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Sunday, 23 September 2012

On This Day in Typewriter History: Joy For Royal, Misery for Dempsey, Bliss in Venice, California

OK, I know it's not Misery, but it's Stephen King-inspired nonetheless. See below
PART 126
Royal’s first portable typewriter was launched in September 1926. It entered an already fiercely competitive marketplace, which had been dominated for the preceding six years by Remington, Corona and Underwood. Up to 1926, the Corona 3, Underwood three-bank and Remington four-bank had sold 875,200 units between them.
George Ed Smith
But Royal president George Ed Smith had a brainwave about to how to let Americans know, coast-to-coast, that the Royal portable had also arrived on the scene.
Smith secured a $35,000 exclusive sponsorship deal with the NBC Radio Network to broadcast the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney world heavyweight boxing championship match in Philadelphia, purely to promote a then untested product. The bout was held on this day, September 23, in 1926.
Royal’s money paid for the first nationwide radio hook-up for a live broadcast of the fight commentary – and of course the Royal portable was plugged all the way through the 10, three-minute rounds at the Sesquicentennial Stadium.
The Daily News of New York estimated that 20 million people listened to the broadcast (there was a record crowd of 120,557 at the venue itself).
Graham McNamee
Phillips Carlin
Presumably some of those who survived the excitement of the commentary - provided by NBC­­’s staff announcer Graham McNamee (blow-by-blow) and WEAF manager Phillips Carlin (colour) (see below) - went out and bought Royal portable typewriters, because more than 100,000 of these first models had been sold by the end of 1928.

Carlin, seated, and McNamee working together
Daily Sentinel, Rome, New York, Thursday, September 23, 1926
George Ed Smith's sponsorship of the fight broadcast is mentioned in The Wonderful Writing Machine (Bruce Bliven Jr (Random House, 1954):
At the Polo Grounds in New York on September 14, 1923, Dempsey had survived a resounding first-round belt on the chin from Argentinean Luis Ángel Firpo, resulting in a cut on the back of his neck from Jack Lawrence’s Corona 3 portable typewriter. But Dempsey couldn’t outpoint Tunney. The New Yorker took  a unanimous decision to become the new world champion. (See my blog post on Dempsey’s conflab with Lawrence’s Corona 3 here
Dempsey is seen here using a Royal 10 typewriter.
Here is Dempsey using another Royal - on June 12, 1949, in Fargo, North Dakota, while helping  footballer-turned-wrestler Bronko Nagurski promote a wrestling match (for which Dempsey was referee). They were photographed together at the Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune’s sports department. According to the newspaper, “Nagurski … told the former world heavyweight boxing champion that he must have punched faster in his ring days than he does on a typewriter.” 
Typewritten Dempsey letter, written just after the first Tunney fight

Also prominently featuring a Royal 10 typewriter was the 1990 movie Misery. Stephen King began writing the book of the same name in Lovell, Massachusetts, on this day in 1984. He finished it in Bangor, Maine, on October 7, 1986. It was published the next year. (It's a later model Royal portable in the dustjacket above, and something else below).
The “grinning” Royal typewriter (it had no letter “N”, and was said to have a missing “tooth”) was used for writing and fighting – though, unlike the Dempsey bouts, the latter was not under Marquess of Queensbury rules.
James Caan as Paul Sheldon in Misery
This lack of fight rules was, I believe, what might have appealed to a man called Wes Wheeler about Stephen King’s works (see image, top of post).
Above and below: A young Stephen King at his typewriter
So enamoured with King books and movies was Wheeler that he had themes from them tattooed on his back and arms. A photo of Wheeler, taken by Jody Cobb, appeared in The National Geographic of January 2000 in an article titled “The Enigma of Beauty”. See my blog post on it here“Getting the tattoo was painful,” Wheeler was quoted as saying. “But sometimes I look in the mirror and say, ‘Wow, that's beautiful, and it's on me’.” Wheeler’s tattoo took 70 hours to complete.
Mention of Stephen King allows me the opportunity to ask: Have you ever seen this very funny clip?:

Wouldn’t be great if today’s Southern California Type-In lasted 70 hours (which would almost give me enough time to fly there for it). The Type-In is being held in Venice, California, and Gary Nicholson’s movie The Typewriter (In the 21st Century) (it’s much more pleasing to the eyes than Misery, let me assure you) will be shown during it. There will be a private screenings of the film from 1pm-5pm at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Boulevard.  


A.R.M.S. said...

I cannot wait for the type-in! We'll be there with four machines. I feel like a little kid on Christmas Eve; I can't sleep!

Very interesting sports history! Sometimes I wonder which of my machines came out of a journalists' office or home. And I'm always wondering what was written on them before they found their ways to me.

Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and it is actually because of him that I write fiction now. His work inspired me from an early age to take up writing. And that tattoo that is an ode to his work is fantastic. Seeing the Royal in there among the other images makes me want to get that perfect photo of Gargoyle (the Oliver 3) to take to a local ink shop and see what happens!

Ken Coghlan said...

Oh, how I was I could attend the type-in...

The neatest part are the pictures of King with his Underwood SX100, which was my very first typewriter. I am going to have to re-watch Misery now...

Bill M said...

Thanks for the very interesting post on Royal and especially the part about KDKA and the first coast to coast broadcast. Most of that I never heard even when working in radio in several markets in PA and spending most of my life in PA.

Anonymous said...

My great grandmother's brother was Royal Typwriter President, George Ed Smith. Thanks for the information on him!

Steve Langstroth