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Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Lovely Ladies and Their Typewriters: A Galaxy of Random Photographs

Hazel Suttle (1911-1992)

Bessie Denny (1883-1975)

Anna Häberle (1905-1995)

Anna Durkin (1883-1966)

Annie Albers (centre, 1884-1973)

Lucy Faulkner (1905-1973)

Mattie Scrimgeour (1885-1973)

Carole Peterson (1934-2018)

Doris Mellors (centre, 1909-2007)

Edith Manning (1917-2010)

Estelle McConnell (1890-1976)

Frances Schmitz (Sister Charlotte, 1926-2006)

Hope Craig (1904-1978)

Jessie Cooper (centre, 1889-1985)

Joy Miller (1922-2002)

Laura Getschmann (1903-1984)


Lucy Zdenek (1924-1993)

Mabel Hudson (1892-1975)

Mattie Fassett (1883-1970)

Working for the Remington Typewriter Company, Ilion, New York.

Olga Kaidonova (1867-1953)

Pan Collins (1914-1992)

Peggy Bailey (right, 1927-1999)

Rachel Fardon (1921-2015)

Ruth Hewitt (1933-2001)

Ruth Renkel (1915-1983)

Sally Reese (1922-1992)

Stella Myers (1886-1976)

Vernal Taylor (1902-1960)

Ann Stackhouse (1931-2016)

Elwood Haynes’ Secretary and Her Oliver Typewriter

Here we see Clara Ellen Baker, private secretary to American inventor Elwood Haynes, at her Oliver typewriter in Haynes’ offices in Kokomo, Indiana, sometime between 1913-15. Clara was to later play a vital role in protecting Haynes’ stainless steel patent for his family after the inventor’s death in 1925. Hayes kept all his notes in code and Clara was the only person who could decode them in court litigation hearings. Clara was born on October 9, 1891, in Logansport, Indiana. She began work as a stenographer for a dry goods store in Logansport in 1910 before moving south to Kokomo to join Haynes’ organisation. She left Haynes’ employ when she married Leo Laurence Prestel in September 1915. Clara died on December 29, 1977, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, aged 86.


Elwood Haynes (1857-1925) was an American inventor, metallurgist, automotive pioneer, entrepreneur and industrialist. He invented the metal alloy stellite and independently co-discovered martensitic stainless steel along with Englishman Harry Brearley in 1912 and designed one of the earliest automobiles made in the United States. He is recognised for having created the earliest American design that was feasible for mass production and, with the Apperson brothers, he formed the first company in the US to produce automobiles profitably. He made many advances in the automotive industry.

Early in his career, while serving as a field superintendent at gas and oil companies during Indiana's gas boom, Haynes invented several devices important to the advance of the natural gas industry. When working for the Indiana Natural Gas and Oil Company, he oversaw the construction of the first long-distance natural gas pipeline in the US, connecting Chicago with the Trenton Gas Field 150 miles away. He began to formulate plans for a motorised vehicle in the early 1890s; he successfully road tested his first car, the Pioneer, on July 4, 1894 - eight years after the first automobile was patented in Germany. He formed a partnership with Elmer and Edgar Apperson in 1896 to start Haynes-Apperson for the commercial production of automobiles. He renamed it Haynes Automobile Company in 1905, following the loss of his partners.


Working in his laboratory to develop new corrosion-resistant metals for auto parts, Haynes discovered that mixing tungsten with chromium, steel and iron resulted in the formation of strong and lightweight alloys that were impervious to corrosion, and could endure high temperatures. In 1912, he formed the Haynes Stellite Company to produce one of the new alloys, and received lucrative contracts during World War I, making Haynes a millionaire in 1916. He sold his patent for stainless steel to the American Stainless Steel Company in exchange for enough stock to gain a seat at the company's board of directors, a position he held for 12 years. He merged the Haynes Stellite company with Union Carbide in 1920. After passing through different owners, the company was renamed and is now called Haynes International. Haynes returned his focus to his automotive company, but in the economic recession of the 1920s the business went bankrupt and was liquidated. Stellite remains an important metal, as its ability to withstand high temperatures has made it a component in American spacecraft.

Haynes was born on October 14, 1857, in Portland, Indiana. He died in Kokomo, Indiana, from congestive heart failure, the result of complications arising from influenza, on April 13, 1925, aged 67. His daughter Bernice bought back the mansion in 1965 and donated it to the city of Kokomo, which converted it into the Elwood Haynes Museum. It has been open to the public since 1967.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Why Wouldn’t Jack Tramiel ‘Fess Up To His Rheinmetall Deal?

Small things amuse my small mind and I had to smile the other day when the ubiquitous “Unknown” commented on this blog that the Nakajima Litton Royal portable I’d posted about “looks exactly like my Imperial Good Companion 203, which was also made in Japan and has a similar serial number. Are the two related?” Not just related, pal, but one and the same typewriter! I readily confess that I do tend to write blog posts assuming readers know a little bit about typewriter history, and goodness knows – egged on constantly by Imperial devotee Richard Amery in Sydney – I have written many posts about Litton Industries taking over Royal and Imperial in the mid-1960s. Admittedly, the Imperial Good Companion 203 doesn’t, from memory, have the Litton logo on it, but it would have taken less than 30 seconds to search this blog and find the connection between it and the Japanese-made Royal.

The point I’m getting to here is that in my book a Nakajima is a Nakajima, regardless of what name is on the ribbon spool cover. I don’t think of a Nakajima called a Royal as a Royal typewriter, any more than I think of a Nakajima Imperial Good Companion as having any physical connection whatsoever with Leicester in the East Midlands of England. But for me the confusion which has caused the most amusement concerns Commodore typewriters. I have seen many comments on this blog from people who have bothered to do a little bit of research and have been surprised to find that their Commodore typewriters are actually Rheinmetalls. Yet one of two Commodore owners have simply refused to accept the blindingly obvious. I remember that many years ago a woman seeking advice on a Commodore she planned to list for sale in Melbourne refused point blank to see any similarly with a Rheinmetall. I gave up.


One thing I will admit is that, far more so than with Nakajima- and Silver-Seiko-made Litton typewriters, in the case of the Commodore and the Rheinmetall, there was a massive degree of subterfuge involved. The visual evidence is very clear - after all, they are the same typewriter. But when it came to backgrounding the Commodore’s production history, Jack Tramiel’s company was shy about its ties with Rheinmetall, to say the very least. Can this be explained by the fact that while Tramiel was a survivor of a Nazi death camp – one in which his own father had been murdered - he was buying typewriters from a German company that had built Nazi armaments? I suspect that may be so.

In late April 1952 the Rheinmetall-Borsig typewriter company was freed from Soviet Union control. Rheinmetall’s typewriter plant was one of 66 industrial factories returned to an East German nationalisation network (BMW was another). In the immediate aftermath of Word War II, it had been operated by Soviet corporations and its output had gone almost wholly to Russia. The effort to appease 18 million East Germans about their new rulers allowed Rheinmetall to again look West for business, and eventually it found a keen buyer for its machines in Tramiel. In Canada it started to sell calculators in 1956, the year after Tramiel had set up shop in Toronto (he considered moving operations to Jamaica in 1959).

The connection between Commodore and Rheinmetall has undoubtedly been very well hidden. If, for example, one takes a close look at Wikiwand’s extensive entry of Commodore International, it’s easy to find references to Tramiel’s tie-up with Czechoslovakian manufacturer Zbrojovka Brno – which Wikiwand dates to 1958, with an attribute to Brian Bagnall’s 2005 book On the Edge: the Spectacular Rise and Fall of Commodore: The Spectacular Rise & Fall of Commodore. This was three years after Tramiel and Manfred Kapp had formed Commodore Business Machines in Toronto – both had started out as typewriter repairmen, working together for the Ace Typewriter Repair Company in New York City in the early 1950s. Wikiwand, however, makes no mention whatsoever of a link with Rheinmetall. Yet advertising for Commodore typewriters in Australia in 1958 clearly shows the machines are Rheinmetalls, and in Calvary, Alberta, a Rheinmetall KTS was shown as a Commodore with the name Rheinmetall obviously whited out in the ad (see above). This model continued to be sold in Alberta the next year, while elsewhere in Canada in 1959 various Czech-made models were advertised as Commodores. When Commodores started to be sold in the United States in 1961, they were a mix of Czech and German, though mainly Czech. Rheinmetalls were briefly sold under their own name in the US in 1960, along with other East German brands such as Optima and Groma. From September 1962 Rheinmetall typewriters were produced in Denmark.

My Czech-made Norwood. These were also sold as Commodores, Admirals and Presidents. In this case, relabelling was cheap and easy. Relabelling Rheinmetalls was a little more complicated, though for some reason it still left hints of the machine's origin.
Commodore’s past reliance on Rheinmetall typewriters was not mentioned when in the late 1960s Samuel Hughes QC chaired a Royal Commission inquiring into the failure of Atlantic Acceptance Corporation, a Ontario-based finance company which collapsed in June 1965 in one of the biggest financial scandals in Canada at that time, with an estimated $65 million loss to investors. Headed by Campbell Powell Morgan, a Toronto chartered accountant, Atlantic held a large stake in Commodore Business Machines, and had three directors on the board of Commodore. Tramiel agreed to testify under the protection of the Canada Evidence Act and outlined the financing of the Commodore Portable Typewriter Company Limited with a loan from a “Don Mills”, a name jointly covering the identities Tramiel, Kapp and Morgan. Asked by Commission counsel Albert Shepherd whether using one fictitious name for three men was intended to deceive anyone, Tramiel replied, “Not as far as I was concerned. Nothing was hidden.”


But it was, of course. Details of the deal with Rheinmetall were well and truly hidden, and have remained so. Even in Bagnall’s final interview with Kapp, it seems, it didn’t come up. See here. So all we can do is form opinions about this, and I am inclined to back those (including a gentleman in Toronto) who say that Commodores were not reassembled from Rheinmetall parts in Canada, but were shipped in fully assembled and at best relabelled in Canada. Although even that is doubtful. Indeed, anything Jack Tramiel ever said or did seems to have had a touch of doubt about it.

The Little Royal Typewriter That Roared

Facebook reminded me yesterday that 10 years ago, in 2012, my last year working in print newspapers, I had answered the plea of a young female cadet reporter working at The Canberra Times by giving her this little Royal portable typewriter. She is Canberra-born Jacqueline Williams, and when I keyed her name into Google search I was very pleasantly surprised to see she has been working for The New York Times since July 2015. And that is a long, long way from The Canberra Times, I can tell you - not to mention a very short time from a starting point to world journalism's pinnacle. Indeed, Jackie's career trajectory has been quite spectacular, to say the least, and I'm left wondering whether her Royal typewriter has helped inspire her progress along the way.
I've taken the liberty of altering the logo from The York Times's Australian recruiting page, replacing a laptop with a more appropriate writing machine.

In January 2017 Jacqui was chosen as one of two journalists "to lead [The New York Times's] expansion into Australia". She had joined the NYT in New York 18 months earlier, after completing time as a Fellow at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In New York she won
 wide admiration with the NYT's investigative unit, helping to break open the growing furor of daily fantasy sports, which led to regulation of the industry. She was then part of the team that exposed the NFL’s flawed concussion research and ties to the tobacco industry, and revealed how the billion-dollar expansion of the new Panama Canal collided with reality. She also did a stint on culture, covering the Nate Parker rape trial. And to think I introduced her to the work of Edward Albee ...
One of Jackie's big admirers is 
Walt Bogdanich, the investigative journalist and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner. Bogdanich graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975 with a degree in political science and received a master's in journalism from Ohio State University in 1976. He is assistant editor for The New York Times' Investigations Desk and an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining the NYT in 2001, he was an investigative producer for 60 Minutes on CBS and for ABC News. He has also worked as an investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.
Bogdanich recruited Jacqui to the NYT after seeing her outstanding work in his investigative reporting class at Columbia University. He said of Jacqui: “She develops sources easily and isn’t afraid to think big ... she also cares deeply about accuracy - not a bad trait to have." 
Besides her Columbia master’s in journalism, Jacqui has a master’s in globalisation studies from Dartmouth, where her thesis examined the investigative journalism industry in Australia.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

We've Been Talkin' 'Bout Jackson (Typewriters)


There’s more than one way of knowing for sure that a certain model of typewriter went into production, even a very rare one. Take, for example, the Jackson, about which there continues to be much conjecture. On the night of Wednesday, June 28, 1899, a piano finisher (and one time mechanical engineer) called Gardner J. Hawkes, from the Boston neighbourhood of Dorchester, was arrested by Inspector Michael C. Shields of the Boston Police Department and charged with the larceny of two typewriters, valued at $200, the property of the Jackson Typewriter Company. Gardner was also in possession of three stolen bicycles, and was still doing time in the Suffolk County House of Correction when the 1900 census was taken.


A large part of the confusion about the Jackson Typewriter Company is due to its having two separate lives, one in Boston in the late 19th Century and another, in the early 20th Century, in Hamilton, Ontario, during each of which slightly different typewriters were produced. Indeed, when Typewriter Topics brought out A Condensed History of the Writing Machine in 1923, a mere 20 years after a Jackson had last been made, it gave credit for the invention to Joseph Hassel Jackson of Ontario. Jackson was in fact a New Yorker by birth. And the earlier Boston-made machine was designed by the prolific Andrew Wilton Steiger (1856-1935) of Bridgeport, Connecticut.


The original Jackson Typewriter Company was established by Joe Jackson (1862-), who had set up shop in Roxbury, another Boston neighbourhood, by early June 1896, when his company took over a large factory at the junction of Clifton and Shirley streets previously occupied by the Globe Electric Light Company, and which was built in March 1895. In early April 1896 Steiger was granted five patents on the design, each assigned to the Jackson Typewriter Company. Joe Jackson had previously been involved with the Conde Typewriter Company, and before that had for many years had been connected with the Yost factory in Bridgeport. By January 1894 he was looking to manufacture a typewriter in his own name, and first approached the businessmen of New Haven, Connecticut, later hiring Steiger to design his machine.


In early 1900 the JTC was in major trouble. It first offered to move to Corry in northwestern Pennsylvania, and then there talks about moving the operation to Lyons, a town in Wayne County, New York. The company was represented at talks with the Lyons Board of Trade by Joe Jackson, who told the Lyons board his company could produce 300 typewriters a week and had a staff of 500. By early May 1900, however, the enterprise had collapsed and the Boston sheriff’s office was advertising “A bargin sale of typewriters”. The company’s stock and machinery was auctioned off at the JTC's factory on May 8, and representatives of many other typewriter companies and typewriter supply firms turned up to kick over the traces of the JTC. The bidding was fierce but the prices “exceedingly low”, according to the Boston Evening Transcript. Complete Jackson typewriters went for $8.50 to $17, but generally around $10.50 (exactly 120 years later, in May 2020, one at auction in Germany was expected to fetch $US19,000). In the 1900 Boston auction, a lot of 24 incomplete machines sold for $3 each, while complete frames and keyboards went for 40¢ each. A cabinet of 500 drills went for $12 and other parts fetched a mere 5¢ to 10¢. On June 26, 1900, the JTC was declared bankrupt.


Yet the company wasn’t completely dead. In April 1903 Joe Jackson managed to get boxes of typewriters moved to New Haven, where he leased a plant owned by the New Haven Wheel Company and even sold some machines labelled “made in New Haven”. The lease was broken and New Haven police seized the remaining boxed typewriters. In 1906, however, Joe Jackson, got financial support from Utica-born stove manufacturer John Henry Tilden (1843-1911) to set up a new typewriter company, called the Tilden-Jackson Typewriter Company, in Hamilton, Ontario. Tilden died, aged 68, on January 31, 1911. When his will was filed for probate the following March, it was found that the stock he paid $222,210 for – including the $152,000 he had put into the Tilden-Jackson typewriter concern - was worth a mere $5100. The second JTC venture had proved even less succcessul than the first. It's believed fewer than 300 Jackson typewriters were ever made, and only a small handful still exist.