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Thursday, 16 June 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (XXVI)


George Washington Newton Yost was trying to buck the trend when, on this day in 1886, he was issued with a patent for a radically different type of typebar arrangement.
Yost was presumably hoping to improve his Caligraph when he came up with what he called a “novel” design to have the typebars suspended in two separate rows concave to one another. Yet the idea does not appear to have been applied to any of the upstroke Caligraphs or Yosts.
Yost said, “I am aware that typebar hangers have been heretofore arranged in a circle and in an oval or ellipse, in which case the ribbon-guides have to be outside of the circular or elliptical row, and consequently quite far apart. The ribbon also rests on and rubs over several of the hangers, coating the hangers and journals* with ink, in which the dust sticks, so as to ultimately impede the free movement of several typebars.”
(*A journal is defined as the part of a shaft or axle in contact with or enclosed by a bearing.)
Yost’s suggested arrangement was aimed at preventing any contact of the ribbon with the hangers or their journals, allowing the ribbon guides to be brought closer together and “well in to the centre of the machine”.
Later Yost explained that the combination of his suggested devices would “avoid the use of bevel-gears, and secure a direct connection between the cam-wheel and the ribbon spool, thereby reducing to a minimum the duty imposed upon the cam-spring. The inconvenience of reversing the ribbon by hand is more than counterbalanced by the ease of movement of the whole mechanism due to the absence of gears.”
US president Woodrow Wilson developed a distinct liking for Hammonds after first buying one of Yost’s Caligraphs, one which had a round typebasket. Wilson, who on this day in 1916 signed a Bill incorporating the Boy Scouts of America, apparently used as many as three Hammonds.
Some years ago, on the portable typewriter online forum, Darryl Rehr said Wilson’s surviving Hammonds were “a black curved Multiplex at the Wilson house, a green one in the White House and another green one located in one of the Smithsonian museums [there is also one in Wilson’s office at Princeton, above, and an Underwood at Woodrow Wilson House, Washington, below].
“Wilson always had two Hammonds on hand. The story was that he worked at them so furiously they would slow down as they heated up, so he always had a ‘cool’ machine on which to transfer his work when the other one heated.” Another source claims that at least one of the Hammonds had a Greek language shuttle.
Wilson’s green Hammond 12 found its way back to the White House after having been “carelessly given away” to his physician, Admiral Cary T. Grayson. It was found at the American Red Cross. “Maker-of-presidents” and John F.Kennedy Administration official David Lawrence told Kennedy about this, and Wilson’s Hammond was returned to the White House on February 6, 1962. Remarks at the presentation to the White House of Wilson's typewriter can be heard at

Wilson bought a Caligraph 2, his first typewriter, on June 8, 1883. The first thing he used it for was to write a note to Ellen Axson asking her to a concert. Axson became Wilson’s first wife.
Wilson was probably dyslexic. Some of the ways he used to handle the associated difficulties included learning shorthand and using a typewriter to write. He became a very good typist and used typewriters to compose his own speeches and other official documents as president of Princeton, Governor of New Jersey and President of the US.
Here is a ringing endorsement for Hammond from Wilson, which appears in a link from the Writers and Their Typewriters list on Richard Polt's The Classic Typewriter Page:
Making the Boy Scouts the only American youth organisation with a federal charter is tenuous grounds to bring up Wilson and his typewriters, I know, but worth it nonetheless.
The creator of the popular children’s books which became the Thomas the Tank Engine TV series (once voiced by Ringo Starr), Wilbert Vere Awdry, was born on this day in 1911 in Romsey Hampshire. He died, aged 85, at Rodborough, Stroud, Gloucestershire, on March 27, 1997.
Awdry was an English clergyman and a railway enthusiast as well as an author. The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum at the Wharf Station of the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales, has a special section devoted to Awdry, with the reconstruction of part of his study at Stroud.
Madam and memoirist Xaviera Hollander was born Vera de Vries in Soerabaja, Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) on this day in 1943. She is best known for her best-selling memoir The Happy Hooker: My Own Story (1971).
Hollander spent the first two years of her life in a Japanese internment camp. In her early 20s, she left Amsterdam for Johannesburg, where she became engaged to Carl Gordon, an American economist. When the engagement was broken off, she left South Africa for New York and was secretary of the Dutch consulate in Manhattan .


Richard P said...

I enjoyed hearing JFK's remarks. Good audio quality!

As for the Hammond heating up when Wilson typed too much or too fast on it, that sounds like an old wives' tale to me. Hammonds aren't very speedy to begin with, and if it did heat up that probably only make it run smoother ...

Machines of Loving Grace said...

Thanks to the shout-out to Rev. Awdry. Thanks to Thomas the Train, my son has a developed a greater appreciation for steam locomotives than those stinky, boxy diesels.

Though to paraphrase Woody Allen's opinion on sex, even the worst train I ever saw was still pretty good.

Robert Messenger said...

I had a similar experience. When son No 3, now 22, was very little, he loved Thomas. He had the full set of little toy trains from the series. I feel privileged to have grown up in a place and time when steam trains were still used. Do I find some common ground between typewriter lovers and steam train lovers? The Davis family, Alan, any others? Any real connection?

Robert Messenger said...

Maybe Wilson's Hammond just got "all steamed up"?

Robert Messenger said...

BTW, Richard, I've added an excerpt of Wilson's Hammond endorsement, linked from your Writers' Typewriters list on The Classic Typewriter Page.