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Wednesday 14 September 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (CXIV)



Probably the most influential typewriter design of the 1950s, if not throughout the whole of the second half of the 20th century, was the Underwood Golden Touch designed in Hartford, Connecticut, in October 1956 by Paul Artem Braginetz.
It may be stated elsewhere that Raymond Spilman, another famous American design engineer of the period - and one who also worked for Underwood - designed the Golden Touch. He did not. Spilman, along with Charles A. Jerabek and Roger Engel, came up with a later and very slight variation of the Golden Touch, best known to us as the Leader, in December 1958, exactly 26 months to the day after Braginetz applied for a patent on his Golden Touch design.
Braginetz’s patent was issued in September 1957, and Spilman et al’s in November 1959. Spilman et al referenced the earlier Braginetz design in their patent application.
Another of Braginetz's earlier Underwood designs was the spectacularly beautiful Quiet Tab:
Seaver Collection
Of course, these highly stylish designs represented Underwood’s last-ditched efforts to hold the circling financial sharks at bay. Indeed, by the time Spilman’s design was granted, Olivetti had held a 69 per cent controlling interest in Underwood for the best part of a month. The two corporations were subsequently merged on October 23, 1963, by which time Olivetti wholly owned Underwood. Papers were executed to create Olivetti-Underwood, effective the next day, when the Underwood Corporation ceased to exist.
It was on this day in 1956 that Underwood released a corporate flyer promoting the Braginetz design – under the heading “New ’57 Budget-Priced Underwood ‘Leader”, the ‘Golden Touch’ model”.
A later advertising pitch for the Golden Touch went: “Splashed with color! color! color! Magic ease! Rainbow beauty! Enjoy both in a magnificent new Underwood portable.” Braginetz knew all about colour, magic and rainbows - here is a sample of his poetry, typewritten in retirement in the late 1990s and presented as early examples of typecasting:
But it was the September 11, 1956 Underwood leaflet which was to have the most profound effect, stretching right across the typewriter designing world, from the US to Germany, Japan and the old Yugoslavia.
Among the well-known and hugely popular portable typewriter designs for which the Golden Touch flyer was referenced as influential were:

*The Underwood Leader, designed by Raymond Spilman, Charles A. Jerabek and Roger Engel (1958)
*The Olympia SF, designed by Anton Demmel (1959)
 *The Olympia SM7, designed by Peter Sieber and Arnold Schürer (1960)
*The Remington Monarch (and semi-portable variation), designed by Carl W. Sundberg and Montgomery Ferar (1959)
*The Royal Futura/Signet series, designed by Laird Fortune Covey (1957)
*The Brother series, designed by Akio Kondo (1960), one the most duplicated portable typewriter designs ever.
*And the Barbie typewriter, designed by Vid Bratasevec (1988).

Paul Artem Braginetz was born in Hastings on Hudson, Westchester, New York on October 9, 1920, the son of Polish emigrants Artem and Anna Braginetz, who had arrived in America six years earlier.
Paul graduated from Syracuse University in industrial design, as well as from the Infantry School (Fort Benning, Georgia), the Chemical Warfare School (Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland) and the Military Intelligence School (Camp Ritchie, Maryland).
While studying and also teaching at Syracuse University, Braginetz became expert on the theory and practices involved in the field of engineering and engineering graphics. His expertise included orthographic projections, auxiliary views, sections, and axonometric, oblique and perspective views. He preferred conventional (non-computer) methods and practised in real application, using descriptive and analytical geometry.
After World War II, Braginetz went to work for the Underwood Research and Development Laboratory. But his design work extended to Capital Products, American Safety Razor, Philip Morris, Schick, Black & Decker, LogEtronic and Virginia Panel. In retirement he became an independent consultant to industry.
Braginetz invented computer interface systems related to the F-117A and the B-2 stealth aircraft and held two patents dealing with the studies of ellipses and throchoids, which were significant in rotary engine design.
Braginetz became recognised for solving one of the world’s three famous impossibilities, a mathematics problem dating back 2000 years called “trisecting the angle”.
Braginetz was intrigued when he read a Parade Magazine article written by Marilyn Vos Savant in 1993 on the subject of unsolved mathematical problems handed down through the ages. He made a derived radial grid system to solve the challenge. His study culminates with the structure of a trisected Reflex angle, mirrored to a trisected Reciprocal angle, which interfaces an arbitrarily selected trisected angle in the range of 0 to 180 degrees.
He can be seen discussing his ideas on a TV news clip at

Braginetz, who had been issued with 60 patents during his lifetime, died at his home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on August 11, 2003, aged 82. In his old age, his hobbies included poetry and leathercraft.
Raymond Spilman was born in Wichita, Kansas on January 12, 1911. He attended Kansas State University from 1933-1934 and worked for General Motors as a stylist from 1935 to 1939. In 1940 Spilman joined Walter Dorwin Teague Associates in 1940 as a staff designer, and worked for Henry Dreyfuss Associates in New York. In 1942 he moved to Johnson-Cushing-Nevell as director of product design before opening his own office in 1946.
He was president of the American Society of Industrial Designers from 1960-1962, and was awarded fellowship in that organisation. He also served as an educational advisor and lecturer in the field of design and design curriculum. An avid watercolourists, he retired to Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1999. Spilman died in Barnstable, Massachusetts, on June 15, 2000, aged 89.
A third outstanding typewriter designer of this era was Carl Wilhelm Sundberg, who worked for Remington. Sundberg was born in 1910 in Calumet, Michigan. He graduated from Northern High School and attended Wicker Art School in Detroit. He began his career in 1927 designing custom car bodies under Ray Dietrich at Dietrich Body Company, then worked in plastics design at Kurz-Kasch. He joined General Motors Art and Color Section, where he met Montgomery Ferar. In 1934, he and Ferar left GM and formed the partnership of Sundberg-Ferar. Sundberg retired in 1975 and died in 1982, aged 72.

We’ve previously looked at “walking” typewriters for architects and draughtsmen and for book writing. Now this …
South Africa is the land of the springbok, and on this day in 1907, a South African typewriter inventor, Julian Myer Harris, of Jeppestown, Johannesburg, applied for a US patent for a downstroke spring-heeled portable typewriter. The patent was issued on October 19, 1909.
Harris set out his objectives as “to provide a portable typewriter of simple and improved construction and wherein the whole of the writing on the sheet operated upon is visible.
“The machine comprises a frame open at one end and at the sides, a work supporting carriage arranged to travel in a longitudinal direction to effect the line spacing, in ways or guides that are themselves mounted to travel in a transverse direction to effect the word and letter spacing in suitable ways or guides fixed to the frame, and cranked typebars which are located above the carriage.”

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