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Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Remington SJ Typewriter for Christmas

Plan early and maybe you'll secure one of these typewriters for Christmas. There has been a glut of Glasgow-made Remington SJ standard-size typewriters on Australian eBay lately, so much so there has to be a chance one of them may have been made at the Hillington factory at Christmas 1957. If the serial number is in the SJ 430,000-437,000 range, it will have been made at the Scottish plant (above) in the month of December that year.
One of my Remington SJs (above) sold on eBay a week ago.
My various posts on Glasgow-made Remington Rand typewriters (1949-63) led Scottish-born historian, Mary Doland, of Bairnsdale in Eastern Victoria, to contact me and offer me two wonderful photographs taken in the Hillington factory.
The one at the top of this post shows Mary's father, Jack O'Brien, foreground left, working on the production line. Like famous soccer manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Jack was a shop steward at the factory. The workers needed such solid men to represent them: Mary confirms that Remington Rand were appalling labour managers.
The O'Briens lived in the Cowcaddens in Glasgow but Mary came to Australia 41 years ago.
The union put on Christmas parties for the workers' children and here is Mary herself, "the little girl in the dark ringlets and party dress, standing on her seat in the middle of the picture. Right behind my right arm is my brother Jim, and next along after Jim is my brother Jack.  I think I was about five-years-old, and that would make it Christmas 1955 or 1956.
"Dad lost his job there when [Remington] went to Holland [where the workers were paid less].  There were about 1000 lay-offs I think.  They were a horrible company. I wish [Dad] was here to tell you how this abysmal American company treated their workers."
Mary is now an indigenous partnership facilitator with Gippsland Strategy and Partnerships, Department of Environment and Primary Industries.
I listed an SJ in perfect working condition on eBay after someone in Brisbane sold one for $44 under the false pretenses that it was a 1908 Remington 10 in "as new condition". Here is the rip-off item:
Here is a real 1908 Remington 10.
You may be able to spot one or two differences (OK, so it's not in "as new" condition):
Interestingly enough, a REAL Remington 10 (admittedly in very tatty condition) was last week offered for sale on Australian eBay and, not surprisingly, passed in at $120:
Anyway, dishonesty obviously pays, because - as Richard Polt suggested might happen - my SJ was an absolute "steal" at $30. Mind you, I did better than these two sellers - the top one (in similar condition to mine) didn't even get a bid at a mere $19.99 and the bottom one was similarly passed in, at $9.99:
So there are bargains out there (well, the top one at $20 is, anyway) and if you're lucky you might find an SJ assembled by Jack O'Brien in Glasgow at Christmas 1957. If so, here is an instruction sheet to guide you:


Bryan Sherwood said...

What a shame Remington Rand treated their workers so poorly. Sad.

Great blog post though. Love the history.

Richard P said...

Great photos. Those look like Noiseless machines in the Christmas photo.

I'm afraid the bad corporate behavior reported here matches Remington's treatment of its workers during the Depression. Quite a contrast to Olivetti, which provided all sorts of services to its workers and created lifelong devotion and good will.

Pop an SJ for me into your carryon when you come to Cincinnati fhis fall, OK? :)

McTaggart said...

Yes, Remington were an unpleasant company to work for in the UK but not too bad here in Australia because it was the family business of Chartres. I think Richard is correct, those machines in the photo are definitely Noiseless.

Steve Snow said...

Very interesting post. The closest any of my several SJ's came to being made in December 1957 was 414437, so just under 20,000 machines too early. They sure built a solid and dependable machine, but agreed, it's a pity they had to mistreat their (Glaswegian at least) workers in order to do it.