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Thursday 25 April 2024

Chipping Away for the Workers. Reg Bailey and his Imperial Good Companion Typewriter

Today, April 25, is Anzac Day, and many New Zealanders will be honouring their war dead. But one brave New Zealander, who died on Anzac Day in 1963, will not be remembered. All that remains to remind us of this man’s life is his Imperial Good Companion portable typewriter and its (appropriately) bright red case, which are in Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand). Reginald John “Chip” Bailey was the target of numerous police raids in the days of a “Red Scare” which mirrored McCarthyism in the United States. Bailey was a communist activist and trade unionist who used his Imperial to type daily clandestine news bulletins, leaflets and pamphlets in his home in Wellington during the 1951 waterfront lockout. It was an offence to print or publish anything that supported the workers. All means of communicating in a democratic society were forbidden – publications, news articles, picketing, marches, processions, meetings, posters. Police ransacked Bailey's home searching for the typewriter, but failed to find where it was hidden. It sat behind a false panel on top of the pantry. Historians have since estimated the typewriter helped produce 650,000 bulletins and 400,000 pamphlets and leaflets.
Bailey was born on March 16, 1921, in Blenheim. Because of his independence of mind he was expelled from the Communist Party in the late 1940s. He was an avid sports fan but strongly opposed sporting contact with South Africa. He died of a brain tumour in Dunedin Hospital, aged 42. Bailey’s death robbed the trade union movement of one of its most able leaders. Contemporaries described him as an outstanding intellectual who was ahead of his time.


Saturday 2 September 2023

Julia Talledge in The Black Hills with her Oliver No 9 Typewriter

Further to my post yesterday, today I received from Laurie Cox of the Stroppel Hotel and 
Mineral Baths in Midland, South Dakota, these images of Julia Talledge at her Oliver No 9 typewriter. It was yet another happy consequence of family members getting in touch with me following an ozTypewriter post. In this case, it was a post titled "Calamity-less Julia, Her Typewriter and The Black Hills of Dakota" which was published on February 4 last year. The post included a newspaper image showing Julia at the Wilge Nursing Home in Mitchell, 175 miles east of her beloved Midland. She died there in June 1978, aged 95. In the clipping, she looked just like she does here, so these photos may have been taken at late as 1975.
In July last year Julia's great-niece by marriage, Jinny Talledge, commented on the post. A few days later, another great niece, Rhonda Talledge Mataczynski, got in touch to say, "Aunt Julia was my father’s aunt and a fun lady to visit. I remember her being a tall imposing woman with a very sharp wit. We often took her brothers - my grandfather Ben and brother Roy - out to Midland to see her. My father was a pastor and history teacher and was a favourite of hers. Thank you for all this info. Some of it I remember. I know that my father was extremely proud of his Aunt Julia and they corresponded right up to her death."
Last month Laurie Cox wrote "Thank you for this posting. My husband and I own the Stroppel Hotel and Mineral Baths in Midland, SD. I am working on the application to put the hotel on the national registry. Julia Talledge has repeatedly come up. I had a niece of Julia's come visit the hotel. At that time I did not have the information to know how influential and how strong of a woman that Julia Talledge was. I wish I had that personal visit back with her niece. I plan to do themed historical rooms here in the hotel and you can bet that Julia Talledge will be on the list of Midland's most influential people." Laurie then offered to send me pictures of Julia’s typewriter from an exhibit in the Midland Museum.
In 1907 the adventurous Julia settled in a shack at Mitchell Creek outside Midland, a small rural town in the south-eastern corner of Haakon County. The Oliver No 9 was first made in 1915.

Friday 1 September 2023

For 'KL': The Boy With The Green Hair

Of the 2937 posts on this blog, one that I am most proud of was published on March 13, 2019, under the heading, “Betsy Beaton, The Boy With Green Hair and the Underwood 6 Typewriter”. There wasn’t a lot in it about typewriters, but it took many, many hours of research to identify the lady in the photo with the Underwood standard – and her achievements. The end result was satisfying to say the least. The post opened, “On the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, I went through an exhaustive exercise of exploring the Internet’s many failings, its virtues and the boundless opportunities it offers.” My old friend Bill MacLane commented, “Congratulations on another fine investigative report on someone new to me. I'm always amazed at how good you are at finding information on relatively unknown (at least to me) people and such detail you are able to post.”

Earlier this year I had cause to comment on Instagram and Facebook, “One of the best things about [blogging] is making contact, through comments, with descendants of people who have featured in past posts … [including] the grand-daughter of Betsy Beaton, who wrote 'The Boy With the Green Hair' … There was almost nothing online about Betsy Beaton until I researched her life story, and now I notice the IMDb, which previously had no details, has updated its entry on Betsy using info from ozTypewriter - without, of course, any acknowledgement. But, then, that goes for images I see almost daily on Instagram. I suppose I should be glad to be of service!”

This was in response to a message on Instagram from Susan Forman, saying, "Hello Robert, I cannot thank you enough for your wonderful piece entitled, 'Betsy Beaton, The Boy With Green Hair and the Underwood 6 Typewriter'. If possible, I would love to have your email address. 'Wendy', Betsy's daughter, is my mother, technically mother-in-law, but we are very close and this article has meant the world to her. She too, would love to contact you." Needless to say, I've heard no more.

But this week I received another comment on the Betsy Beaton post. “KL” wrote, “This is incredible! Your post was exactly what I'd been searching for regarding the life of Betsy Beaton. I was wondering ... do you know where I can get a copy of her short story, ‘The Boy with Green Hair’? I was trying to locate it online with no luck. I see you have an excerpt here. I'd really like to read it all. I just found a copy of ‘Another Man's Shoes’ online and I'm tempted to buy it. I'm curious to read it as well.” The line I liked best was, "Thanks for taking the time to recognize a woman writer who was obviously undervalued at the time (and still is)."

Well, for that “KL”, here it is in full:

Friday 28 July 2023

On This Day 120 Years Ago: The Underwood 5 Standard Typewriter Shift-Lock

I’ve been asked to service before sale this 1903 (serial #302981) Underwood 5. It’s history includes a thorough rebuild in the 1920s or 30s by an Elizabeth Street, Sydney, outfit called Typewriter Trading Co.

The Underwood is pretty close to being immaculate for its age, but I’m intrigued by the lack of a shift lock key. The right shift key automatically activates the lock, which is a lever with a small black knob on top.

I’ve looked at a 1908 Underwood 5 (#231413) on Ted Munk’s database and it appears to have the same arrangement. I also looked into Underwood 5 patents and noted that 120 years ago on this day, July 28, 1903, Edward Manning and Oscar Kavle were granted a patent for “an improved shift-key mechanism [which] has particular reference to the device for locking the platen in its upper position …”

This is clearly for the shift-lock key with which most of us are more familiar. So I'm guessing the earliest Underwood 5s didn't have a shift-lock key, but the lever instead. There are also one or two other tiny differences from the later model Underwood 5s I’m more used the working with.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Jefferson Moody Clough, The Unsung "Typewriter Maker of Ilion"

World Typewriter Day was marked yesterday and merely acted as a reminder that Latham Sholes’s earliest patents were barely practical and needed a lot of work before a fully functioning typewriter could emerge. One man responsible for much of that work was Jefferson Moody Clough (1829-1908). The 1916 Encyclopedia of Massachusetts states Clough was also “paid handsomely” to perfect the Hammond and Yōst typewriters.

Above is the only known photograph of Clough, the man who deserves as much credit as anyone for the successful launch of the typewriter on July 1, 1874. It was under Clough’s supervision that E. Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York, was able to mass produce a marketable machine from the crudely-made early versions of the Sholes & Glidden. Outside of Latham Sholes and Carlos Glidden themselves, Clough was one of only two people who were paid royalties in the typewriter’s earliest years – in Clough’s case 50 cents for every machine sold. Sholes and Glidden got a dollar each. A third dollar went to Charles Ames Washburn for his carriage movement patent - the royalties came from each $125 typewriter sale, but the $3.50 was to be paid from just $12 a machine which flowed through to James Densmore and George Yōst's Type-Writer Company from Remington. 
At the time of his retirement from the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 1, 1892, Clough was nationally known as “The Gunmaker of Ilion”. His work on the Sholes & Glidden, Remington 1 and 2 and Hammond and Yōst typewriters had all but been forgotten. Newspapers reported he had been “intimately associated all his life with the development of the two best American rifles, the Remington and Winchester”. In 1904 he perfected a Clough Mauser Gun, the rights to which were bought to stop it going into production and competing in the marketplace with the like of Remington and Winchester.
Clough left Remington at the most important period in China’s so-called “Self-Strengthening Movement” (1861-1895) - its development of military industries and the construction of arsenals sponsored by the central government. Qing dynasty statesman and general Li Hongzhang wanted the Jiangnan Arsenal to produce breech loading rifles of the Remington type but the few local products made were more costly and far inferior to the imported rifles. During the Ili crisis, when Qing China threatened to go to war against Russia over the Russian occupation of Ili, China bought 260,260 modern rifles from Europe and offered Jefferson Clough a vast amount of money to oversee its arsenals.
Clough declined the Chinese offer and instead accepted $7500 a year ($250,000 in today’s money) to work for Winchester in New Haven. Ill health forced his retirement in 1892 and Clough retired to the 500-acre Phelps farm at Belchertown, Massachusetts. He began to recover his health in 1894 but died of bowel cancer at Belchertown on January 16, 1908, aged 78.

Sunday 1 January 2023

RIP Barbara Walters (1929-2022)

Barbara Jill Walters (September 25, 1929 – December 30, 2022) was an American broadcast journalist known for her interviewing ability. Walters appeared as a host of numerous television programs, including Today, the ABC Evening News, 20/20 and The View. Walters was a working journalist from 1951 until her retirement in 2015. She died at her home in Manhattan on Friday, aged 93.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

The Joys of Fixing Typewriters

The "automatic return" Halda
Barking mad?: What was really wrong with it - a piece of bark in the escapement mechanism.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Vale Angela Lansbury (1925-2022)

It's a very long time since typewriters featured so heavily on our television screens. They've done so today as networks have paid tribute to the late actress Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury. Lansbury died in her sleep at her home in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning, five days before her 97th birthday. Born in London, she was a distant cousin of former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (their grandfathers were first cousins). Lansbury was known for her frequent use of Royal standard typewriters in her role as Jessica Fletcher in the TV series Murder She Wrote.

Above, Lansbury and Turnbull. Below, a baby Turnbull at a Mercedes portable typewriter.