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Monday 21 January 2013

Typewriter Update, January 2013

It's not very often one sees a Sholes & Glidden come up for sale on eBay - at least not, as in this case, the genuine thing, the Real McCoy. The item, No 370741132775, appears to be for sale in the US only, but there is a shipping advice note for potential international buyers. It is being sold by Blue Eagle Antiques of Falling Waters, West Virginia, but the typewriter itself is in Hagerstown, Maryland.
An announcement was made to the Antique Typewriter Collectors group on Facebook at midday Australian time. The auction ends on January 31.
This Sholes & Glidden, by the way, just three weeks ago made a visit to another S & G, the one owned by Herman Price at his Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum in West Virginia. 
Herman's S & G is on the left, the one now for sale on the right. 
Pictured together at Herman's museum.
The one for sale was listed earlier today at a starting price of $8600 (less than $8200 Australian money). There has already been one bid but the reserve price has not yet been met. 
The item description says it is a "Remington Model I, Sholes & Glidden Typewriter, Serial A1003, probably 1875. The 'A' in the serial number indicates it was factory refurbished and the unit does have the addition of the 'perfected model' hood." 
The S & G was originally owned by Samuel Lee Condé (born September 20, 1837,  Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii; died April 13, 1919, Los Angeles), a lawyer, doctor of divinity and church minister who patented three typewriter designs in 1894 and three typewriter cabinet designs between 1892-94, all while he was living in Rockford, Illinois.
His obituary said he was a Civil War veteran, composer and descendant of the Prince of Condé. He was the eldest son of the Reverend Daniel T. and Andelucia (neé Lee) Condé  who went to Hawaii on April 9, 1837, on the barque Mary Frazier. They were commissioned to form a station at Hana, Maui, but disembarked at Lahaina for a few months' study of the language. Samuel was sent to Punahou School, Honolulu, in 1851. His mother died in Wailuku in 1855, and in December 1856, his father took Samuel, with his two brothers and three sisters, to the US. Samuel married Elizabeth Collier in New York on December 31, 1861. Samuel enlisted early in the Civil War and served as an officer on General Pope's staff, serving as lieutenant in the 57th New York Infantry, and recruited the 11th New York Battery. Later he entered the Auburn Theological Seminary and after graduating served as Presbyterian pastor at Troy and Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, Rockford and Cleveland, Ohio, before settling in Los Angeles in 1909. Dr Condé "became an accomplished musician and composer of sacred songs, one of the most loved in the musical world being The Prayer of the Wanderer". One of his daughters, Bertha, was National Student Secretary of the YWCA.
The Condé S & G may have been exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.  My post on typewriters at the exposition is here.
Ampersats have been on typewriters a very, very long time -
long before anyone used them for email addresses.
Forget Dr Condé's biblical version or the Big Bang Theory. There is a generation emerging which believes the world began when Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web.
I got an email the other day from a young lady in France who said, "I found an Olivetti Lettera 32  and I was very surprised to find an @ above 4 ... I searched an explanation on the net, but I have not found anything. Then I found your article All About Eva, where I could see that the typewriter [an Empire Baby] in the pictures also has the key @. Would you please explain why this symbol is present on these machines and what it is? Thank you very much if you can 'éclairer ma lanterne' Merci beaucoup."
I replied explaining that the ampersat means "at" and has been adopted in modern technology for use in email addresses. But it was commonly used long, long before email addresses were ever needed. Its original use was in equations, such as 4 loaves of bread @ ("at") 4 francs each = (equals) 16 francs. It was frequently used in typing out accounts, so there was a need for it on typewriters.
Perhaps old stagers like me take things on typewriters for granted, and don't think they need explaining to the younger generations. I still smirk when I think of the young colleague who asked for a typewriter for her wedding reception, then called to ask where the "return" key was. In a way, the ampersat comes into the same category. I also received an email from a young lady in Moldova, who said, "I am passionate about typewriter machines. I bought a typewriter ... I love it. But there is a little problem: the ribbon is in 'end' position and I can't write. Could you tell me how must I change the ribbon? I can't find information about that on the Internet."
I guess there are lot of very basic things about typewriters that old typists like me haven't bothered to spell out yet on the web - including ribbon changing. Or how to make an exclamation mark when there isn't one on the keyboard, or a dollar sign, or the figure 10 when there isn't a one or a zero. All so simple for us, but we forget there are people out there using typewriters now who didn't start out on a typewriter keyboard.
In late November I posted on a Blickensderfer 4 after Matthew D.Emerson of Philadelphia emailed me about finding one while going through his Grandmother's attic. I figured it must have been a "mill" typewriter and Georg Sommeregger promptly reminded me that there was a page on the Blick 4 (article by Flavio Mantelli) in that excellent tome The Typewriter Sketchbook, edited by Paul Robert (and a must-buy for any typewriter lover).
Since then Mr Emerson has posted a comment stating:
"Hello everyone, I am the finder of the Blickensderfer No 4, which from all my research has shown to be the third discovered (as mashchinengeschrieben said). This is a very exciting find; we couldn't have been more surprised to find such a rare object up there! It is in great shape, we have taken many photos, which I would be happy to share for posterity. The serial number is 9104. We are considering selling the typewriter; I would love for it to go to someone who truly loves these rarities, rather than put it up to an auction house. All proceeds will go towards our grandmother, whose house we were cleaning out. Should anyone like to discuss this further privately, please send me an email [which is on the post comment]. The typewriter is currently in a safety deposit box in New York. Thank you for your interest!"
About the same time I was contacted by a young man in Amsterdam with images of a Blickensderfer 3. Suspecting it was a furphy, I asked the experts - including Paul Robert - about this, and the consensus was that it is a Blick 7 with a wide carriage, "created" as a No 3 by a Rotterdam Blick dealer (note the badge says Rotterdam, which is not a Blick distribution point). I've heard no more from this person about his Blick 3.
Mention of Florian (mashchinengeschrieben) reminds me of how much I liked his little post about portability and leaving behind the cable for his laptop, as well as the one about the Swissa Piccola and the information age. He made points that I have been pontificating about for years. It was so pleasing to see that someone of Florian's age has began to cotton on, too. Good for you, Florian! Florian has responded favourably to my posts about taking Corona 3s and Remington portables into planes and submarines and up into the Himalayas. That's the point here. Think about it. Would you take a laptop into the Himalayas, even today?
First Ray Nickson showed me his family's Olivetti Lettera 22 with the embossed name badge on the paper plate. Then Florian alerted me to one for sale online in Europe. Now a reader has sent this image of another example, which he is proud to own. This machine was also made in Glasgow, and has the low serial number of  S620107. "Two other interesting features are that it has some mathematical symbols (pi, theta, integral sign), and Elite Victoria typeface."
This gentleman describes the colour of the paper plate as taupe. I've always called it fawn. Anyone know what the official name is? I know pistachio and salmon are the official colours for the green and pink variations.
I explained to the reader that when Olivetti portables were serviced by Olivetti, the owner was offered, for free, a manufacturer’s repaint. Olivetti technicians recall dozens of repainted masks and ribbon covers waiting to be used if needed for such a purpose. If the owner accepted the offer, of salmon or pistachio, only the mask and ribbon cover were replaced, not the paper plate. To replace the paper plate would have required removing the platen. Taking off and replacing just the mask and ribbon cover took a few seconds. Pistachio with a fawn paper paper is very common, but I can’t recall seeing any others with salmon and fawn.
Mention of the salmon Olivetti portable brings me to a lady in Singapore called Claudia Tan. We seem to keep missing one another via email. Claudia asks me about buying a pink Lettera, I reply saying I will sell her one, but she never seems to get my messages. So I am using this post to say, "Hi Claudia, I get all your emails. You must have me on your blocked senders list, because you never seem to get my answers."
Talking of typewriters which seem to bob up in ones and twos around the world, a reader has contacted me to say she has a Sherwood (a relabelled Engadine, made by IMC in Italy):
No blue skies over saving the farm in this transaction
eBay doesn't get any easier. It should do. It's been going long enough for eBay to have ironed out all the problems. That eBay hasn't done so indicates it doesn't really care, so long as the money keeps rolling in. The last time it took any positive action was to stop sellers leaving negative feedback.
Scott Kernaghan's post about his experience with an eBay seller was a true horror story. Many sellers now seem to be abusing the option of "pick-up-only" to save themselves having to make any effort in return for the money they get for their items. 
Meanwhile, as Scott's case showed, buyers need all the protection they can get. Like Scott, I had an instance in which an eBay seller wanted me to deal through a friend for the pick up of an item. Worse still, he wanted to be paid through a direct bank deposit, not PayPal. I sympathised with this chap, whose sign-on suggested he needed to save a farm. He began by telling me, and I quote, "i have found myself in an ackward situation ... no money for diseal [diesel] ... dont like paypal as charges to much ...  my place is out of town on a farm cost u to much to pick up from there ... im a suby so no fixed work address wod be best for u if i left it were im stranded at moment at my freinds address, as it is very close to cbd if thats what ud like to do just let me know."
Bottom line: If this transaction came unstuck, and I got no typewriter for my money, I would be without recourse. Sympathy or no sympathy for his situation, it was just too risky. Been there, done that, not going back ...
A happy typewriting lady. This comment came from Barbara. I don't know where Barbara lives, but I'm happy she's happy. "Thanks for your blog and lovely photos! I just acquired a red Dora today and thought I'd Google them, it's such a beautiful thing, what style! Having learned to type when I was 12, on an Imperial 66, hmmm quite a few years ago, there was something amazing about actually inserting a white sheet of paper and typing again, and surprisingly so, after flat computer and touch screen keyboards, I didn't do too badly!"
A woman contacted me after buying an Olivetti Lettera 32 on eBay. It arrived without a ribbon spool cover. Did I have a spare one? The Olivetti was sold without one, but the listing on eBay just happened not to mention that fact. The seller's excuse: "Oh, I don't know anything about typewriters, it was just lying around here like that." The buyer admitted she should have been more vigilant (there was a warning on this very blog), but was so keen on buying a typewriter she rushed into the transaction, forking out $100! Now, happily, the buyer has found another Lettera 32, at a fleamarket, for less than half the price that she paid for the topless one. And this one has a ribbon spool cover intact. She wants to recoup some of her losses by selling the topless machine.
One of the greatest joys of blogging on typewriters is being of service to someone - someone, that is, who is worthy of the service. This blog does occasionally have its purposes. A man who works for the The Battle of Britain Monument on London’s Victoria Embankment came across my post on London Daily Express air correspondent Victor Anthony Ricketts. This was the chap who took a Baby Empire portable typewriter in a de Havilland DH88 Comet when he and pilot Arthur Edmond Clouston smashed 11 world records on round-the-world flights in March 1938. Ricketts later flew for the Royal Air Force but failed to return from a photographic sortie to Strasbourg and Ingolstadt on July 12, 1942. He is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery near Calais.
The man from London said The Battle of Britain Monument, unveiled in 2005, lists by nationality the 2937 airmen who served with RAF Fighter Command from July 10 to October 31, 1940. "We hope over time to include a biography and photograph of each of these airmen on the monument website . Some time ago I put up a page for the above Battle of Britain airman [Ricketts] but at the time was unable to source a photo of him. I have just returned to the fray and found your excellent blog regarding the finding of his typewriter." 
PS: I'm delighted to say I now own one of these Baby Empires.
Ummm ... would you take two and six for it?
One area in which I will NOT provide a service: Answering emails from people asking me to put a price on their typewriter. A: I'm a typewriter collector and historian, NOT an evaluator. B: One cannot even begin to think about putting a price on a typewriter without seeing it in the flesh, close up and personal. C: The prices that typewriters fetch on Australian eBay usually defy all rhyme or reason. For example, $300 for a purple KMart Nakajima - get the gist? My estimate of a value on that item would have been $30 tops. As Ray Nickson said, that same week a pristine Corona 3 sold for $200. How could anyone put a price on a typewriter to sell in this country? Someone has put $1500 on a Rheinmetall and a Consul sold for $200. There's just no logic, so please don't ask me to provide one. Or a price.
Typewriter collectors and historians Will B. Davis and David A. Davis have been paying tribute to their late father, David Sr, himself a collector and historian, who sadly passed away at North Ridgeville, Ohio, on his 78th birthday, a year ago today.
A regional New Zealand museum is going through the difficult process of "deaccessioning" a large number of its 72 old typewriters. It has a "hit list" of 58 it will offer to other museums and just 14 on its "keep list". There are many old Remington and Imperial standards. My eye was caught by a Royal Bar-Lock and an Underwood 5, both in beautiful condition, an Oliver No 9, a green Corona Sterling portable and a green Erika portable, and three Blicks. As one might expect, the Blicks are all badged for the New Zealand Typewriter Company and look to be in reasonable condition, One is a 5 and the other two 7s. 
At the other end of the scale, this "space age" Brother fascinated me. I have never seen one like it before:


Richard P said...

A very entertaining batch of items.

I'll be keeping my eye on that wonderful S&G. Can't even think about buying it, though!

I had never run across the term "ampersat" before.

Claudia said...

Hello Robert,

I am so glad to hear that you weren't avoiding me!! I thought you had had enough of my pesky emails! I would still love the Lettera 32! Let me try to email you again! I definitely didn't block you in purpose though... Can't wait to get in touch!!

Thank you Richard for alerting me to this post!

Warmest Regards,

Scott K said...


Some day, I feel we need to podcast some of this stuff.

Great writeup. I did know that you'd ended up with a shonky sale yourself lately as well. That's depressing.

Adwoa said...

Nice little round-up! I very much enjoyed this post. I agree that putting a value on a typewriter is tricky - at least here in CH, it is rare to sell any machine for three figures, so the price range is a lot narrower and that makes things simpler. For now, anyway.

shordzi said...

Great roundup, great stories, thanks!!

maschinengeschrieben said...

Wonderful best-of!

Rob Bowker said...

Ampersat! Going to add that to elipsis, tilde, diacritical and pilcrow. I am fortified by these words.