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Thursday 2 June 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (XIII)

(Three weeks to go to
 “Typewriter Day”)
On this day in 1886, US President Grover Cleveland become the first and only President to be married in the White House. He married Frances Clara Folsom Cleveland Preston, who was just six weeks short of her 22nd birthday at the time.
She remains the youngest First Lady to this day. Cleveland was 49.
Before Cleveland’s second term in office, in 1893, he was having difficulty constructing his platform and getting along with his own party, and a cartoon in Judge magazine drawn by Bernard Gillam showed a profusely sweating Cleveland trying to manipulate the Democrats "like a typewriter".
The cartoon was titled “The Administration Typewriter” and showed the party as a typewriter, with the faces of prominent Democrats on the keys. The caption reads, “Blame the thing -I can't make it work!” Here is a coloured print of the cartoon (so good it's with repeating):
It was on this day in 1925 that New York Yankees manager Miller “Mighty Mite” Huggins changed his lineup to replace Wally Pipp at first base with Henry Louis Gehrig - Lou Gehrig, like Miss Folsom on her wedding day, just two weeks shy of being 22-years-old. This was the start of a streak of 2130 consecutive games played by Gehrig, a record not beaten until 1995 (by Carl Ripken Jnr). Gehrig would be nicknamed “The Iron Horse” and “Iron Man” for his durability.
Exactly 16 years later, on this day in 1941, Gehrig died in Riverdale, New York City, from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease now more commonly called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was a fortnight short of his 38th birthday.
Gehrig’s wife Eleanor Gehrig, the daughter of Chicago Parks commissioner Frank Twitchell, was with Gehrig at the end (they had married in 1933). This photograph of Eleanor typing as Lou dictates from his notes was taken on November 12, 1939, at Larchmont, New York.
The caption for the photo said Gehrig was preparing for his new job as a member of the three-man New York Municipal Parole Commission. He was taking the job seriously - Eleanor is here typing from notes taken from 30 volumes and leaflets on criminology and parole. New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, the caption said, was “counting on [Gehrig’s] influence with wayward youth on setting them along the straight and narrow." LaGuardia, who called Gehrig “the greatest prototype of good sportsmanship and citizenship”, had offered Gehrig a 10-year term as a commissioner. The Parole Commission commended Gehrig for his “firm belief in parole, properly administered”, and added that Gehrig “indicated he accepted the parole post because it represented an opportunity for public service. He had rejected other job offers – including lucrative speaking and guest appearance opportunities – worth far more financially than the $5700 a year commissionership.” Gehrig visited New York City's correctional facilities, but insisted that the visits not be covered by news media. Gehrig was often helped by Eleanor, who would guide his hand when he had to sign official documents. About a month before his death, when Gehrig reached the point where his deteriorating physical condition made it impossible for him to continue in the job, he quietly resigned.
Eleanor Gehrig dedicated the rest of her life to supporting ALS research. She died on March 6, March, 1984, on her 80th birthday.
Born (at Oswestry, Shropshire) on this day in 1913 was English novelist Barbara Mary Crampton Pym. Barbara Pym (seen above with her Royalite portable typewriter) died of breast cancer in 1980, aged 66.
On this day exactly 120 years ago (1891), the great typewriter inventor Thomas Hall, at the time living in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, was granted a patent for the last of his wonderful typewriters (assigned to his own New Jersey company). This was for the lesser-known of his machines, called the Century. (I can't seem to find any images of it, apart from this illustration from G.C.Mares's 1909 The History of the Typewriter: Successor to the Pen, reproduced in Paul Lippman's 1992 American Typewriters).
Hall had started inventing typewriters even before Christopher Latham Sholes. His first patent, for a “typographic machine”, was granted on June 18, 1867, when he was also living in Bergen. At that same time, he also invented improvements for the Buell sewing machine (1866, see photo below) for George Buell, connecting rods for machinery (1867) and lamp burners (1866).
Hall in later life moved to Brooklyn, and died there on November 18, 1911, aged 78 (this is according to The New York Times death notices at the time; A Condensed History of the Writing Machine (1923) says he died on November 19, aged 77). This is what Mares wrote about the Century:
Hall’s first manufactured typewriter was the Hall, regarded as one of the first index typewriters and also as one of the best. There are various versions of this design, referred to by collectors as the New York, Salem and Boston models (as well as a portable). The image below is from Anthony Casillo's Typewriter Memory Lane [you may note the advertisement at the bottom is signed by William Dean Howells]:
The Salem Hall index was one of the first typewriters to be imported into Australia. One held by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has the serial number 8354, indicating it was made about 1887. This has a label inside its case stating, “Sole Agents Australasia, Mackrell Mills & Co, Sydney and Melbourne”. William Mackrell Mills was a wealthy Sydney merchant who lived at “Harlands”, No 78 Crinan Street, Hurlstone Park. The Hall's weight and size may well have been an important factor in making it viable to be imported into Australia in the late 1880s, early 1890s.


teeritz said...

This has become an interesting, and no doubt time consuming for you, series, Robert. Very informative!

Richard P said...

A wealth of knowledge and interest indeed.

I have been aware of the Century from Mares for years, but have never seen one for sale. I don't know whether it was actually produced in series.