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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Woman Warrior: Olive Hoskins, Armed With Her Typewriter

Olive Hoskins, the then only female member of the United States Regular Army,
at her typewriter at the Army Base in New York City on December 13, 1932.

American newspapers dubbed her the “Woman Warrior” and said she led a “Petticoat Brigade”. From December 13, 1929, until she retired with the consent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 15, 1937, Olive Lenore Hoskins was the only female in the United States Regular Army. But she never wore a uniform and never saluted a superior officer. The only ‘weapon’ she ever used was a typewriter.

1922 passport photo
Warrant Officer insignia
Hoskins was one of three females made fully-fledged members of the US Army when a move to change the status of field clerks to warrant officers was enacted by Congress on April 27, 1926. Some journalists believed that in their haste to pass the War Department Appropriation Bill, 1926, congressmen had not realised that among 327 field clerks thus enlisted into the Regular Army were the three women. The three had been what were classified as civilian headquarters clerks, and on August 29, 1916, these clerks were automatically embraced in the military as Army field clerks. Along with Hoskings, they were a Mrs Jean Doble and a Mrs N.W. Jenkins. Mrs Jenkins died at Walter Reed General Hospital in the District of Columbia 19 days later, on May 16, 1926. Because of physical disabilities caused in a car accident, Mrs Doble retired on December 13, 1929, leaving Ms Hoskins the only female still on active duty in the Regular Army until her own retirement. One male chauvinist Washington reporter wrote, “The belief is that they will probably be the only … women who will serve their country in this capacity for some time to come and that steps will be taken to prevent a repetition of the situation in the future.” From the time of the Second World War, that future offered many women opportunities to serve in the US military.

Olive Hoskins was born at Santa Rosa, Sonoma, California, on December 2, 1882. She grew up in Palo Alto, Santa Clara. One of Ms Hoskins’ sisters worked for the Quartermaster’s Department and later the civil government in the Philippines, and Olive visited her there for 12 months in 1904-05, and again in 1907. On the latter visit, she sat and passed a civil service examination and on August 1, 1907, started a job with the US Army as a civil grade headquarters clerk in Manila, on $1200 a year. Ms Hoskins remained in the Philippines until November 1912, when she was transferred back to San Francisco. On August 29, 1916, her position was changed to Army field clerk and she was assigned to Mexico during the “Pancho Villa Expedition”, which lasted until February 7, 1917.

Back in California, Ms Hoskins tried to have herself sent to the Western Front in the First World War. In the Philippines she had befriended Charles Egbert Stanton, a former paymaster of volunteers in the US Army who served in the Spanish-American War and became a captain in the paymaster corps. Stanton was a lieutenant colonel on the staff of General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front, and served as Pershing’s chief disbursing officer. Ms Hoskins wrote to Washington saying that Stanton had requested her help in France. Instead, she was promoted to the intelligence unit of the Western Department headquarters in San Francisco. In 1919 she was reassigned to the Philippines, as personnel manager for the Judge Advocate’s Office. In 1922 Ms Hoskins returned to the US to work with the Seventh Army Corps in Omaha, Nebraska. She remained there until January 19, 1933, when she was once again sent to the Philippines. She resisted a transfer to Governors Island, New York, in 1934, but was ordered to duty in the Judge Advocate General’s office with the 6th Corps in Chicago in September 1935 and her final assignment from July 1936 until retirement on $140 a month in September 1937 was at the Ninth Corps headquarters in San Francisco. Ms Hoskins died at the Protestant-Episcopal Home on Lombard Street, San Francisco, on October 16, 1975, aged 92, and is buried at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, San Mateo, California.

One of Ms Hoskins’ brothers was Colonel John Oliver Hoskins (above), who died, aged 53, on January 22, 1942, while serving in World War II. He was commanding officer of the Philippine Department Headquarters. He was shot by Lieutenant Kawaguchi and buried by the Japanese at a road block on the Bagac-Morong Road, Bataan province, Luzon. His body was not recovered and he remains missing in action.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Icy Cold Case: The 126-Year Mystery of the Death of ‘Typewriter’ Martha Fuller

Who pulled the trigger of the 0.38 calibre pistol that killed “typewriter” Martha Fuller at 5.45 on the afternoon of St Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, 1894? The answer to that question proved beyond New York’s finest detectives – from Dubliner Thomas F. Byrnes down – as well as its leading lawyers, its medical and psychology experts and its most frenetic shoe-leather sleuthing reporters. Coroner Edward T. Fitzpatrick told a jury the curious case was “one of those that occur not oftener than once in half a century”. District Attorney John R. Fellows said at an early inquest the “facts were inchoate [and] intangible”. Ultimately, so utterly perplexed were all these great minds and criminal investigators, professional or otherwise, that less than three months after her death, the mystery of Martha Fuller was pushed from the news pages it had dominated and quietly forgotten. It had beaten the very best in the game.

Martha Fuller, born in 1865 at Scott’s Corner, a hamlet in Montgomery, Orange County, New York, and a product of the famed Packard’s Business College, was the ‘typewriter” and stenographer for lawyer William M. Mullen in the Chambers Building at 114 Nassau Street, Lower Manhattan. She shared an office, working back-to-back, with Mullen’s managing clerk, Irish-born Joseph T. Magee. With Mullen out of town on Staten Island, Fuller and Magee were working alone when other occupants of the building were alerted by the sound of a single gunshot and Magee’s cries for help.

One of the first to join Magee at the scene of the tragedy was a hard-boiled journalist, Frank Kernan, who was working on the third floor, one floor up from where Ms Fuller died. Magee told Kernan he was out of the office when the revolver was discharged. Kernan gave police and fellow reporters a graphic description of what he found. He remained adamant in subsequent court hearings that he saw no weapon, in spite of moving Ms Fuller and his efforts to locate the gun, and that Ms Fuller, in the last throes of life, lay beside a wicker chair (which Mullen later insisted was a revolving bookcase). After Kernan left the office to seek help, a clerk from another second floor firm, Frank S. Denninger, entered the room and, ignoring the firm insistence of Magee, picked up the gun from the floor and put it on a desk, saying he feared the still-alive Ms Fuller might use it. Richard H. Burton, an office boy from Mullens’s firm, later testified that he checked the office desks and their drawers on the morning of Ms Fuller’s death, and the pistol in question was in Magee’s top drawer, though unloaded from a box of cartridges beside it. There was no doubt the revolver was Magee’s, but how did Kernan not see it, when Denninger later found it in plain view on the floor? And why was Magee so determined that Denninger not touch it? There were also conflicting stories about the entry and exit points of the 0.38 bullet on Ms Fuller’s temples. Based on size and whether there were any powder marks, the original theory was that she had shot herself at close range through the left temple, but it later emerged she was right-handed. Regardless, it was very apparent to Kernan, Denninger and others that she hadn’t died instantly from a bullet passing through her brain. An ambulance surgeon called Dr Cutter had obtained a glass of whisky from Flynn’s billiard room to inject Ms Fuller twice. As The New York Times reported, “Hope that she might rally was inspired by her extraordinary vitality.” The Times added that the surgeon had wanted to ask, “Who shot you?” All of New York City, it seemed, wanted to know that, but would ultimately be denied the truth.

On the night of her death, members of Ms Fuller’s extended family made it known they were convinced Magee had murdered her, on the grounds that she had spurned Magee’s persistent and unwelcome advances toward her. “Their relations were not as close as Magee desired,” said one report. Ms Fuller’s brother, Walter Elliott Fuller (1868-1959), a bookkeeper at Latham Alexander & Co on Wall Street, said Magee had paid Ms Fuller “distasteful attention”. Of course, New York’s red-blooded Press had an absolute field day with all this, and for weeks after Ms Fuller’s death newspaper columns were filled with interviews with people who claimed to be “in the know”, with salacious stories about Magee’s chequered past with other women, with police statements mainly aimed at trying to calm everyone down, and outright speculation (often about police work) from the reporters themselves.

Eight days after the shooting, The New York Times felt itself compelled to sort out “Much wild or silly theorizing [with] no new salient facts”, amid rumours, clues and discoveries the Times listed in inverted commas. “All these stories,” the Times said, “were idle, or well-meaning fabrications”. At the end of it all, however, the Times, along with many less fact-driven newspapers, was forced to admit Ms Fuller’s death “remains a mystery”. It was a mystery with only two possibilities: either Ms Fuller killed herself, or Magee killed her. For a time Magee was imprisoned in the Tombs, while police worked on a murder charge they failed to make stick, and immediately after his release in May, NYC police and newspapermen quickly forgot the whole thing. To this day, the sorry saga of Martha Fuller is still unsolved.

Martha Fuller was the daughter of caterer Nelson Fuller and his wife Mary (née Tears, or Teares). She was survived by her mother and brother, Walter E. Fuller. Ms Fuller was variously described by those who knew her as “of even temperament, reserved and of hitherto excellent reputation”, “an admirable young woman” and as “steady, sensible, refined and intelligent”. It was known she was unhappy with her pay and conditions in Mullen’s employ, and had set herself a target of establishing her own typewriting and stenography establishment. Mullens said Ms Fuller was “ambitious, quite a lady”, but admitted she had been sacked by Magee, who she found “exacting and fault-finding”, then reinstated. It also emerged, however, that before her death she had been losing sleep and using Antipyrine, an analgesic that helps to decrease  pain and inflammation. She had also, allegedly, self-administered chloroform, and it was claimed she was being treated for hysteria, insomnia and “nervous prostration”. Burton testified she had been seen “crying hysterically over her typewriter”.

For Thomas F. Byrnes, the famed Dublin-born head of the New York City Police’s detective department, to admit defeat in a case such as this shows just how puzzling it was. After all, Byrnes had “invented America's modern detective bureau” and no doubt gave Magee his notorious “third degree” interrogation, but with no success in proving whether Magee was guilty. Called “the American Vidocq” (after French criminalist Eugène François Vidocq) in mid-June 1894 Byrnes conceded to William Standish Hayes in the Daily True American, “No, murder will not always out. It is seldom, however, that the man who is not a professional criminal - and a high grade one at that – who commits murder is not found out.” Eleven months later, Byrnes was compelled by Theodore Roosevelt to resign. The last passing mention of Ms Fuller’s death came in mid-February 1898, when the building in which she worked burned down. It had belonged to Levi Parsons Morton, who was US vice president under Benjamin Harrison to 1893 and a governor of New York from 1895-1896.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Different People, Different Typewriters

Given this is an English language blog, the vast majority of images on it of journalists, writers, entertainment people and politicians using typewriters are bound to show machines made by the leading American brands: Corona, Remington, Royal and Underwood. Which means, of course, that typewriters from the world’s next largest producer, Germany, and other countries such as Japan, Italy, Spain and Brazil, tend to be neglected. Here’s a small effort to redress that imbalance, a few photos showing people using machines other than US typewriters.


An unnamed lady in an office (perhaps a promotional picture for the brand).

Erich Helmensdorfer (1920-2017), a German journalist and television presenter in his Munich office.

French-born actress Isabelle Huppert (1953-) in the 1991 movie Malina with German actor  Mathieu Carrière (1950-).


Hans Fallada’s letter to publishing house Rowohlt-Verlag Berlin. Fallada (1893-1947, born Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen) was a German writer.  The typewriter was photographed in his former house in Carwitzetzt.


A woman at a typewriter in 1941.

Secretary Liselotte Schmidt, in 1954.

Esther Margareta Vilar (1935-, born Esther Margareta Katzen) is an Argentine-born German writer. Photo taken in 1972.

Lonny Kellner (1930-2003) was a German singer and actress and the wife of comedian, radio and television personality Peter Frankenfeld.


Alfons Bauer (1920-1997 ) was a German composer and zither player. This photo was taken in Hamburg in 1955.

Gossen Tippa

Hugo Andreas Hartung (1902-1972) was a German writer, radio play author and occasional screenwriter. Seen here in 1962.

Adler Tippa S

Isla Werner (1921-2005) was a German actress. Photo taken in 1991.


Liselotte (“Lilo”) Pulver (1929-) was a Swiss actress who played James Cagney's attractive secretary “Fräulein Ingeborg” in Billy Wilder's comedy One, Two, Three (1961).

Erika Model 14

Sarah Kirsch (1935-2013) was a German poet. She was born Ingrid Bernstein in Limlingerode, Prussian Saxony. Photo taken in 1972.


Curd Jürgens (1915-1982, born Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens) was a German-Austrian stage and film actor. He was usually billed in English-speaking films as Curt Jurgens. Photo taken in 1976.

Horst Janson (1935-), a German actor, seen here with his daughter Sarah-Jane in Grafing, Munich, in 2006.

Olivetti Dora

German actors Horst Werner Buchholz (above, 1933-2003) and Hardy Krüger (below, 1928-, born Franz Eberhard August Krüger). Buchholz in Munich, Krüger in Los Angeles.

Olivetti Lettera 35

Maria Ilva Biolcati (1939-) is an Italian singer, stage and film actress, and television personality. Photo taken in 1985.


Klaus Huebner (1924-) is a former German politician and police officer. Photo taken in 1987.

Olivetti Valentine

Alexander May (1927-2008) was an actor and writer as well as a director, editor, producer and poet.

Olympia SG1

French singer Johnny Grey.

Olympia Monica de Luxe

and Olympia International

Helmut Rellergerd (1945-) is a German author. Under the pseudonym “Jason Dark” he brought the character of ghost hunter John Sinclair into being. First image taken in Bergisch Gladbach in 1997.


John von Düffel (1966-) is a German dramaturge and writer. Pictured in the Thalia Theatre, Hamburg

Hermes Baby

Aldona Gustas (1932-) is a Lithuanian-born German poet and illustrator.


Arno Hellmis (1901-1940) was a German sports reporter during the Nazi era.


Ottfried ‘Otti’ Fischer (1953-) in the TV film The Bestseller. With him is his co-star, Nina Proll (1974-), an Austrian actress.

Olivetti Praxis 48

Singer and actor Roy Black (1943-1991, born Gerhard Höllerich) with his brother Walter Höllerich in Munich in 1977.

Adler Gabriele 12

Manfred Krug (1937-2016) was a German actor, singer and author. Photographed in 1980 in Berlin.


Alfred Weidenmann (1916-2000) was a German film director, screenwriter and author of children's books.