THE MEXICAN TYPEWRITER
A WORK OF ARTBeginning in 1889, when his son was just two-years-old, José Herrán Y Bolado began to design a Mexican typewheel typewriter. Herrán is, of course, the father of the great Mexican painter, Saturnino Herrán Guinchard.
Much has been written about the short but productive life of Saturnino, who was born in Aguascalientes on July 9, 1887 and who died, aged just 31, on October 8, 1918. But not so much is known about his father.
It has been written that, “From an early age, Saturnino had a fondness for a fine art world that was easy to enter, for Don José Herrán owned the only library in the city, and it was visited by writers and artists”.
We do know José Herrán was a well-known Mexican author and playwright. He may have been an official of some kind, such as treasurer of the state of Aguascalientes, and he was described as “a restless liberal politician”. Some sources say he was a professor, and that he taught accountancy at an institute of sciences in the city of Aguascalientes. He was also described as a “chess champion, inventor of mechanical calculators and promoter of the construction of the Aguascalientes Teatro Morelos (below)[and] a stimulator of the sensitivity of the future artist”.
Quite how he died in 1903, still at a relatively young age, is uncertain, though he may have been killed.
Apparently, in a play written in 1881, the year he married, José Herrán had accurately forecast a future son’s life. “Premonitions are more than a coincidence,” said one of Saturnino’s many biographers. The play was first staged in 1892, when Saturnino was five.
José Herrán’s sudden death left his wife, Josefa Guinchard Medina, impoverished. Josefa is said to have been a painter herself, and of Swiss and French-speaking origin. In 1905, Guinchard took Saturnino and another child with her to Mexico City, where Saturnino at first worked for a telegraph company and at night attended classes given by Leandro Izaguirre and Germán Gedovius at the National School of Fine Arts.
Saturnino did majestic paintings of Mexican Indians, giving them heroic strength and dignity. In 1910 he took part in the exhibition commemorating the centenary of Mexico's independence. His figures have been associated with the traditions of Spanish art, particularly the work of Velázquez and José de Rivera, and also the Catalan modernism.
José Herrán Y Bolado’s typewriter seems to have become, at his second attempt, an early type of stenography machine.
José Herrán filed for his first typewriter patent on June 19, 1889, and it was issued on October 17, 1893. He declared his objective was “to construct a typewriter that is compact and occupies but a small space, and in which there is a minimum number of parts with only a few keys, and which machine shall be capable of printing upon an endless paper ribbon or tape or in a slightly modified form upon a sheet of paper.
“In carrying out my invention I employ a revolving longitudinally moving cylinder upon the surface of which the type and characters are formed. I also employ keys and operating levers connected therewith, and mechanism connecting the levers with the type cylinder whereby the type cylinder is revolved and moved endwise, the keys being operated both singly and in groups of two or more simultaneously, so as to present the desired letters or characters beneath the place at which the impression is given, and I employ a printing mechanism operated by the levers of the keys to give the impression immediately after the shifting of the type cylinder, an a mechanism for carrying and for progressively feeding along the paper ribbon or sheet with each letter printed.”
In 1891 José Herrán applied for a patent for a calculator, which was issued the following year.
Herrán applied his second typewriter patent on August 19, 1893, and it was granted on this day in 1894.
In his specifications, Herran declared his “invention adapts the general features of the [previous typewriter] to a machine using an ordinary sheet of paper to be printed upon and which is operated and conveyed on a traveling carriage, and in my present invention I employ more positive and efficient mechanism for carrying put the general features of my former machine.
“In my present invention I employ a revolving longitudinally movable cylinder upon the surface of which the type characters are formed, and this cylinder is provided with perforations agreeing in number and arrangement with the type characters.
"This cylinder is moved along endwise and rotated on its supporting shaft to the extent predetermined according to the type character to be brought into position …
“I employ a minimum number of keys arranged in groups of two or more to be operated simultaneously or singly, so as to bring into place for printing the desired type character, and I employ a traveling carriage for the sheet of paper upon which the impression is given and suitable mechanism operated by the depression of the keys to impart a step by step feeding movement to said carriage. I also employ an inking ribbon passing through suitable guides across the face of the type cylinder … “
In the late 1880s, as I understand it, a William Sears had started a successful mail-order business in Boston. As far as I can tell, he was not connected with the Richard Warren Sears, of Sears, Roebuck fame, who started his business in Minneapolis and moved to Chicago.
William Sears, of Boston, was issued with a patent for a typewriter on this day in 1894.
It related “to a mechanism to be added to any of the ordinary typewriting machines, the object being to so improve the machines in ordinary use that the user may be able to print vertical columns of characters or vertical division lines (as may be desired) by the direct action of the machine.”
The typewriter-loving punk musician Joe Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey, on this day in 1952. He died, aged 50, on December 22, 2002, in Broomfield, Somerset.
Strummer is best remembered as the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist of the British band The Clash. See http://oztypewriter.blogspot.com/2011/03/strumming-on-typewriter.html
Strummer is seen here with William S. Burroughs: