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Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Ancient Kauri Trees and Typewriters

“Kauri trees mark magnetic flip 42,000 years ago” was the heading on an article by Paul Voosen in last week’s issue of Science magazine. “Using a remarkable 42,000-year-old [New Zealand] kauri tree preserved in a bog, researchers have pieced together a record of the last time Earth's protective magnetic field weakened and its poles flipped - known as the Laschamp excursion - exposing the world to a bombardment of cosmic rays and, a team of scientists suggests, briefly shifting Earth's climate.” Voosen went on to explain that workers breaking ground for a power plant had unearthed a record of a lost time: a 60-ton trunk from a kauri tree with rings which spanned 1700 years, capturing a tumultuous time when the world was turned upside down - at least magnetically speaking. By modeling the effect of this radiation bombardment on the atmosphere, the scientists suggest Earth’s climate briefly shifted, perhaps contributing to the disappearance of large mammals in Australia and Neanderthals in Europe.

So, you are no doubt asking, what has all this got to do with typewriters? Well, the answer is simple: Sir Alfred Hamish Reed.

Sir Alf was one of New Zealand’s most popular 20th century figures. He was its most prolific non-fiction author, writing 39 books on history and travel over a period of 39 years (1935-1974). Six of his books are about kauri trees (The Gumdiggers: The Story of Kauri Gum [1948 and 1972], The Story of the Kauri [1953 and 1964], The Story of Kauri Park [1959]) and New Zealand's Forest King: The Kauri [1967], and the A. H. Reed Memorial Kauri Park scenic reserve, near Whangarei, commemorates his association with that North Auckland district. Reed was also a bookseller and a renowned philanthropist, but perhaps most famous as founder and, with his nephew Alexander Wyclif Reed, owner of one of the Southern Hemisphere’s major publishing houses, A.H. & A.W. Reed.

The A. H. Reed Memorial Kauri Park scenic reserve.
Yes, all very well you say, that’s the kauri connection. But what about typewriters? OK: If you go ETCetera journal No 92, December 2010, available online here, you will find that what is not so well known about Sir Alf is that he started his working life as a typewriter salesman and owned and ran the New Zealand Typewriter Company. This is the same company which was badged on Blickensderfer nameplates.

Alf Reed died in 1975, 11 months short of his 100th birthday. He was born outside London in 1875 and his family migrated to New Zealand when he was 11. Reed spent much of his adolescence digging for kauri gum alongside his father in the far north of the country. The gum was formed by resin from native kauri trees (Agathis australis). Lumps fell to the ground and became covered with soil and forest litter, eventually fossilizing. The shaved gum was sold for up to five pence a pound, and a diligent gumdigger could average eight shillings a day. Reed loathed the isolated gumfields and was determined to find a skill that would allow him to escape into town or city life. He studied shorthand through a Pitman correspondence course, and in a final test achieved 1620 words over 12 minutes at 135 words a minute to pass the qualifying standard.

In October 1895, Reed moved to Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, but he found transcribing and newspaper jobs hard to come by. Reed had never seen a typewriter, and soon realised he would need to combine his shorthand with typing skills in order to earn a living. Reed paid two guineas for 14 weeks of typing lessons taught by John Henry Colwill, one of the first office equipment suppliers to import typewriters into New Zealand. Through Colwill, Reed was introduced to Thomas George DeRenzy, a colorful character who, in late 1894, had established the NZ Typewriter Company. Reed began working for DeRenzy on his 20th birthday, for 20 shillings a week. DeRenzy first broached the idea of Reed opening a Dunedin branch of the NZTC in May 1897 and Reed did so in late November that year. Among the 1100 Blicks Reed sold from his Dunedin branch, which came the headquarters of the NZTC, was one to John Joseph Woods, who wrote the music for the national anthem, God Defend New Zealand.

Sir Alf Reed in old age using an Olivetti Studio 45. How many people could claim to have used both a Blinkensderfer 5 and an Olivetti Studio 45 when they were each brand new models?

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

52 Ways To Find A Spot for Your Typewriter

These 52 images bring to mind some of the weird and wonderful places I had to find to type newspaper copy in various parts of the world – from the banks of the Nile in Luxor, a sheep paddock in Wales, beside Lough Ree in Ireland, in the markets in Tangier, on a muddy field in Queanbeyan, a park bench in Madrid and a beach in Acapulco. The list just goes on and on. I often had to pick the most convenient - but not always the most comfortable - spot to write in order to meet a deadline.

During a tour by the British monarch to Nigeria in early 1956, this reporter found resting her Empire Aristocrat on her knees sufficed. 

Reporters typing on Olivetti Lettera 22s while sitting on the roof of St Peters Colonnade in Rome during the 1958 Papal Conclave.

At the August 1959 wedding of Steven Rockefeller to the Rockefeller family’s ex-au pair Anne-Marie Rasmussen in Norway, a journalist found a place on top of a tombstone in the old cemetery surrounding the Temple of Marriage.

After the August 1956 disaster at the Bois du Cazier mine in Marcinelle near Charleroi in Belgium, journalists found somewhere to type their stories - anywhere would do ... The top machine is a Gossen Tippa.

On a visit by John F. Kennedy to France in late May 1961, a typewriter was set up for use in  Air Force One.

In October 1965, French writer Lionel Chouchan tries to concentrate on writing on his Hermes Baby.

In September 1967, French singer Antoine has to use his lap (top).

A Zairean soldier types on an Olivetti Lexikon in April 1977.

In September 1977, French writer Muriel Cerf sits on her bed to type.

On the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean in April 1986, a gendarme, questions a Mahorais.

Catherine Pironi, her SCM and her test-tube twins Didier and Gilles in Rambouillet in June 1988.

Writer Pierre Rey on the beach with his SCM in Malibu in April 1988.

In August 1989 gendarmes question a man following a fire, typing their report on an Olympia.

Street typist in Bombay.

American businessmen took typewriters to a beach in Virginia during the summer heat in 1932.

Nathalie Vadim, daughter of Roger Vadim, on a beach. A Voss?

Italian singer and actress Giorgia Moll, Rome, March 1957

Francoise Sagan in her apartment on the rue de Grenelle in Paris in February 1956, sitting on a radiator.

A soldier types his report among the ruins of Belgrade, 1941.

Harvard graduate Paul Jeffery Hopkins types on an SCM as Lama Geshe Wangyal translates ancient Tibetan Buddhist scrolls he took to the US after fleeing religious persecution in Tibet.

British aviator and air correspondent Victor Ricketts with this Empire Aristocrat in 1938.

Minutes before leaving for New York to attend the installation of archbishop Terence J. Cooke, President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to take along his daughter Luci Nugent and her son, Patrick Lyndon, nine months old. In a rush, Luci grabbed fresh clothes for her son and had to change the boy's outfit in flight. Patrick pecks at the Olivetti Lettera 22's keys of UPI correspondent Helen Thomas during the flight aboard Air Force One.

An Italian journalist en route with his Olivetti Lettera 22 to New York for the World's Fair in 1964.

In June 1960 CBS-TV anchor man Walter Cronkite. 
I know all about that pigeon-toed balancing act.

Orson Welles and his Underwood Noiseless aboard an American Airlines plane in August 1939.

John Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuir), eighth from left, playing solitaire while Guy Rhoades of The Ottawa Citizen types his copy on an Empire Aristocrat aboard the SS Distributor during Buchan's visit to the Northwestern Territory of Canada, July 1937. A Margaret Bourke-White photo.

Two New York typists at work in an open air swimming pool during a hot summer in 1938.

Typist next to the Central Park Reservoir, New York 1942.

Australian cricketer-journalist Ashley Mallett with a Remington Monarch in Melbourne, 1977.

Steven Lowe with a Hermes 3000 at the Beat Hotel, Desert Hot Springs, California. Lowe turned the place into a shrine to the writers of the Beat Generation.

Author Helen Rose Hull with a Corona in 1946.

Two students from Iowa with their Hermes Baby, reviewing a trip across the Atlantic to Britain on the Queen Elizabeth for their local newspaper.

Writer James Clavell with an SCM by the ocean, 1977.

An Italian journalist in the garden of the Hotel Al Rasheed, Baghdad, Iraq, types his story beside modern satellite kit during the Persian Gulf War in February 1991.

Female clerks from a London office working in an alley in steel helmets, after being forced outside by bomb damage to their building in 1940.

Fred Krause-Reussen, reporter for M√ľnchner Abendzeitung, writes his report on a Gossen Tippa on Heligoland.

A journalist typing during a visit by John F. Kennedy to military air base in

Langendiebach near Hanau in June 1963.

Typing inside the Graf Zeppelin airship in the 1930s.

Typing with a Remington Model 1 at camp, Tibet, Mount Everest Expedition 1924.

Royal, summer camp 1940.

World speed typing champion Albert Tangora gives lessons on a Californian beach in 1938.

French film actress and screenwriter France Roche with a Hermes Baby in July 1955.

US College student with a Remington, 1958.

In February 1975, German actor Curd Juergens with his Olivetti Lettera 32 on the beach in front of his house on the Bahamian island of Great Harbor Cay.

A summer workshop for jazz and dance, California, 1959

Street artist Carlos, 20, in Bogota, Colombia, March 2018.

Street typist Purushottam Sakhare in Mumbai in February 2011.

Miami Beach, Florida, February 1940.

Movie star Norman Foster with his Royal at his beach cottage. Publicity shot for the 1934 film Orient Express.

US  gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell types on her Olivetti Lettera 22 in Venice during the 15th International Film Festival.

One of my favourite images, Bijou, leaving Grad Nord, Paris, late 1920s.