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Monday, 26 October 2020

‘Blue Bird’: The Typewriter Lady Who Fell to Earth

On April 24, 1912, London’s The Sketch illustrated weekly journal, mistaking Harriet Quimby’s flying costume to be made of navy blue satin (it was dark purple) celebrated her historic crossing of the English Channel by giving her the title “Blue Bird”. When, 9½ weeks later, Harriet died in an aerial accident in Boston, the St Louis Star triumphantly declared “Little Miss Dresden China Broken at Last!” That appalling lack of respect for a woman who had literally flown through the glass ceiling reflected the degree to which she had divided America. Many believed she had no right to challenge the dominance of men in the skies. Others felt she was making a statement for the equality of her gender. 
           There are many online references to Harriet Newell Quimby being the first female journalist to use a typewriter – indeed, even to her being the first woman and first journalist to use a typewriter, and the first female journalist. These claims are, of course, utter nonsense, the work of people who write profiles without bothering to do their research. As adept as she was at a typewriter, Quimby was in the early 1900s using a machine which had been mastered by both journalists and women two decades earlier. Almost as bad as slack research is any attempt to gild the lily about this gorgeous, blue-eyed brunette, inarguably the first great aviatrix. It's completely unnecessary. Harriet Quimby achieved quite sufficient breakthroughs during her short but happy life without there being any need to exaggerate her catalogue of wonderful deeds.

At age 21, Harriet Quimby is photographed in 1896 in her
hall bedroom at 83 Madison Avenue, New York City.

Harriet Quimby was the first woman in America and the second in the world to earn a pilot's licence, the first woman to make a solo flight across the English Channel, and the first woman pilot to carry a passenger. Five days after her tragic death, in Boston on July 1, 1912, aged 37, she was due to become the first woman to fly the US Post Office Department’s airborne mail. The jury is still out on where in Michigan she was born – Ovid Township and Arcadia, Manistee, are the two contenders, with Arcadia being the most likely.  The date is certain: May 11, 1875. In 1884 her family moved to Arroyo Grande, north of Los Angeles, and in 1896 Harriet took up residence in the hall bedroom at the back of the third floor at 83 Madison Avenue, New York City. She was later able to afford to move into more spacious quarters at the same address. By 1901 Harriet had emerged as an erudite and confident journalist, writing that year “In the World of Art” and “Art News of the Week” columns for the San Francisco Call, as well as lengthy features for the Sunday Call,  the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York-based The Ledger Monthly. It was at this time that her skill at the typewriter allowed her to pump out thousands of words with ease, notably on the theatre. Indeed, her byline was becoming well known right across the US. So successful had she become that in 1903 Harriet could set herself up with her parents in the Hotel Victoria, occupying the entire block on 27th Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue. She had joined Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly as dramatic editor, women’s page editor and general writer, as well as contributing travel features for the Four-Track News. She certainly travelled extensively in search of feature articles, including to Virginia, South Carolina and Florida, and to Washington DC, for the New York Evening Post and The Los Angeles Sunday Times Weekend Magazine. She covered events ranging from frog racing in San Francisco to camp meetings in the South, Irish moss gathering on the Atlantic Coast and African fetes at Madison Square Garden. Anything zany, off-beat and new interested her. She even a wrote a story describing how fake restaurant waiters picked up Wall Street tips from financiers as they dined. Her writing had an appeal for editors of the leading newspapers America-wide. In 1906 Harriet went on assignment to Cuba and in 1907-08 to Luxor and Cairo in Egypt, and to France and Italy.

         In mid-1904 Harriet took an interest in cars, and in particular in what was then called “trick automobiling”. It was in Cuba in 1906 that she had one of her first driving experiences, and soon afterwards, on September 22, Harriet went to Long Island to cover the American Elimination Trial to select the five racers to represent the United States in that year’s Vanderbilt Cup Race. While there, she was taken for a hair-raising (and hat losing) 70mph ride in the 120 horse-power Pope-Toledo driven by Herb Lytle. “… every nerve in your body is quivering,” she wrote of the drive, adding that she teased Lytle to step up to 120mph. These early tastes of motoring led Harriet in 1907 to getting her own bright red “racing runabout” and a driver’s licence. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported she had “shown herself remarkably adept in making her own repairs and motor adjustments”. In 1909, her quest for adventure extended to an interest in airships – and to the movies. She played the role of a fishermaiden alongside Mary Pickford and Mark Sennett in D.W. Griffith’s Lines of White on a Sullen Sea (Biograph Company).

However, any thoughts of car racing or going aloft in airships were put aside on the weekend of October 22-23, 1910, when Harriet attended the International Aviation meeting at Belmont Park, Long Island, organised by Allan Ryan, son of Royal Typewriter Company backer Thomas Fortune Ryan (and later president of Royal himself). Harriet would later recall, “At one time I was crazy about motoring. Whizzing around in a fast car seemed to me the very last word in exhilaration. But the moment I saw an aeroplane in flight, I knew the motoring henceforth would be much too tame. One great advantage of aeroplaning over automobiling is the absence of speed laws, and their minions. You can go where you please and as fast as you please without interference. Isn’t that as near the essence of the American principle of perfect freedom as you can get? Seriously, I don’t believe there’s one whit more danger in aeroplaning than there is in handling a speedy car.”

         Harriet was one of 7500 spectators on the second day of the International Aviation meeting at Belmont Park, when strong winds prevented all by two flyers from taking to the skies. One especially impressed Harriet: John Bevins Moisant, the so-called “King of Aviators”, who “cared to dare” the conditions but soon came to grief; Moisant was uninjured, but his monoplane was smashed. Harriet, there with a close friend, Moisant’s sister Matilde, decided on the spot that flying was for her. A week later, on October 30, her determination deepened when Moisant won Thomas Ryan’s prizemoney of $10,000 by flying his Blériot from Belmont Park around the Statue of Liberty and back, 36 miles in 24 minutes 38.4 seconds. His prizemoney barely covered the price he'd paid his French rivals for the genuine Blériot that very morning.

John Moisant’s sister Matilde, left, with Harriet.

         John Moisant promised to teach Harriet to fly the following spring, but he died in a crash outside New Orleans on New Year’s Eve. Nonetheless Harriet pressed on, and started lessons with André Houpert (1885-1963) at the Moisant Aviation School at Roosevelt Field on Nassau Boulevard, Mineola, Garden City, Long Island, on May 10, 1911. With the encouragement of her editor, John Albert Sleicher (1848-1921), she got into a pattern of leaving work at Leslie’s Weekly at 8pm, going to Garden City, sleeping until 4am, taking lessons, then returning to work in the city. Harriet said the “sensation [of flying] is glorious”. “When I return to my office after a spin above the earth, I feel as if I could do the work of 50 of the sort of woman I was before I took up flying.” She undertook 33 lessons, and chalked up 4½ hours flying time before her first flight test in a Moisant monoplane built on Blériot lines on July 31. At Hempstead the next day Harriet was granted her pilot’s licence by the Aero Club of America, the US affiliate of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. She was the world's 37th licenced pilot. Not only was she the first American woman to qualify for such a licence, she was the first American to be licenced to fly a monoplane (which she considered “prettier” than a biplane). Asked about this achievement, Harriet told Philadelphia Telegraph reporter Ethel Lloyd Patterson, “It’s neither luck nor pluck that makes the really good aviator. It is just plain, honest common sense and reasonable care.” She described stunt flying as downright foolhardy, neither brave nor clever. For these reasons, Harriet felt women made better pilots than men. She said the two principles of flying, sanity and instinct, were second-nature to women. And mastering the air was proof of human progress.

             Harriet was soon reaping the rewards of her progress. On September 1 at Hempstead she tested the Moisant monoplane used by St Croix Johnstone for his world endurance record (set on August 5; Johnstone died in a crash in Chicago 10 days later). Three days later Harriet helped clear and then thrilled a crowd of 15,000 by closing the Straten Island Fair at Dongan Hills with a moonlight flight of seven minutes, earning $1500. At the end of the month Harriet earned another $1500 for a similar feat at the Trenton Fair in New Jersey. She used the money to pay off her flying lessons, acquire her own plane, a Moisant monoplane she was to call Genevieve, and to cover the costs of a planned trip to Europe to buy it. On September 23, a few days before the Trenton event, she won $600 as the solo starter in a 15-minute hedge-hopping “cross-country” event at an international meeting on Nassau Boulevard (US mail was carried by air for the first time at the same gathering). In October Harriet joined the Moisant International Aviators Exhibition team in a $100,000 deal to entertain crowds in Mexico during President Francisco Ignacio Madero’s inauguration celebrations, a tour which continued until December.

It had been an incredibly busy and productive year for Harriet. On top of her journalism, travel and flying, she followed up her 1909 acting role under the direction of D.W. Griffith by writing five screenplays and two scenarios for silent film shorts made by the Biograph Company, all  directed by Griffith. The screenplays were for the character comedy Sunshine Through the Dark, The Blind Princess and the Poet, His Mother’s Scarf, The Broken Cross and Fisher Folks.

Leo Stevens, right.

By the time of her return from Mexico, Harriet was already putting in place plans to realise an ambition to emulate John Moisant’s 1909 achievement by flying across the English Channel, in the process becoming the first woman to do so.  Her travelling companion, as well as her business manager, would be pioneering balloonist Albert Louis Höfner  (known as “A. Leo Stevens”, 1873-1944). Though Harriet loved the publicity her flights had generated across the US, on this occasion she kept very quiet about her departure on the liner the Amerika on March 7, 1912, her arrival in England and her preparations for the channel crossing (she used the surname Craig). Harriet was determined not to be beaten to the punch, but part of the reason for secrecy was also financial, as Harriet wanted to secure an exclusive deal with a British newspaper. She did that with London’s Daily Mirror for the equivalent of $US5000, but the offer was later withdrawn. Undaunted, Harriet first travelled on to Calais in France to meet Louis Blériot (who had made the first channel crossing in 1909) and negotiate the purchase of Blériot’s latest aircraft, a 70hp monoplane. However, the plane wouldn’t be ready in time for Harriet’s scheduled crossing, so she borrowed a 50hp plane from the French aviator. Not having flown a true Blériot before, she hoped in vain to test it out at Blériot’s seaside home in Hardelot, but bad weather intervened.

The borrowed Blériot pane was reassembled in Dover and by mid-April the weather on that south-eastern point of England had started to clear, though only in patches. Impatient to make her attempt, at 5.30am on April 16, 1912, Harriet took off. Using a compass for the first time - given to her by fellow pilot Gustav Hamel and tucked between her knees - Harriet ploughed through thick fog. After flying 22 miles in an hour and nine minutes, she sighted land under a bright sky. Unable to find Calais, she landed further south, on hard sand on a beach at Équihen-Plage, two miles from Hardelot. Sadly, Harriet’s breakthrough did not get the worldwide publicity it deserved, being pushed aside by the sinking of the Titanic a little more than a day earlier. Harriet arrived back in the US on May 12, along with her new 70hp Blériot two-seater monoplane, an aircraft designed for military use.

Regardless of her English Channel feat being overshadowed by the Titanic tragedy, Harriet was very much in demand among promoters of aviation events back in the US. So much so she was able to drive a hard bargain for an offer of $100,000 for seven appearances in the new Blériot during the June 29-July 7 Boston aviation meeting at the Harvard Aviation Field, Squantum, Quincy, north of Boston Harbour. For this third annual Boston meeting, organisers moved the grandstand and runway closer to the water. There was trouble on the horizon, however, because the Aero Club of America refused to sanction the event when organisers would not guarantee the pilots the prizemoney stipulated in their contracts. (Male pilots would later be disciplined by the ACA for taking part in the Boston meeting.)  Dubbed “The Queen of the Air”, Harriet flew on the first day, a Saturday, taking with her on one flight William Henry “Harry” Willard (1890-1962), one of the meeting manager’s sons, who had won a toss of a cent coin with his father to take the passenger seat in the Blériot. Sandbags would normally be required if the seat behind the pilot was not occupied. Fatefully, Harry’s 48-year-old father, William Augustus Putnam Willard Jr, decided to fly with Harriet on the Monday. The 190lb Bill Willard perhaps felt that, after agreeing to Harriet’s stiff terms, he was also entitled to a ride. There were no events on the Sunday (Harriet never flew on the Sabbath anyway).

Bill Willard

On the Monday, Harriet took the pilot’s seat for one last flight at 5.45pm. As Willard boarded, a spectator yelled in jest, “Throw Bill into the bay, Miss Quimby, before you come back.” More ill-timed words have never been spoken. According to The Boston Globe’s full-page coverage the next morning, the first theory about this tragic flight was that Harriet had suffered an attack of vertigo and lost control of her plane. It was merely the most immediate of many theories to emerge over the ensuing days and years, but today the cause of the deaths of Harriet and Willard remains a mystery. The most likely - other than a design fault in the Blériot - is that for some reason Willard stood up from his seat. Stevens maintained Willard had “suddenly strained forward to speak to Miss Quimby”. Willard was tossed out of the plane first. The Blériot’s tail rose sharply and Harriet was also catapulted out. The two bodies hit four feet of muddy water in Dorchester Bay, 200 feet from the shore. An autopsy by Dr Fred E. Jones that night found Harriet had died on impact, of a fractured skull, a broken right leg and two broken arms. She was the 42nd aviator to die to that date that year.

Harriet's body is brought ashore.

 Harriet was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York. Among those who attended her memorial service in New York was Lee Spear Burridge, inventor of the Sun and Corona typewriters - and a man with a great interest in aviation. The following year Harriet’s remains were moved to the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

The Arcadia Museum has this Quimby exhibition, including a Corona typewriter.

Friday, 23 October 2020

La Femme Fatale: The Japy Typewriter Heiress Who Pleasured the French President to Death

A young Marguerite Japy.

The Fay-Sho as a Japy.

The odd mécascriptophile (French for typewriter collector) among us is amused by the occasional bit of spice mixed into their machine à écrire obssession. That, indeed, might explain a couple of efforts to couple typewriters with erotica (as a prime example, Paul Robert’s Sexy Legs). And, after all, typewriter collecting is a mild form of masochism; as least they’re tied together in my experience. Quiet what we can make of Marguerite Japy, an heiress in the Japy Frères typewriter enterprise, knocking off Felix Faure, the president of France, in the Palais de l’Élysée on the afternoon of February 16, 1899, is another matter. There wasn’t, as far as I can tell, a typewriter anywhere to be seen in Faure’s discreet ground floor “Blue Room”, though Marguerite would later claim she was there to help Faure write his autobiography. But there was, apparently, nothing “auto” going on, except that Faure was dosed to the eyeballs with the powerful aphrodisiac cantharide officinale (Spanish fly). When palace officials, responding to shouts from the room, entered, they found Faure rapidly expiring from a heart attack, his trousers down around his ankles, and Marguerite beside him adjusting her clothing and trying to get Faure’s rigid fingers out of her hair, so tightly entwined that they eventually had to be cut loose. A French newspaper declared “Félix Faure has sacrificed too much to Venus”. English writer James Womack, in a poem published in Literary Review last May, said Faure died “of a stiff apoplexy, while receiving oral gratification from his mistress …”

Marguerite Steinheil.

       Marguerite Jeanne “Meg” Japy was, by then, Marguerite Steinheil, having married the academic painter Édouard Charles Adolphe Steinheil, 19 years her senior, in 1890.  Two decades later, in attempts to escape her Parisienne reputation as a salonnière and demi-mondaine, Marguerite moved to England, called herself Madame de Serignac, and in marrying Robert Brooke Campbell Scarlett, the 6th Baron Abinger, in 1917, became Baroness - or Lady - Abinger. How rich is that? Literally the Scarlett Lady!  Marguerite was born the daughter of rentier Édouard Louis Frédéric Japy (1832-1888) on April 16, 1869, in the home of the Japy typewriter, Beaucourt, of the Territoire de Belfort, east of the Principality of Montbéliard. That’s where, in 1771, Frédéric Louis Japy (1749-1812), the family patriarch, returned from serving an apprenticeship in watchmaking in Switzerland. Five years later Frédéric founded a factory to produce his own timepieces. By 1806 he had 500 workers and handed over the operation to his sons, Fritz-Guillaume (1774-1854, Marguerite’s great-grandfather), Louis Frédéric (1777-1852) and Jean Pierre (1785-1863). The Japy Frères diversified their empire, eventually reaching a range that included clocks, locks, wrought iron utensils, screws and tools, bicycle parts, motors, lighting, garden and other furniture, pumps, coffee mills and a motorised camera. In 1850 the family owned five factories and by the 1880s employed 5000 workers in nine factories. Japy  Frères was the second largest company in France, in terms of capital, during the Second Empire (1852-1870). In 1909, the year Marguerite left Paris and settled in England, Japy Frères had secured the rights to manufacture the Remington-Sholes (aka Rem-Sho, Fay-Sho) typewriter in Beaucourt.

As her family’s various businesses disintegrated in the 1930s, Marguerite, having survived the Faure scandal - by enjoying “flattering notoriety” in French political circles - escaped charges of murdering her mother and husband in 1908*, and an affair with King Sisowath of Cambodia, lived a quiet and peaceful life in Hove in Sussex. She died in a nursing home there on July 18, 1954, aged 85. (*The soundest theory seems to be that the deaths resulted from a visit to Marguerite by one of her multitude of lovers, a relative of the Tsar of Russia, and his guilt in the matter was hushed up by the French Government – that is, Marguerite’s trial was a mere show case).


Marguerite Steinheil at her second wedding.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Love is a Many-Splendored Underwood Portable Typewriter

For some strange reason, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing popped into my head, and it has taken weeks to shake it out again. It was the song that bugged me, not the movie or the soap opera (neither of which I can recall seeing). Maybe it came to mind because some bright spark asked in a newspaper quiz question, “Who sang Unchained Melody?”, apparently not knowing there are at least 27 different answers to this poser, all of which would be perfectly correct. Unchained Melody had been topping charts around the world for 35 years before Ghost was made in 1990. But what’s that got to do with Love is a Many-Splendored Thing? Only that the enduring Unchained Melody was edged by Love is a Many-Splendored Thing for the 1955 Academy Award for Best Original Song. Part of that Oscar should probably have gone to the estate of Giacomo Puccini, since Love is a Many-Splendored Thing's refrain is based on the aria Un bel dì vedremo from  Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly. The version of the movie theme song that got stuck in my head was by the Four Aces, who also had other memorable million-sellers with Three Coins in a Fountain and Stranger in Paradise. Those old 78rp shellacs I recall very clearly.  Yet what I have on my mind most of the time these days are typewriters. So it has to be typewriter-related, no? Could it not be that Richard Polt posted on his blog and on Instagram with his beautiful “Tuxedo Typer” (which, incidentally, was at stake the only time Richard and I ever bid against one another on eBay. He offered to back off, but I pulled out of the auction.) This machine is, as Richard said, a “black-and-white version of the Underwood De Luxe Quiet Tab [which] is the rarest variation”. I have owned the more common variations, but I have also owned an Underwood Finger-Flite Champion, one of the best 10 typewriters I've ever used.

       Why, pray tell, would an Underwood De Luxe Quiet Tab or a Finger-Flite Champion spark thoughts of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing? Well, it turns out that in the movie, William Holden plays American foreign correspondent Mark Elliott, who uses … well, it looked at first glance to be the more common colour variation of an Underwood De Luxe Quiet Tab. Except, on closer inspection, I don’t think it is the DLQT, but an earlier Paul Braginetz design, the Finger-Flite (which reached the market in September 1950; the movie begins in Hong Kong in 1949). Both models, I believe, have slots at the back (and that’s the angle we’re mostly seeing the Holden-Elliott typewriter) to adjust the margins, and there’s a covering panel exactly where the Underwood Corporation decal would be; the colour combo fits the Finger-Flite too. The two-toned typewriter is seen in Holden-Elliott’s office and being used - Holden stops typing to admire a butterfly that lands on it - at the Korean War front. (Spoiler alert: The character dies in a bombing raid seconds later). I can’t recall ever seeing either an Underwood DLQT or a Finger-Flite in another movie or TV show. And given that both lean more toward a semi-portable than an out-and-out travelling machine, I tend to think foreign correspondents might have steered clear of these particular models. On the other hand, actors playing foreign correspondents could be another matter. Here’s Holden getting off a plane at Ciampino International Airport “G. B. Pastine” in Rome in April 1957. Is that a typewriter case in his left hand? One of those Underwood cases that came with a stand?

       But here we get to the nub of all this. The Mark Elliott character played by Holden is based on an Australian war correspondent called Ian Morrison. I was actually looking into the life of Morrison a few weeks ago when I stumbled across the extraordinary story of US war correspondent Yates McDaniel. Naturally, I got completely side-tracked, posted on this blog about McDaniel and put Morrison on the back-burner. But it was Morrison, not the theme song or the Underwood typewriter, that sowed the seed of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing in my head. Indeed, Morrison died in the Korean War in 1950. And while based in Singapore in 1949, he had had an affair in Hong Kong with Chinese doctor and widow Han Suyin, who in 1952 wrote the best-seller novel (A Many-Splendoured Thing) that led to the 1955 movie (Han is played by Jennifer Jones) with a slightly different title and the million-selling song.

Ian Morrison

Han Suyin was born Rosalie Matilda Kuanghu Chou in Xinyang, Henan, China, on  September 12, 1917, the daughter of a Belgian-educated Chinese engineer and his Flemish wife. Han started work as a typist at the Peking Union Medical College in 1931 and in 1935 went to Brussels to study medicine. She was widowed in 1947 when her Chinese army officer husband was killed in action during the Chinese Civil War. In 1949 Han went to Hong Kong to practise at the Queen Mary Hospital. She died in Lausanne on November 2, 2012, aged 95.

Han Suyin.

Ian Ernest McLeavy Morrison was born in what is now Beijing on May 31, 1913, the eldest son of Australian adventurer and journalist George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920) and Jennie Wark Robin (1889-1923). His father, The Times' first Peking correspondent, had been living in China on and off since 1897. From 1935-38, Ian Morrison was an English lecturer at Hokkaido Imperial University in Sapporo, Japan. During World War II, Morrison covered the Pacific Front and was promoted from freelance contributor to full-time staff correspondent of his father’s old newspaper, The Times. After the war he was stationed in Singapore as a correspondent for The Times. While visiting Hong Kong, he met Han. Morrison died on August 12, 1950, when a jeep carrying him struck a landmine during the Battle of Taegu (now called Daegu) in the north Gyeongsang province of South Korea. 

Morrison with his wife, Maria Therese Neubauer.

As for the Underwood Finger-Flite Champion, it was the first of Braginetz’s line of new designs for Underwood portables. The last of Willie Dobson’s styling, which dated back to March 1936, was the Underwood Champion “with finger-flite control” which was still being advertised in July 1952.



Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Masters of Editing, Newspaper Design and Typography: Vale Harold Evans and Ed Benguiat

Harold Evans at an Imperial 55 standard typewriter.
Getting his hands dirty: Evans on "the stone".
They were born eight months apart and on opposite sides of the Atlantic; one in Brooklyn, New York, the other in Salford, Greater Manchester, each cherished spots in many forms of modern culture. They both died aged 92, three weeks apart, one in New York City, the other in New Jersey. It seems unlikely they ever met, yet Harold Evans and Ed Benguiat, each in their own way, changed the way the world looked at, understood and appreciated type fonts. In Evans’ case, as arguably the finest journalist of the 20th Century, his insightful and courageous leadership of the London Sunday Times, and his keen eye for newspaper page layout, set benchmarks for print newspapers worldwide in the last quarter of the century. His five-volume 1972 manual of English, typography and layout, Editing and Design, quickly became the bible for journalists tasked with presenting the daily and weekly news in an accurate, eye-friendly and catching way. Benguiat was a gifted typographer and lettering artist who crafted more than 600 typeface designs, including Tiffany, Bookman, Panache, Souvenir, Edwardian Script, and the eponymous Benguiat and Benguiat Gothic. He designed or redesigned the logotypes for Esquire, The New York Times, Playboy, McCall’s, Reader’s Digest, Look and Sports Illustrated.

Evans marshals the troops at The Times.

Sir Harold Matthew Evans was born in Patricroft, Eccles, a part of that “dirty old town” Salford, on June 28, 1928. From such grim beginnings, he went on to brighten the pages of newspapers across the world. He also led a campaign for more informed journalism. Even in his last years, as print newspapers folded across the globe in the face of the challenge of the Internet, Evans continued to argue strenuously that financial investment in good journalism would be the saviour of newspapers, that consumers would still prefer quality and accurate journalism over the half-baked nonsense that appears online. Evans was editor of The Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981, including the period when I worked for that newspaper as an Irish rugby correspondent. The evil Rupert Murdoch, a man who should be charged with crimes against humanity, acquired the Times group in 1981 and Evans was appointed editor of the daily Times but soon fell out with the Dirty Digger. Evans had set up the Sunday Times’ brilliant Insight investigative team, most notable for its exposure, through Australian journalist Philip Knightley, of the dangers of thalidomide, which caused children to be born with severely deformed limbs. This campaign was the subject of a documentary, Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime. Evans was knighted in 2004 for his services to journalism and in 2011 he became editor-at-large of the Reuters news agency.

Evans started his career as 16-year-old reporter for a weekly newspaper in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. He became a sub-editor then assistant editor on the Manchester Evening News, moving on to be editor of a regional daily, The Northern Echo, in 1961, at just 33. He joined The Sunday Times in 1966. In 1984, Evans moved to the United States. He died of congestive heart failure in New York City on September, 23, aged of 92.

Ephram Edward Benguiat was born in Brooklyn on October 27, 1927. He started his design career by working, in his words, as a “cleavage retoucher” during the restrictive period after World War II, when the Hays Code imposed restrictions on nudity in motion pictures. Benguiat’s role involved airbrushing and other techniques to do away with nudity in published works. He went on to study graphical design, calligraphy and typography at the Workshop School of Advertising Art under the Russian-American graphical artist and calligrapher Paul Standard. He was hired as a designer by Esquire magazine in 1953 and subsequently went on to join Photo Lettering Inc as a design director in 1962. It was here that he worked on utilising photo technology for commercial typography and lettering. He helped set up the International Typeface Corporation in 1970. Benguiat died of cancer at his home in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, on October 15, 12 days before his 93rd birthday.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

And I Love Typewriters, Too

AMERICA, I LOVE YOU

By Mark Mordue

America, I love you:
you’re Peggy Lipton in Mod Squad,
you’re Patti Smith in the ‘Piss Factory’,
you’re Cary Grant and Sidney Poitier,
Arsenic and Old Lace
and the Lilies of the Field,
my grandmother and I
watching you on the television,
laughing and finding holiness
and beauty in a prayer.
You’re the fast talk and fists
of Muhammad Ali,
all the heavyweight boxers
of the twentieth century
whose names and stories
I knew by heart,
so heroic and broken down.
You’re the poems of Gil Scott-Heron
and Robert Lowell and Charles Bukowski,
each man singing of his street,
the junkie twilight, the Nantucket graveyard,
the booze and unripe corn.
You’re New York in winter 1999,
a very light snow falling
on Christmas morning
that I taste on my tongue,
above me a billboard
with Jackson Pollock
drip painting
as if he were lunging from the sky
to flicker me with white enamel
using only a stick
and the cosmic weight of history -
‘The MOMA Exhibition’.
You’re Carson McCullers
and the story of a girl growing up,
you’re Robert Kennedy’s blood
and the panic of a crowd,
you’re the first time I saw a man
ever get killed for real
sitting as a child, cross-legged
on the lounge-room floor,
getting it in the eyes, live.
You’re Apollo 11 and a flag
and skipping on the moon,
you’re The Doors
loud on the turntable
grooving for peace and murder
on the sex of a Saturday afternoon.
You’re the Vietnam I grew up on
like some form of malaria
that got in my dreams
and left me with
apocalypse-now eyes.
You’re Nirvana inspiring,
a band like friends I knew
that somehow got
to the top of the world
and reversed their way
In Utero
into shotgun garage seclusions.
You’re Bewitched and Happy Days,
you ARE my childhood smiling.
You’re Tom Waits talking for me
in a telephone interview
about Swordfish and Trombones,
you’re Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man
floating out to die
in a burning canoe
like I would wish to do.
You’re Bob Dylan
tangled up in blue,
longing to be young
and being young
teaching me how to dream.
America, I love you,
you’re so much of everything
that is me and my world.
And now the man at Rushmore
with a stone in his soul
and gold for skin
is taking you down
into the valley of guns
where God and democracy die.
It is the climax of the movie,
violent and complex and unsure,
with high buildings
and clouds pursuing,
and an escape through
the fierce and strange mess
of a John Ford film,
the red sandstone
where God shaped the West
into great sublime beings
watching you make it through
into the arms of Katherine Hepburn
and Cormac McCarthy,
your stern but loving parents
who cut time up into quarters
like an orange
and tell you to suck on it,
taste it, sweet and sour,
the juice from California,
the orange as spiritual
and absolute and full
of peace and struggle
as a Mark Rothko painting.
Don’t kill yourself America.
Don’t go mad.
Don’t lose faith
in your art.
I’m putting on a Joni Mitchell record,
Hejira, following
the difficult journey she made,
and I am once again
light and heavy,
wishing I were
like that coyote Sam Shepard,
floating on a bass line
to walk the girders
of the Manhattan skyline
with little Indian kids,
believing forever
in your poetry and love.