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Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Ultra Quick Black Fox Jumps All Over the Crazy Old Blogger

New on the Messenger shelf as of this sunny Canberra autumn afternoon - thanks to the nonpareil Derrick Brown in Brisbane - is this sleek, fabulously decorated Fox No 24, in beautiful working condition. I first saw the Fox in Derrick's workshop last August and fell in love with it straight away. All through Queensland's devastating cyclone and flooding, I prayed Derrick would keep it out of harm's way. And he did. Now I can type away on it to my heart's content. And I have every good reason to call this a "Quick Black Fox", because, on researching this model on the web today, I found these wonderful write-ups about the No 24's unmatchable speed from Guy PĂ©rard and David B.Davis:

Guy on the website says, “Speed devil with flair: Because of its concept, the Fox Visible that came on to the market in 1906 has it all ... Looks, with sloping lines and fine adornments. Speed due to a light touch and shift. And last but not least, the “speed escapement” that pushes the carriage along at full-speed after each key touch. Even the fastest typist will never embarrass this machine."

Even more enthusiastic, if that’s possible, was Will’s dad, David Davis, who reviewed the Fox No 24 in his collection and raved about its “incredible typing capability”: “This machine is an early Fox No 24; it is new enough to incorporate the tabulator but is not new enough to include the backspace key. This places the machine obviously later than the 1906 introduction of the line, but not later than about 1909, which was when Carl Mares wrote that machines of this brand were beginning to include the back-spacer.
“Before we describe the features of the machine, it is significant to make a note about it. This machine is without doubt the fastest typewriter ever tested by the author (Dave’s underlining, not mine). It is faster than the Woodstock or R.C.Allen machines described elsewhere on this site, and is also faster than any Underwood. Every attempt to exceed the machine's speed capability was thwarted. It not only refused to pile up type bars, but also absolutely refused to skip its escapement. The machine (like the Fox blind-writer before it) has a two-speed escapement, and the machine is actually set on ‘high speed’.
“The lightness of the touch of this machine cannot be believed; neither can the ease and lightness of the shift, which in this machine moves the typebasket and not the platen or carriage. The operation of the machine is absolutely effortless vis a vis the keyboard and anything on it.

“The typebars fly to the print point, and with the escapement set on expert or high speed, the platen moves when the type is about one or one and a half inches away. They then return instantaneously.

“The literature of the time well describes the rather unusual construction of the Fox Visible as regards the typebars and their mounting methods. Briefly, it should be noted that about one third of the type bars are only about half as long as the others; there are also two different mounting rings (perhaps you could call them bearing mounts) on which type bars are hinged. The bearings themselves are large, and the design appears at first to be very awkward and unconventional. That idea is quickly eliminated from thought when actual work is performed on the machine.”

Later, Dave adds, “The response is so even from key to key and the touch required so light that any typist with any method or style could successfully operate and very likely enjoy it. We simply cannot say enough about it; it is unexcelled … the powers in charge earlier at the Fox Typewriter Company knew what a typewriter should be, and what it had to do - and knew how to make it extremely easy to operate and yet robust at the same time.”
Most typewriter lovers know the sad story of the Fox company's demise, following its costly attempt to enter the burgeoning portable market. And yet ... and yet ... what did I spy on British eBay not so long ago? Oh, no! Like the Royal and the Imperial before it, the  little (Blue) Fox finished up singing, "I think I'm turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so ..." (These were sold through W.H.Smith stores):


shordzi said...

Congratulations, what a fabulous machine!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Georg. I was just outside having a celebratory glass of wine and was thinking about you over there in Switzerland in spring. I come inside and you've left a comment! How spooky is that? We must be telepathic or something.

Richard P said...

These really are superb typewriters, and so beautiful.

My interest in Foxes was first piqued when I found Paul Lippman's "American Typewriters: A Collectors' Encyclopedia" in 1994 -- the book that turned my interest into an obsession -- and he said in his introduction that until recently he did all his writing on a Fox.

rn said...

Just got a Fox 24 with a 16-inch platen sprinting again. Still has a few kinks to work out, but it sure is one canny machine, and swell to write with.

Question: there's a metal knob on the left side of the frame. It seems to make the carriage move quicker and easier if it's turned 1/4 turn counterclockwise. Do you know what that knob controls?

The Urban Monk said...

In Phoenix and just bought a Fox 26 (1912?)... it's all there but covered in layers of dust... looking to find out as much as I can about it (anyone have an owner's manual?). Great site, info and love to see the restored pics. Thanks!

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Urban Monk. I'm afraid I don't have a Fox manual, however. Congratulations on your purchase. I don't think you'll be disappointed.