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Friday, 14 August 2020

UFOs and Typewriters

Campbell Scott at an Olympic SM8 portable typewriter in The 11th Green.
By an eerie coincidence, the week I read about Christopher Münch’s new science-fiction film The 11th Green I had lunch with a man who has in reality seen a UFO. I too have had a UFO experience, on the Nullabor in Western Australia in 1985, but that’s another story for another day. The one my lunch friend saw remains the world’s first verified film encounter with a UFO (sadly, I had no way of filming mine).
Dennis Grant
Dennis Grant, a hugely experienced Christchurch, New Zealand-born journalist now back living in Canberra, was one of the people on board Safe Air’s Argosy freight aircraft the Merchant Enterprise when they witnessed and filmed the UFO over the Kaikōura coastline in New Zealand in the early hours of New Year’s Eve, 1978. On March 26, 1979, at a press conference in New York City, a group of American scientists said the light sources captured on film could not be explained by conventional means. In 2008, US network NBC, on its Dateline program, declared the Kaikōura sightings as one of the top 10 UFO events ever. 

The late Quentin Fogarty
UFOs came up in our lunchtime conversation because a week or so earlier, a former close friend of Dennis’s, Quentin Edward Fogarty, had died in St Kilda, Melbourne, just as Codiv-19 was taking its deadly grip on the Victorian city. With Fogarty’s passing, the whole Kaikōura UFO episode briefly resurfaced. Fogarty became known worldwide in 1979 as the “UFO Reporter” and in 1982 wrote a book on the saga, Let’s Hope They’re Friendly, the 2014 updated version of which is available for free on Kindle on Amazon.
            Naturally I was interested to hear Dennis’s take on the Kaikōura UFO sightings – and, of course, to find out what Quentin Fogarty had used to write his stories back in 1978. “A typewriter,” said Dennis.
Safe Air’s Argosy freight aircraft the Merchant Enterprise
Fogarty was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, on September 28, 1946. He died on July 5, aged 73. He’d had triple bypass surgery a year earlier and had retired from a long and illustrious media career just a week before he died. Fogarty started his journalism as a cadet reporter on Dunedin’s Evening Star. He went on to work for newspapers in Australia, Ireland and England before trying his hand at radio journalism. Fogarty then went into TV news and current affairs. His television career started in Christchurch with South Pacific Television and continued in Australia at Channel Seven in Melbourne, Channel 10, SBS and Channel 9. He was the first person hired by SBS when it was established in 1980. Fogarty also ran his own production company for a time and his first documentary, the ABC’s Frontline Afghanistan, won a Logie for best documentary of 1984.
          Dennis Grant has had an equally distinguished journalism career. He was a long-serving member of the Canberra Federal Press Gallery and was SBS's chief political correspondent. He had previously been with TV One (now TVNZ 1) in Christchurch and also worked for Channel Seven, as a spokesman for the Australian War Memorial and for Stuff NZ. When the UFO incident occurred, Fogarty was with ATV0 (now Ten) in Melbourne but in New Zealand on holiday and scheduled to stay with Grant and his wife Robyn in Christchurch. “I was a young journalist back then, fired with the zeal of telling stories untold, and I helped tell this story,” Grant later recalled. After an initial flight on the Argosy to film the UFO, Fogarty returned to Christchurch in the early hours of the morning of December 31, 1978, and it was Grant who provided him with more film for a second flight up the Kaikōura coast. “[They] had used up all the film in [the] 16mm camera,” Grant said. “Quentin called me sometime after midnight from Christchurch Airport to see if I could provide a fresh roll of film. I could - but there was a catch, I wanted to get on the plane for the flight to Blenheim.” The plane took off at 2.16am. About three minutes after takeoff, the group saw a bright, round light to the right. The aeroplane radar showed a target in the same direction about 18 nautical miles.
There was UFO fever in Australia at the time of the Kaikōura sightings. Two months earlier 20-year-old Frederick Valentich had disappeared while piloting a small Cessna 182 aircraft over Bass Strait, heading to King Island in Tasmania. Valentich informed Melbourne air traffic control he was being accompanied by an unknown aircraft.
The Kaikōura film was taken to the US so Bruce Maccabee, above, an optical physicist who specialised in laser technology and worked for the US Navy in Maryland, Virginia, could study it. Maccabee came out to New Zealand and Melbourne to interview witnesses. He concluded the event involved unknown objects or phenomena fitting the definition of UFOs.
           But back to the “wildly inventive” The 11th Green, which combines Münch’s “fascination with the real and the unreal”. “A respected journalist [Jeremy Rudd, played by Campbell Scott] uncovers the truth behind the mythology of President Eisenhower's long-alleged involvement in extraterrestrial events,” says the IMDb. The New Yorker said it was “a work of meticulous historical reimagination”. The movie starts with “a passive reaction to a fantastical sighting”, in much the same way as Fogarty’s film was first received. In this case it’s a monotone news report about preposterous technology. We’re told (by The New York Times) that “The 11th Green begins with a beguiling text stating that while much of what you are about to see is ‘necessarily speculative’, the narrative that follows represents ‘a likely factual scenario’ … While there’s a good deal of what feels like whimsy here, the movie’s overall disposition is a dark one. Its most crucial node lies in its depiction of the struggle and fate of James Forrestal, the secretary of defence in the first Truman administration, and the film’s dedicatee. The Forrestal scenes are meant to elicit shudders, and they do. More to the point, they make Munch’s questions stick.”
James Forrestal, who met a tragic end.
            I’m not into conspiracy theories. But to understand this line, I guess, one needs to know about the theory that Forrestal was assassinated for the same reason John F. Kennedy was. It goes like this: “The key to unlocking the mystery of President Kennedy’s assassination and a possible UFO connection lie in events that occurred 18 years earlier in post-war Germany. In 1945 Kennedy was a guest of Forrestal [and] personally witnessed technological secrets that have still not been disclosed to the world. These secrets stemmed from extraterrestrial technologies that Nazi Germany had acquired and was attempting to use in its weapons programs. In searching for answers to who killed President Kennedy we need to start with the death of his mentor, Forrestal, in 1949. Forrestal was a visionary who thought Americans had a right to know about the existence of extraterrestrial life and technologies. Forrestal was sacked by President Truman because he was revealing the truth to various officials, including Kennedy, who was a Congressman at the time. Forrestal's ideals and vision inspired Kennedy, and laid the seed for what would happen 12 years later. After winning the 1960 Presidential election, Kennedy learned a shocking truth from President Eisenhower. The control group set up to run highly classified extraterrestrial technologies, the Majestic-12 Group, had become a rogue government agency. Eisenhower warned Kennedy that MJ-12 had to be reined in. It posed a direct threat to American liberties and democratic processes. Kennedy followed Eisenhower’s advice, and set out to realise Forrestal’s vision. The same forces that orchestrated Forrestal's death, opposed Kennedy's efforts at every turn. When Kennedy was on the verge of succeeding, by forcing the CIA to share classified UFO information with other government agencies on November 12, 1963, he was assassinated 10 days later.”

Desmond Leslie at his portable typewriter.

On the right is the infamous UFOlogist George Adamski.

            Or so the theory goes in Kennedy's Last Stand: Eisenhower, UFOs, MJ-12 & JFK's Assassination. I’ll leave you to be the judge of that. What I’m more interested in is how UFOlogist Desmond Leslie reacted to news of the Kaikōura sightings. Leslie was a British pilot, film maker, writer and musician. A second cousin to Winston Churchill, he invented the multi-track mixing desk, flew Spitfires in World War II, was a pioneer of electronic music and wrote one of the first books on UFOs, Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), which can still be found on the Wayback Machine.

Leslie at his multi-track mixing desk in April 1963.
             Leslie's co-author was the apparent con-artist George Adamski, a forerunner of Fogarty’s in that he claimed to have photographed spaceships. Adamski went much further, saying he had met friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers and that he had taken flights with them to the Moon and other planets. Adamski came Down Under in March 1959 and visited Scarborough Beach in Western Australia. He should have gone to the Nullabor to find UFOs.
Centralian Advocate, 1954
But getting back to the more interesting Leslie, who in the mid-1950s, at his family home Castle Leslie in Monaghan, Ireland, made a science fiction film with typewriter-loving astronomer Sir Patrick Moore called Them and the Thing. It was found in some vault, dusted off and re-screened at the Irish Film Festival in Dublin in August 2010. Leslie and Moore remained friends and co-wrote a spoof book in 1972, How Britain won the Space RaceIn 2015 it was claimed that Moore had seen a UFO caught on camera while making a documentary in 1965 – but that the BBC had edited it out. Matt Lyons, an “alien researcher”, made the assertion during the 50th anniversary of the ‘Warminster Thing’ – so named after residents of the Wiltshire town began reporting strange noises and paranormal activity. Warminster was the site for a number of UFO sightings during the 1960s and 1970s. The first sighting was recorded by Arthur Shuttlewood on Christmas Day 1964 and he compiled a dossier of further sightings over the following year.
Patrick Moore with some of his 10 typewriters.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

David Lawrence and Eden Typewriters, Auckland, New Zealand: What a Wonderful Experience!

A nice welcome from David Lawrence in Auckland, New Zealand.
It's on one of his favourite typewriters to use, the Imperial Model D.
It was with great sadness that I learned from David Lawrence this morning that Eden Typewriters in Auckland, New Zealand, will be moving from the wonderful and cosy little nook it has on Lisnoe Avenue in Mount Eden. As I've mentioned here before, David is probably the last full-time, fully-qualified typewriter technician left in the Southern Hemisphere, and he's an absolute top-notch expert on the ins and outs of writing machines. His passion for typewriters of all eras (including electronics), and his commitment to carrying out the highest quality work on them, is a sheer delight for visitors like me to see and experience first-hand. His ongoing well-being is critical to all of us!
David will have been ensconced on Lisnoe Avenue with his typewriter sales and repair business for eight years by the time the overarching company, Environ, closes down next Christmas. Happily, David is confident he will be able to establish Eden Typewriters elsewhere in Auckland, a city where entrepreneur Richard Benjamin Wiseman started selling Remingtons on Hobson Street away back in September 1876. It would be such a shame to break that 144-year sequence. David was planning to retire when he turns 65 next April, but who knows what new lease on life a change of address may bring him? Perhaps he might have time to find that friendly agent in Germany, who can ship him even more gorgeous European portables.
David’s news was a huge jolt for me. I had visited him at Eden Typewriters back in March, at the start of a scheduled four-week tour of New Zealand with my wife Harriet. That trip was cut short when the spread of Covid-19 looked likely to block us from returning to Australia (in hindsight, given how well New Zealand has dealt with coronavirus, we may well have been safer staying there). All the while I had been intending to post about David and Eden Typewriters on this blog, but one thing led to another and the Eden Typewriters post kept being put back. The longer I held off, the more I fretted about not being able to do justice to David and his incredible workplace. With today’s announcement from David, I regret those delays. But here, at long, long last, is my tour of Eden Typewriters:
And a nice entry point to a typewriter shop.
The Lawrence workbench, always a clutter of industry and high-class workmanship.
 David is a lot more game than I am about removing typeslugs and working
on them, always seeking absolute perfection.
 There are typewriters and parts everywhere, in every nook and cranny. The typewriters shown here are but a few of those in store.
David still regrets selling the one that had the nickle-rim keytops.
See below for what he let go.
David imported four of these massive Olympia SG3s from overseas (they were made in Mexico) and only has one left. They came in their original crates, never having been used. Back rollers and all!
What sort of typewriter shop would it be without a copy of Richard Polt's book? 
 The big typewriter cleaning and dust clearing machine.
One of David's favourite portables, and one I hadn't seen before, the Brother Opus 900. Beautiful to use, wonderful design and top-class engineering, including the case.
Another Brother I hadn't previously encountered, and a fantastic futurist daisywheel typer, the Personal Type. So light, compact and gorgeous, with so many innovative features, such as the paper feed.
Above, Albertine Jonas at the Imperial Model D. Below, the Gossen Tippa David sold:
In the coming weeks I'm planning to blog with some more images of typewriters David has worked on (he's also an expert photographer!), as well as some of his handy hints on repair jobs (such as the mainspring).

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

One Typewriter I Didn't Want

This Imperial 66 standard typewriter was part of an auction today for the personal effects of former Queensland State Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, comfortably the most criminally corrupt politician I ever had the misfortune to deal with in my former profession. (Yes, I was once one of his so-called "chooks", the journalists to whom he fed a constant stream of lies). Bjelke-Petersen died, aged 94, more than 15 years ago, but for some reason his effects have only now come up for sale, perhaps appropriately in the midst of a poisonous pandemic. Though New Zealand-born, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen (1911-2005) was as tall in stature as he was low in ethics. Further right than Genghis Khan, he held office from 1968 to 1987. Institutional corruption became synonymous with his later leadership. His Neo-Nazi Country-National Party controlled Queensland despite consistently receiving the smallest number of votes out of the state's leading three parties, achieving the result through a notorious system of electoral malapportionment that resulted in rural votes having a greater value than those cast in city electorates. The effect earned Bjelke-Petersen the nickname of "the Hillbilly Dictator" and created a police state. And the police were as corrupt as he was. When he existed politics it was a case of good riddance to bad rubbish, and that goes for his mangy typewriter too.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Early 19th Century British ‘Writing Machines’ (II): The Typograph and the Travesty of Typewriter Historians

William Hughes's Typograph, as illustrated in the official catalogue of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. How could anyone confuse it with G.A. Hughes' unillustrated entry?
In the 1840s and 1850s there were two men called Hughes working at institutions for the blind in England, one sighted (William Hughes, born in Staffordshire in March 1808 and married to Mary Rice née Hayward) at Old Trafford in Manchester, the other blind (George Allonsor Hughes, born in Middlesex in May 1808 and married to Eliza) 209 miles away at Bloomsbury in London. They were not related, except in the sense that by sheer coincidence they both invented writing machines for the blind during this period. For all that, one would not have thought that telling the two Hugheses apart could have been much simpler – one in Manchester called William, one in London called George. And yet the tale of William Hughes’s Typograph is one of absurd falsehoods, distorted representation and utter confusion.

           On Tuesday, September 14, 1858, the trustees of Henshaw’s Blind Asylum at Old Trafford in Manchester held a special general meeting to mark the enforced retirement – through a sudden illness – of its long-serving governor William Hughes, and Hughes’s wife Mary, the asylum’s matron. One of the trustees, a Dr Samuel Crompton, surgeon for the asylum, decided to use the occasion to pay tribute to William Hughes’s 1847 invention, the Typograph.  Oddly enough, Henshaw’s itself did not have one of Hughes’s machines, and Crompton said he was afraid “some future historian might record that the invention was adopted everywhere but in the institution governed by the inventor”. Well, 162 years later, that historian is me. And thus it is so recorded, here! More importantly, however, I am also obliged to point out that - as was made abundantly clear by the trustees of Henshaw’s Blind Asylum that long-ago afternoon - the Typograph was indeed invented by William Hughes, and NOT George Allonsor Hughes.

            William Hughes’s Typograph was a simple machine allowing the blind to write and selling for £5. George Hughes’s apparatus was even more rudimentary, selling at one guinea. Yet typewriter historians have been at complete sixes and sevens for almost 90 years now over the identity of its inventor. Quite how this utterly unnecessary confusion arose is beyond me – apart, of course, from the suspicion of very sloppy research and a scant regard for primary sources. But in part the origin of the misinformation can be dated to a 1964 revision of George Tilghman Richard’s The History and Development of Typewriters, first published in 1938. Richards (1883-1960), whose father was American, was a consulting automotive engineer and annular aircraft inventor who lived in Dunham Massey Hall, Greater Manchester. In the mid-1920s he spent some time attempting to improve the typewriter, before joining the Science Museum in London in 1929 and cataloguing the museum’s aero-engine collection and becoming its scientific lecturer. He also carried out a thorough cataloguing of the museum’s impressive typewriter collection, which includes the Typograph. Richards retired from the museum in 1954 and in 1964 another engineer, William Allan Church (1920-2011), updated Richards’ book “to include changes rendered necessary by the passage of time since …”

       After the original 1938 publication of his typewriter history, Richards said, “Many people are too busy with their daily tasks to feel much urge to study the past or to mould the future.”  How right he was, especially in relation to his own typewriter book. For some unfathomable reason, Church changed the name of the Typograph’s inventor from “W. Hughes” (though tellingly it remained that way in the index) to “G.A. Hughes, Governor of the Manchester Blind Asylum”. To this day, the Science Museum, on its website, continues to wrongly credit the Typograph to G.A. Hughes. The museum further compounds its mistake by saying, “This machine was designed by Mr G.A. Hughes, Governor of Henshaw’s Blind Asylum, Manchester … Hughes himself was blind and he and his wife were Governor and Matron respectively of the Institute from 1839.” As might be expected, Wikipedia also gets it utterly wrong, though the glaring error was pointed out in Heather Tilley’s book Blindness and Writing: From Wordsworth to Gissing published by the Cambridge University Press in 2017. Tilley did so in correcting the false claim made by Darren Wershler-Henry in his 2005 book The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting. Tilley was right to single out Wershler-Henry, who went into considerable detail, claiming for G.A. Hughes all the things he didn’t do.

       Where did Church get the wrong information, since it wasn’t in Richards’ original? It turns out the error first appeared in a book called A Chronological Survey of Work for the Blind (up to 1930) written by Henry John Wagg and Mary G. Thomas and published by the National Institute for the Blind in London in 1932. Wagg and Thomas managed to mangle the truth to such a horrid degree that subsequent typewriter historians became as blind as G.A. Hughes himself, at least in terms of being unable to see the facts of the matter.

       George Allonsor Hughes did indeed invent a writing apparatus for the blind, using a “punctiuncular” stenographic embossing system (that is, Braille-like). But it was not the Typograph. G.A. Hughes compared his system favourably with the non-roman Lucas type, introduced in 1838, which was also used for embossing in the form of stenographic shorthand. The G.A. Hughes system was first advertised in August 1843 and in 1848 this Hughes published An Explanation of the Embossed Systems for Educating the Blind. G.A. Hughes was never associated in any way with Henshaw’s Blind Asylum in Manchester. G.A. Hughes ran the Private Educational Establishment for the Blind at 9 Mount Row, London, and lived in Bloomsbury. This Hughes was blind and had been so since 1838. He also developed a “Pianoforte Tutor” embossed system for the blind in 1848.
From Lloyd's Weekly, December 10, 1843

       When writing his first typewriter history, The Writing Machine (1973), Michael Adler was damningly persuaded by the Science Museum that the inventor of the Typograph was not William Hughes but G.A. Hughes. Adler went ahead and blindly (no pun intended) wrote that earlier historians had been led “to the mistaken conclusion that [the two Hughes machines] are in fact two separate inventions by different men [which is precisely what they are]. This is not the case …” Sadly for Adler, and those who have since treated his books as gospel, it most certainly was the case. Adler went through the same silly process in his 1997 book Antique Typewriters, this time adding to his mistake by placing G.A. Hughes in Manchester. (Darryl Rehr made the identical error about G.A. Hughes inventing the Typograph in his 1997 book, Antique Typewriters.) Perhaps aware of the conflicting claims, Wilf Beeching took the easy way out in Century of the Typewriter in 1974 and merely said the Typograph was the work of a “Mr Hughes” (but admittedly of Manchester). To their credit, at least Peter Weil and Paul Robert identified the Typograph (see image below) as the work of “W. Hughes” in Typewriter (2016), the first correct attribution in 68 years of hardback typewriter histories.

       That William Hughes invented the Typograph was pointed out by Typewriter Topics away back in 1923. The trade magazine even used a small illustration of the machine, which came from, of all places, the Science Museum in London! Ernst Martin also identified the inventor as William Hughes, adding that he was from Manchester, and that a model of his machine was in the Science Museum.

       William Hughes (1819-59) was governor at Henshaw’s Blind Asylum, from 1839, on an annual salary of £225 ($A51,338 today), while his wife Mary as matron was paid £50, and they were additionally given a gratuity of £500 ($A114,084 today) upon their retirement from the asylum on September 18, 1858. The retirement was brought about by William Hughes’ sudden illness, and he was to die from it seven months later. At a special general meeting to farewell the Hugheses, the asylum surgeon Dr Samuel Crompton spoke of the Typograph. He said it was one of the most important of all inventions for the use of the blind, a machine of ingenuity and simplicity, and had acquired for William Hughes a worldwide reputation. It had been highly praised by a Reverend Johns of London in a work called “The Land of Silence and Darkness” in the Edinburgh Review.

       During the Henshaw asylum trustees’ discussion on the Typograph, it was revealed that William Hughes had been in Antwerp earlier in 1858 and had seen one of his Typographs in use there. He had also visited l’abbé Charles Louis Carton in Bruges. Hughes had been hoping to improve and simplify the Typograph to lower its cost from £5, but in the previous two years there had been delays in meeting demand (Adler believed the Typograph was only the second writing machine to go into production.). An order from George V, the last King of Hanover, had been met.

       The Typograph won its fame with a prize bronze medal as exhibit 401 in Class 10 (Philosophical, Musical, Horological and Surgical Instruments) at The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, from May 1-October 15, 1851. Hughes had announced his intention to exhibit the Typograph on June 20, 1850. G.A. Hughes’s exhibit was No 20 in another category altogether, Class 17 (Paper, Printing and Bookbinding), making it even more difficult for Adler to get confused between the two. It was described as a “machine for enabling the blind to write, calculate and copy music”. In contrast, William Hughes’s entry was specifically called the Typograph and was described as being “for the blind, a new mechanical contrivance enabling blind persons to express their thoughts upon paper”. There was also “a similar instrument for embossing or printing in relief”. Given it was actually called the Typograph in the Great Exhibition’s official catalogue, how anyone could mistake it for G.A. Hughes’s apparatus is mindblowing.

Organised by Henry Cole and Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert, the exhibition was attended by, among many hundreds of other notables, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Samuel Colt, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Alfred Tennyson and William Makepeace Thackeray.

       Three weeks after the exhibition closed, Queen Victoria visited Francis Egerton, the 1st Earl of Ellesmere, at Worsley Hall outside Manchester. Henshaw’s Blind Ayslum approached Ellesmere, its patron, to arrange for a box of gifts made by inmates to be presented to Victoria on October 11, 1851, with a covering noted written on a Typograph. Ellesmere insisted the Queen also meet William and Mary Hughes and four of their pupils. Victoria expressed particular interest in the Typograph, and watched a blind girl, Mary Pearson, write with the machine. Victoria remarked on having seen the Typograph at the Great Exhibition.

       The Typograph was again exhibited, in the printing section at the Exposition Universelle des produits de l'Agriculture, de l'Industrie et des Beaux-Arts de Paris from May 15-November 15, 1855, and at the International Exhibition in South Kensington in 1862. (Michael Adler allowed himself to go wildly astray, partly because there was 11 years between these exhibits; he’d have been even more confused if he’d known William Hughes had died in 1858. In fairness, G.A. Hughes had an exhibit of books for the blind in the 1862 exhibition,) By 1861 the William Hughes Typograph was still “admitted by all the instructors of the blind to be the most perfect as yet produced … [it] still holds its place of usefulness above all other printing machines for the blind.” It was still being advertised by George Wild in Manchester in 1866.
William Hughes was born at Burslem, Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, in March 1808 and died at his home at 79 Erskine Street, Hulme in Manchester on April 29, 1859, aged 51. Every single printed article or advertisement which appeared for the Typograph from 1850 to 1866 mentioned its inventor was William Hughes, so the latter-day errors attributing it to G.A. Hughes are appalling and truly unforgiveable.