL.
I was actually looking for a spare parts Atlas, but as I dug under mountains of boxes at the back of my shed, torch in hand, I spotted something I'd been looking for for ages. Indeed, I had told Peter Weil way back in October last year that I was going to post on it.
It's my Typatune - all 12 inches by 10 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches of it.
The Typatune was invented by Bronx court stenographer Alexander Rose (born Kings, New York, March 11, 1901). It seems likely that, through marriage (his wife was Clara Berger), Rose was related to the great Hungarian-born toy typewriter designer and manufacturer, Samuel Israel Berger:
Rose applied for an unassigned patent for the Typatune on March 8, 1938, and it was issued on May 23 the following year. Rose gained some publicity for it on August 30, 1939, when a column on the Typatune appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle (see below).

However, the Typatune wasn't launched on the market until September 1945. In the meantime, Rose had found a company to make it, the mysterious Electronic Corporation of America. As Peter asked tonight, why would an "electronics" company make a toy "musical instrument" typewriter?
The patent number on the Typatune is misleading. It lacks the final figure, 1.
When the Typatune was eventually available for sale, it came with a book of melodies which Rose himself had arranged. This is how it looked just before reaching the market, in August 1945:
According to the caption with this August 1945 news photograph, the Typatune had been ordered by the Veterans' Administration to assist in physical therapy treatment of war veterans in hospitals.
Image of music page from Wim Van Rompuy's page on the Typetune, which can be seen here. Wim also shows us how the Typetune works:
The Typatune's timely launch, just before Christmas 1945, was publicised across the US, with the line: "Something new is the gadget at right, which looks like a typewriter, but is a musical instrument called a 'Typatune', recently invented by Alexander Rose, New York City court reporter. It has a standard typewriter keyboard, works on the piano principle, and when you 'write' on it, tunes come out." A hatch was later added to protect the keyboard:
The Typatune which appeared in Michael Adler's 1997 Antique Typewriters, courtesy of This Olde Office, Cathedral City, California, was sold for $450 not so long ago by Branford House Antiques:
Here are some other variations:
 I believe this may belong to Georg Sommeregger. See video below of Silent Night being played.
Alexander Rose died in September 1985, aged 84.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Brady and Warner Index Typewriter

This prototype is in the Dietz Collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
This would have been the world's first index typewriter - if it had gone into production. Indeed, if one takes the Sholes & Glidden-Remington 1-Remington 2 as essentially the same machine, the Brady and Warner would have been the second brand on the market. As it was, the Hall (northern autumn 1883) was the first commercially successful index typewriter, and the third new brand behind the Caligraph (northern summer 1881). 
Gilbert Arnold Brady, a Chicago manufacturing agent and real estate broker, and Francis Fullmer Warner, a Chicago patent solicitor, applied for a patent for their index machine on November 17, 1877, and it was issued on April 9, 1878, just after Brady's 51st birthday and just before the Remington 2, the first typewriter with a shift device, went on sale. It was the 56th US patent since 1829 related to writing machines.
Brady was born in New York City on April 6, 1827, while Warner was born in Waterloo, New York, in 1840. Brady moved to Illinois and was a merchant in Little Rock in 1850 and Manlius in 1860. He was in Chicago by 1870. In the interim, Warner had served in the Civil War. The pair died within months of one another, Warner on January 7, 1897, in New York City, aged 56, and Brady in Chicago on November 14, 1897, aged 70.