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Monday, 16 July 2018

The Homecoming Typewriting Author - Lloyd C. Douglas Goes Back to Columbia City, Indiana

Lloyd C. Douglas at his Remington Rand typewriter
Four days before the June 22, 1938, official release in New York City of the movie White Banners, Warner Brothers came up with the strange idea of staging a "World Première" in a Midwest township of 3800 souls, of whom only 291 were prepared to fork out the 75¢ price of admission to the 5pm screening (many others of the worthy denizens of Columbia City, Indiana, such as 76-year-old David Homer Buffenbarger, left below, were content to wait for a later showing, at 30¢ a ticket).
But those who did pay full fare got to hear Lloyd Cassel Douglas, author of the 1936 novel upon which the movie was based, talk about what inspired his book, set in a small town in Indiana just like Columbia City. Douglas was born in Columbia City on August 27, 1877, the son of a Grace Lutheran clergyman.
Douglas addresses a 58 per cent empty movie theatre
after the "World Première" of White Banners.
Warner Brothers sent Douglas back from Bel-Air, California, to his home town, along with a pesky studio publicity team and a pushy newsreel cameraman, in an over-the-top attempt to promote the movie. Columbia City folk were not in the least bit impressed, and complained bitterly about being asked to take part in "fake news" pictures and what they called "hick" set-ups - such as the town's confectioner pretending to have slept for 32 hours outside the theatre in order to be at the head of the queue.
Nevertheless, LIFE thought the event sufficiently newsworthy - at least for its own quirky needs - to send Swedish-born photographer Torkel Korling (1903-1998) 140 miles south-east from Barrington outside Chicago to shoot a spread for the magazine's Fourth of July edition. And, in all fairness, Columbia City had decided to mark the occasion by declaring "Lloyd Douglas Day". Thus it turned on a good show, from bunting to brass bands, society ladies in their finest and 15¢ "White Banner Sundaes". Douglas was greeted by boy scouts holding white banners when he swung off the eastbound Manhattan limited at Columbia City's Pennsylvania Grounds depot at 1.12pm. He was then swept around town seated on the back of a limousine to the house he was born in, at the west side of North Main Street, which was guarded by scouts. 
And there were other highlights for Douglas, too, such as the chance to catch up with his 90-year-old mother, Sarah Jane "Jennie" Cassel Douglas (1847–1939), who was living in Monroeville, on the other side of Fort Wayne, and was still contributing a weekly column to the Monroeville Breeze newspaper. Her articles dealt with the customs and events which she recalled from her long lifetime. Jennie died the following April 9, six months short of 92. 
Monroeville Breeze, June 6, 1940
Lloyd Douglas and his mother Jennie Douglas
By that time her surviving son had become one of the world's most widely-read novelists. Lloyd Douglas' writings - combining Biblical lore, adventure and love - were read by millions throughout the world and brought him a far greater audience than he ever reached as a minister. Magnificent Obsession and The Robe were his best known works, but others also made into movies were White BannersGreen Light (starring Tasmanian Errol Flynn)Disputed Passage and The Big FishermanThe Robe, the film rights to which were sold for $100,000 to Twentieth Century Fox just after Douglas died in February 1951, was the first film released in the widescreen process CinemaScope, shot with Henri Chrétien's original Hypergonar anamorphic lenses. This development led to Fox screenwriter Nunnally Johnson famously saying he'd have to turn his paper sideways on his typewriter platen. 
Lloyd Douglas, like his father, became a Lutheran clergyman. He was ordained in 1903 and the next year married Bessie Io Porch, like him the offspring of a Grace Lutheran church minister. Douglas received his doctor of divinity degree from Fargo, North Dakota, College in 1920. He served in pastorates in Indiana, Ohio, Washington DC, Michigan, California and Montreal. He started writing fiction in 1927 and in 1933 retired from the pulpit to concentrate on writing and lecturing. While working on a book of essays designed to apply Biblican rules to everyday life, he decided they would be more interesting and effective in novel form. "It occurred to me," he said at the time, "that the good purpose I wanted to describe would reach more people in story form." The result was Magnificent Obsession, the first of a series of 11 successful novels. The book was inspired by the true story of Detroit-born Edgar Adolph Khan (1900-1985), the son of the architect of the modern assembly line factory who became a famous neurosurgeon and pioneer in the use of craniotomy for the removal of subdural hemotomas in infancy. 
Lloyd Douglas' favourite story was how he came to write The Robe (1942). A woman in Canton, Ohio, wrote to him and asked if he had ever heard the legend of the Roman soldier who won Christ's robe in a dice game after the crucifixion. "It set me to thinking," Douglas said, "and I decided to do a little story about it." The "little story" became a book 700 pages long. It entered The New York Times Best Seller list in October 1942, rose to No 1 a month later, and held the position for nearly a year. It remained on the list for another two years and returned on a number of reprints.
One of the writers for the screenplay for White Banners, by the way, was Lenore Jackson Coffee (1896-1984), below right, a liberated lady who sometimes worked from home so that she could be close to her young children. Joni Mitchell wrote a song about the heroine of White Banners, called Hana, for her 2007 album Shine.
Lloyd Douglas died of a heart attack at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Beverly Hills, California, on February 13, 1951, aged 73.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Aladdin’s Cave of Typewriters in Canberra

The Remington J (export version of a Junior) was sold briefly in Australia in 1918. They were priced at £14, compared to £24 for a new standard visible Remington, but quickly became a rarity here. In 1925, a second-hand if rarely used Remington J could still fetch £12.
Many and many's the time I have dreamt of discovering an Aladdin’s Cave of typewriters. Of someone calling me up and saying, "We've got a store of old typewriters just sitting here, carefully packed away, waiting for you to come and have a look at them."
Yesterday that fantasy came true, and it turns out the much dreamt-of treasure trove is right here in Canberra. Indeed, one of the many things which astonished me about the whole experience of finding it is that the collection is on a street I have often wandered down, without ever sensing the slightest inkling of a suspicion that so many typewriters were kept there, and all in such great condition. Most amazing of all, however, is that I walked out of that place, an hour after finding it, without so much as taking possession of a single machine. Tested but left behind were immaculate Corona 3s and 4s (the keytops on one 4 were blinding!), Underwood standards of four different generations, Remington portables and 10s and 12s and an utterly mind-boggling Remington Vertical Adder Model 122, Gromas and Torpedos (Blue Birds), and a fully functional Remington J (for Junior). And that's listing just a few that I took out of their cases or wrapping.
This incredible story began on World Typewriter Day, three weeks ago, when I was asked to go into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation studios on Wakefield Street and talk about typewriters with afternoon chat show host Lish Fejer (above). The interview went very well, and after half-an-hour of typewriter-related banter, producer Laura Dawes handed me a handwritten note. Someone had called during the on-air conversation, saying he had "some old typewriters" and leaving a name (let's call him "John") and phone number. Of course, this is what always happens whenever I go on air to talk about typewriters, so nothing unusual in that. And in most cases, I end up owning some "new" old typewriters. But because of the more serious things going on in my life right now, it took me until this week to get around to calling "John" back. I was intrigued by what he told me about these typewriters, and made a time for the following day to go and have a look at them. But I still had no idea what to expect. Experience over the past decade or so has taught me never to expect too much.
When I eventually found the long, narrow off-road laneway which led to the entrance of John's Aladdin's Cave of typewriters, the first thing I saw (and heard) was two men bending forward over the carriage of an immaculate Underwood 5, looking at a message typed on to a card in the platen. John was reading the words to his son, "This is the story of the girl who went to the party at the house on the hill". The lines had been typed by John's Czech-born father ("He always tested a typewriter by typing those words"), who at one time had been the sole typewriter technician servicing machines at the $6 billion Snowy Mountains Scheme. This project was started in October 1949 and its chief engineer, New Zealand-born William Hudson, was instructed to seek workers from overseas. He employed men from 32 mostly European countries, brought to Australia under assisted migration schemes. The influx had a significant effect on the overall population and cultural mix of Australia. One hundred thousand people worked on the scheme, many coming from Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Yugoslavia, Norway, Ireland and Britain. And, as has been clearly evident in the Australian Capital Territory in the past 12 years or so, many of these people brought their typewriters with them.
A model 22. The one in the collection is a 122 in even better shape.
John's father worked on the typewriters of Hudson's Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and serviced the typewriters, mostly European-bought portables, brought here by migrant workers. When the scheme was completed in 1974, and the workers started to disperse, John's dad acquired many of the machines used by the authority. As a typewriter dealer, he had already amassed many old machines, which he had accepted as trade-ins on new typewriters. Thus, after 25 years in the business, John's dad was left with a collection of machines dating from the turn of the century to the mid-1970s, some of the 70s machines still unused and unsold (and still in the collection). John's dad had used his expertise to carefully service and in some cases fully restore many of the older typewriters he owned. Then, sadly, he passed away.
My own Corona 4
So, 40 years ago, two of John's sons where left with the problem of what to do with hundreds of typewriters. The bulk of them were simply dumped, many of them IBM Selectrics. One in particular went to the local museum, but soon disappeared from there, souvenired by someone who knew its worth. But the sons had worked with their dad and had some idea of the value of what was in the collection. They kept about 30 of the machines, and carefully stored them under plastic or in their cases in Canberra. And there they have stayed for four decades, untouched until my visit yesterday. 
This story is not yet finished. I will post on further developments. But in the meantime, maybe you'd like to try to imagine what this storeroom looks like, what an Aladdin's Cave of old typewriters materialises into, when it turns from a fantasy into reality. One word to help you on your way ... WOW!!!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Me and Norman Greenbaum

It's coming up for 14 years now since I completed my "One-Hit Wonders" series in The Canberra Times. I'm still not allowed to forget it. It's rare that a month goes by when someone doesn't ask, "Remember those 'One-Hit Wonders' articles?" How could I not? In terms of reader response, "One-Hit Wonders" was easily the most successful weekly feature ever run in the Times. Its following reached halfway across the country, to Adelaide in the west and Brisbane in the north. It was the sort of fun, nostalgia thing that the newspaper's dwindling subscribers now so badly miss.
During a year-long run, I covered 68 tracks, detailing the stories of the performers and their songs. The criteria was quite rigid: "One-Hit Wonders" had to be tracks that had reached No 1 on the Australian national Hit Parade, and be the one and only entry on to the charts by that artist or group. We had lots of "But, but, what about ...", yet I stuck firmly to the rules, no exceptions were made.
At the end of the run, 45 guest judges, all considered very knowledgeable in the field of pop and rock music, were invited to list their Top 10s from the 68 nominations. From those votes, a consensus was reached, and the final Top 10 can be seen below.
The Times was soon flooded with thousands of entries from readers trying to match exactly the consensus Top 10 (one threatened to send in 31,263,411,763,584,000 computer-generated entries, to cover every base). It was at that point that we started to think about settling on competition winners, and giving out appropriate prizes. And I was busy in other ways. I was tracking down artists from the Top 10 consensus list and interviewing them on the telephone. It was no simple task, as it might today, given the way the Internet has expanded - there was no Wikipedia back then, for example.
To my great delight, I was able to find one artist representing each song - from Norman Greenbaum on his farm in Northern California, Denny Zager in Nebraska, Doug Fieger of The Knack, Ed Bazalgette of The Vapors (super importantly, as he was able to explain what Turning Japanese was all about), Verdelle Smith in Brooklyn, Mary Weiss, one of the two survivors of The Shangri-Las, Evelyne Lenton of Belle Epoque, who for a while became a good friend, Robin Scott ("M"), the only one of the Top 10 to argue he wasn't a "One-Hit Wonder", and Cynthia Johnson of Lipps Inc. I was all the more pleased about this achievement when the late Times journalist Mark Juddery returned from England to announce that BBC TV had done the same series, with almost the same Top 10, and had failed to track down Norman Greenbaum.
I had found Norman Greenhaum early on in my searches, and we struck up a very good rapport. So much so that Norman was soon offering any sort of support I needed. And then it struck me that the most appropriate prize for the overall winner of our competition would be something personal, an item of memorabilia from the No 1 One-Hit Wonder himself, Norman Greenbaum.
Norman duly obliged, with not just one item, but a bundle of them. When his box of stuff arrived, Australian Customs took one look at the name and address of the sender (some dippy Santa Rose hippie?) and ripped Norman's package apart, then Cellotaped it back together. When, at the prize presentation, the competition winner saw what her prize was, she too tore the retaped package to shreds, in her excitement. I managed to grab and repair the top part, as my own souvenir of the "One-Hit Wonders" feature. I still have clippings of all the articles in the series, but Norman's piece of cardboard sits proudly on top of the pile. And I think fondly of Norman every time I look at it.
TOP 10 ONE-HIT WONDERS
No 1
No 2
No 3
No 4
No 5
No 6
No 7
No 8
No 9
No 10

Also Run:

Friday, 6 July 2018

On Board with the World's Fastest Typist: Otis Blaisdell's Grand World Typewriter Tour - 15 Nations in 12 Months (And Mom Went Too)

Harrison Otis Blaisdell (1886-1960)
Otis Blaisdell with an Underwood No 4 in 1910. For his exhibitions across America and around the world, Blaisdell often spurned the use of "souped up" championship-ready Underwood 5s, to prove he could type just as quickly on ordinary "stock models".
'He typed like a maestro plays a piano': An indication of Otis Blaisdell's
remarkable drawing power on his world tour was this large audience
for his speed typing exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, on October 24, 1919.
Harrison Otis Blaisdell emerged from the 437th Detachment of Engineering Corps of the US Army at the end of World War One, immediately rejoined the Underwood speed typing battalion at 30 Vesey Street, New York, and prepared to embark on a victorious worldwide campaign of his own. On July 2, 1919, the 32-year-old Blaisdell and his mother, Eudora Eleanor 'Ella' Blaisdell, 57, set off on the Niagara from Vancouver for Australia, arriving in Sydney on August 11. It would be almost a full year (August 8, 1920), before they returned home to New York, on the Imperator, from Southampton in England. In the intervening 12 months they had toured Australia (Blaisdell thought Tasmania was a separate country!), New Zealand, Singapore and the Straits Settlements (some of the latter are now part of Malaysia), Sumatra (now part of Indonesia), Borneo (now divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei), Java (Indonesia), Hong Kong, China, Japan, the Philippines, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, South Africa and finally England. And at every port of call - including Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Shanghai, Hankou, Osaka, Kobe, Yokohama, Manila, Rangoon (now Yangon), Madras (Chennai), Bombay (Mumbai), Calcutta (Kolkata), Colombo, Cape Town and London - Otis Blaisdell gave well-attended demonstrations of his speed typewriting skills. He and his mother were not all that long back in the US before Underwood sent them packing again, first to Mexico in 1921, then Puerto Rico in March 1922 and finally to Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in 1924. 
Oddly enough, the very day Blaisdell left New York, Typewriter Topics announced, he had married "a former Underwood girl", Elsie Brendgen (1899-1977). Maybe her husband's travelling didn't appeal to Ms Brendgen. In 1928, Blaisdell married, this time to attractive divorcee Mary Dorothy Moran (right, 1898-1976). And that marriage, apparently, lasted less than six years.
Blaisdell's mother, 'Ella' Blaisdell, née Otis (1861-1947)
Underwood paid for Blaisdell's mother to go along with him on these trips because, as Underwood Vice-President Clinton Lawrence Rossiter (1860-1925) explained to Robert Lansing, Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State, "Mr Blaisdell is the sole support for his Mother, who now resides with him in New York City, but as we wish Mr Blaisdell to be prepared to spend as many months in the Far East as may be necessary, it is quite imperative that his Mother should accompany him - not only from a financial point of view but also on account of the prolonged separation. We also believe Mr Blaisdell's work will be conducted to better advantage if he has his Mother with him and is free from any worry as to her welfare while away." Ella Blaisdell also wrote to Lansing (under a Underwood letterhead) explaining that she had been divorced in Chicago in 1908.
At the various places Otis Blaisdell visited on his whirlwind 1919-20 world tour, he was taken care of by the Underwood Typewriter Company's overseas agents, who organised his typing demonstrations. These included:
Australia: Stott & Underwood (see previous posts for the history of this company).
New Zealand: Stott & Hoare (the original name of the Australian company)
Ceylon (Sri Lanka): Founded in 1844 by British businessman William Milne, who was joined by David Sime Cargill in 1850. 
Hong Kong, China, JapanDodwell & Co was one of the leading British merchant firms, or hongs, active in China and Japan during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its forerunner was W.R. Adamson & Co, founded in Shanghai in 1852 as a result of the efforts of a group of Cheshire weavers who needed to increase supplies of raw silk for their mills. Branches were set up in Hong Kong, Foochow and Hankow. It was the first of the British merchant firms to venture into Japan, opening a branch in Yokohama in the early 1860s. In 1872, the firm appointed a shipping clerk in its Shanghai office named George Benjamin Dodwell (1851–1925). Dodwell secured in 1887 the agency for chartering and managing ships on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway between Hong Kong and Vancouver, thus establishing the first regular steamship line across the Pacific. He formed Dodwell & Co in May 1891. Shipping agency and tea trading were major concerns and by the turn of the century it could claim to be the largest shipping firm on the Pacific coast. Dodwell Co acted as the exclusive agent for the chartering of ships by the Japanese government during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05. Its Japanese trading business expanded further through the export of coal to Singapore and Shanghai, and the shipment of Japanese straw braid from Kobe for Europe. During World War One Dodwell's shipping business boomed with the chartering, bunkering, and sale of Japanese steamers to the Allied powers.
BurmaSiegmund Oppenheimer & Co of Rangoon handled a diverse range of goods - from Underwood typewriters to engineering and building materials to wines and spirits, military equipment, tents, wolfram-ore bags, hospital furniture, police uniforms, orchids and elephant harnesses. It is now a branch of the Innwa Bank. Oppenheimer & Co was founded in 1885 by Siegmund Oppenheimer (1858-1920). He was the founding president of the Rangoon Trades Association.
Philippines: The origins of Smith Bell & Co date to 1838, when a young Scotsman named James Adam Smith was sent to the Philippines to look after the interests of Jardine Matheson & Co. Six years later, after establishing good connections, Smith went into partnership with Henry Constable and Robert Philip Wood. This partnership eventually served as the foundation of what was to become Smith Bell & Co. In 1880, the Philippines experienced one of its worst rice shortages because of milling inadequacies. Responding to this acute situation, Smith Bell operated its own fleet of lighters and inter-island steamers, and the company was able to distribute rice to the southern provinces. It also also had to cope with the sugar shortage crisis. Smith Bell established the Luzon Sugar Co, the first sugar refinery in the islands, a few miles north of Manila. Coinciding with the extension of free trade between the US and the Philippines, Smith Bell was incorporated in 1909. World War One gave Smith Bell a chance to achieve maximum prosperity as products such as copra, hemp and sugar were in great demand and the islands imported more manufactured goods.
India: Y. Narayan operated a typewriter supply agency on Esplanade Row, George Town, Madras, and produced its own typewriter manual for the Indian market. We have no information on the major Underwood agency, Warden & Co.
Singapore, Straits Settlements, Sumatra, Borneo and JavaPaterson, Simons & Co was an early trading company in Singapore whose origin can be traced back to 1821. It played an important part in the early commercial development of the colonial state. It stemmed originated from Holdsworth, Smithson & Co, a business established in Singapore in 1821 as a branch of the London and Liverpool merchant firm, Rawson, Holdsworth & Co. In 1828, William Wemyss Ker went to Singapore and joined Holdsworth, Smithson & Co. He was admitted as a partner in 1830. Following the retirement of Holdsworth and Smithson, the firm was renamed Ker, Rawson & Co in 1835. William Paterson and Henry Minchin Simons, who had been assistants in the company in the mid-1840s, were admitted to the firm as partners in 1853. In 1859, Ker, Rawson & Co was dissolved, and Paterson, Simons & Co was formed, Ker, Paterson and Simons as the founders. This company exported tropical produce of all kinds - such as rubber, copra and pineapples from Malaya, Borneo and the East Indies - to Europe and other countries, and imported merchandise including cotton goods and other manufactured products from Europe and the US. It also acted as an agent for shipping lines, insurance companies, industrial enterprises and state governments. By the beginning of World War One, the firm had become the agent and secretary for 16 planting and rubber companies, and it had branches in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Klang and Port Swettenham. Today the company is headquartered in Britain, with operations throughout West Africa.
Otis Blaisdell's passport photo in 1919.
Otis Blaisdell, was born on October 23, 1886, in Chadron, Dawes County, Nebraska, and trained at a business school in Chicago with the aim of becoming a court stenographer. Blaisdell was working for American Express in the Windy City when, aged 19, he first stormed on to the speed typewriting scene, in March 1906. He typed 141 words a minute for 30 minutes to finish second to defending American champion Charles McGuerin at the National Business Show on March 19 and the next night lost to the legendary Rose Fritz in a blindfolded competition, with 66wpm. In the first world championship, at the Madison Square Garden in New York City in November 1, 1906, Blaisdell again finished second to Fritz, with 64wpm. These performances had Underwood rushing to sign him up for $5000 a year for its championship team, and Blaisdell moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn, and joined Underwood at Vesey Street, New York City, in April 1907. He failed to make the placings at that year's world championship, but his speeds began to improve markedly under Charles Smith's coaching. He won his first title, the American championship, in Chicago in February 1908, with 88wpm, better than Fritz's 87 in retaining her world title four months earlier (Blaisdell was third with 80).
Blaisdell was undoubtedly the Roger Bannister of the typewriter. Whereas Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1954, it was Blaisdell who first broke through the 100 words per minute typing speed limit in 1909. And his achievement came in equally inauspicious surroundings. Before the Missouri Valley Commercial Teachers' Convention in St Joseph on November 27, 1909, Blaisdell typed 6184 words of unfamiliar matter in an hour, at an average of 103wpm. This broke Fritz's world record, set at the world championships in the previous September, of 95wpm (with Blaisdell second on 92wpm). Just as Bannister was to be, Blaisdell was feted around the globe for his amazing skill at the keyboard - in Blaisdell's case, he was broadly heralded as "The Fastest Typist in the World". [Bessie Friedman was the first woman to achieve the feat of 100wpm over an hour, with 107 in Spokane in 1912; Florence Wilson reached 112 later the same year.] 
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 30, 1910
For three years from 1909, Blaisdell's efforts on behalf of Underwood were concentrated on training for (four hours daily, "as carefully as a prize swimmer or popular pianist") and performing in speed typing championships and travelling across the US exhibiting his typing talents. In the absence of Fritz, Blaisdell finally gained the world title at Madison Square Garden on October 27, 1910,  with 109wpm. The previous month he had beaten Fritz in Hartford, Connecticut, 107 to 104. To celebrate his championship triumph, on November 18 Blaisdell reclaimed the out-and-out speed world record from Florence Wilson (134), with 135 words from printed matter in a single minute, without errors, at Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was an effort he was to repeat in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1912.
Blaisdell created another milestone in retaining his world championship with a "regular stock" Underwood at Madison Square Garden on October 26, 1911.  His winning score of 112wpm established that someone could type for an hour faster than the average person could talk. On this occasion he beat Fritz (third, 107) as well as Wilson (second 110). But the following year Blaisdell was to be dethroned by the mysterious, mercurial Florence Eliza Wilson (1894-), the petite Saratoga stunner whose 117 pushed Blaisdell back to third (115 after two many errors). Emil Trefzger was second (116), Margaret Owen, ominously for an amateur, fourth (114) and Fritz fifth (113).
The fetching Florence Wilson (above and below), who fleetingly graced the championship speed typing arena before disappearing into obscurity in 1913.
While Owen (1913, 15, 16, 17) and Trefzger (1914) won the next four world titles, Blaisdell became more of a demonstrator than a competitor, but, with her mother Louise, accompanied Owen on her national tours. Blaisdell also became increasing involved in the technical side of typewriter design and manufacture, leading ultimately (in 1926) to him one of the patentees of improvements to Underwood's combined typewriter-calculator. This project came under the wing of Elliott-Fisher after it was merged with Underwood in 1927. Blaisdell went on to the sales and education division of Underwood-Elliott-Fisher on Madison Avenue in 1935.
After being put in charge of the Underwood display at the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, Blaisdell spent Christmas and the New Year in Hawaii (image below) where he added to his typing performances by taking his Underwood completely apart and quickly reassembling it. Blaisdell was also Underwood's manager at the 1916 Atlantic City Exhibition. No doubt his subsequent experiences as a master engineer, senior grade, with the US Army in 1917-18 added to his broad mechanical expertise.
Blaisdell's profound knowledge of the workings of Underwood machines was in large part behind the company's decision to send him Down Under - and elsewhere - in 1919. He was to concentrate his demonstrations and promotion as much on the Underwood bookkeeping machine as on the typewriter. And as he was travelling on a commercial business passport, he needed an export licence from the US War Trade Board to do so. The board was created by President Wilson in 1917 to control imports and exports, before these duties and functions were transferred to the Department of State in July 1919. 
Blaisdell's Australasian tour was all the more important to Underwood because, since being introduced to this country on a properly promoted basis in 1908, its typewriters had struggled to make major inroads in the market here. Canadian William Alexander Lingham had tried to recruit state agents across the newly federated nation in 1902, but generally failed. Underwood's Australian and New Zealand agents, Stott & Hoare, did not have an extensive network of outlets. That was one of the reasons why, in July 1908, Remington's long-standing head of exports, George Henry Richards, arrived in Australia with his Melbourne-born wife to take his company's agency from Stott and negotiate a new deal with ChartresSix weeks later Stott signed up as Underwood agents, taking over from John Sands (the Australian organisation became known as Stott & Underwood in September 1909). Just before the introduction of its first portable, Underwood felt Blaisdell's tour would would greatly heighten the Far East profile of the Underwood 5 and the business machine. Certainly, in terms of the typewriter, that proved to be the case. In particular, the massive publicity generated by Blaisdell in Australia in late 1919 and New Zealand in early 1920 could hardly have failed to achieve its aim.
In later life, Blaisdell went to work for IBM on Madison Avenue and died there on May 16, 1960, aged 73. He is buried at the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn.