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Saturday, 20 June 2015

It's a Small Typing World

The house at 4694 Winton Road, Cincinnati, where 1914 world accuracy typing champion Dorothy Ellen Liebtag Twiggs lived from 1935 until her husband died in August 1949. Dorothy then moved with her son to Pasadena, California, and died there in 1959.
It's a small world for typewriters all right, sometimes spookily so. Little did they know it at the time, but when a group of leading Typospherians competed in a speed typing contest at the Cincinnati home of Richard Polt on this day five years ago, they were just 25 doors away from where the one-time world accuracy typing champion had lived until 1949.
Richard Polt, left foreground, uses a Royal KMM to win the 2010 Midwest Typefest typing contest at his home in Cincinnati. Beside him is Jack Knarr typing one-fingered on an Underwood No 5. Jack achieved 308 words with almost no errors in 10 minutes. At the top of the table is Marty Rice, and standing beside him Jett Morton
The June 19, 2010, event was held during the Midwest Typefest at Richard's house in Cincinnati, Ohio. Using a Royal KMM standard typewriter, Richard won the 10-minute test, in which James Nelson Kimball's "Veritas" text from the 1926 world championships was typed. Richard achieved a speed of 73 words a minute.
The previous "Cincinnati world typing record" was 71 words a minute (for 15 minutes) set by Richard's former near-neighbour Dorothy Ellen Liebtag Twiggs in 1914. Some reports said Dorothy typed error-free at 72 words a minute.
From The Business Educator, 1914
Above, where Dorothy grew up as  young girl in Cincinnati.
Below, where she lived after she married Brady Irvin Twiggs.
In June 1914, in the face of mounting speed typing competition from Underwood,  the Remington Typewriter Company came up with an "Accuracy-First" promotion with twice-yearly competitions to "raise the efficiency of the whole body of typists in the United States". The tests had an "error-proof ideal", encouraging contestants to avail of opportunities to earn "better compensation for their work". In other words, who wants to pay good money for speed typists when accuracy is what's really required? So forget speed typing, let's slow down and concentrate on mistake-free typescripts. The copy used was "designed to imitate matter which might be met in the ordinary day's work" - that is, not the sort of stuff Kimball wrote for Underwood and Richard Polt was 84 years later to describe as "eminently forgettable" (and rightly so).
The first winner of these contests was Dorothy Ellen Liebtag, who was born in Cincinnati on April 15, 1894, the eldest daughter of iron foundry moulder William Liebtag (1874-1915) and his Welsh-born wife Margaret ('Maggie') Morgan Liebtag (1876-). Dorothy won a new Remington 10 standard typewriter for her effort.
Unfortunately, Dorothy held on to this world record for only six months. The next winner was another stenographer, Myrtle Hagar (1890-), of Nashville, Tennessee, with 74 words a minute, faster even than Richard Polt typed in 2010!
Dorothy married bookkeeper Brady Irvin Twiggs (1893-1949) in 1918, soon after Twiggs returned from seeing action on the Western Front in World War I, but she continued to work as a secretary at the Miller School. The couple moved from her widowed mother's home on Gilbert Avenue to Kemper Avenue and then rented the house on Winton Road from 1935. After her husband's death in August 1949 Dorothy moved with her son, Brady Irvin Twiggs Jr, to Pasadena, California, where she died on November 22, 1959, aged 65.
Dorothy June Tripp, born in 1921, died in 1995; Ellen Ruth Herrmann, born in 1925, died in Naples, Florida, in 2005; Brady Irvin Twiggs Jr, born on Boxing Day 1932, was living in Austin, Texas, in 1995.
Brady Jr as a drum major at Hughes High School, Cincinnati, in 1949
Below, from Typewriter Topics, 1915:


Richard P said...

Eerie!! Yes, I could walk over there right now in two minutes. I had no idea, of course.

I was able to win that contest only because we didn't take off for errors. My accuracy was abysmal.

maryech said...

It's amazing how fast (and accurately) Jack Knarr is typing with one finger in the typing contest video. He is an inspiration to this two-fingered typist.