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Sunday 13 April 2014

Caged Typewriter Monsters From the Deep

Appropriately, it would seem, they are stored in cages. These are some of the monsters in the typewriter collection of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. At the end of February, I posted two pages from Typewriter Topics in 1912, which included a Monarch monster. At the time, Steve Snow cried, "By crikey!", Richard Polt exclaimed "Holy moly! What on earth did they do with it??" and Bill MacLaine asked, "Did those machines ever work?"
Exactly one month after posting on that Monarch, to the day, I was taken down into the bowels of the Powerhouse Museum and the first typewriter I saw there was this huge Underwood. The Powerhouse calls it an Underwood 26 - the model number representing the width of the platen in inches. It says the machine was made by Underwood-Elliott-Fisher, which did not come into existence until December 1927.
TIME magazine reported on December 5, 1927: "Directors of the Underwood Typewriter Co last week asked their stockholders to meet December 15 to approve merger with the Elliott-Fisher Co (general office equipment) as the Underwood-Elliott-Fisher Co. The new corporation will match Remington Rand Inc created last spring from Rand-Kardex (visible indexes), Baker-Vawter (filing cabinets) and Dalton Adding Machine (TIME, February 28). It is possible that Underwood-Elliott-Fisher may round out their office equipment business by inducing Burroughs Adding Machines, International Business Machines and Yawman & Erbe (filing cabinets) to join them."
I believe, looking at Alan Seaver's Machines of Loving Grace web page on Underwoods, that it is an accounting machine which was based on an Underwood 3. According to my own post of October 2012, the wide carriage Underwood 3s were produced from 1904 until 1931, among the four million Underwood 3s manufactured from 1900.
Overall, this one is actually 38 inches wide. Yes, folks, that is more than three feet wide, just one inch short of one metre in width. 
Here is part of Charles De Los Rice's 1904 patented designs for supports for the "extra wide" carriages for the Underwood 3:
This Underwood was donated to the Powerhouse in 1981 by Newtown, Sydney, solicitor Peter David Kristofferson. I shudder to think how it was first brought out to Australia!
This heavyweight Remington electric bookkeeping machine was donated to the Powerhouse in 1978 by Sydney industrial sales and service company Armstrong-Holland. Is it a No 83, do you think? I'm not sure. This No 83 electrified machine is the closet I can find to it:
It's definitely an off-spring of the 1927 No 23, which used Wahl mechanism:
  This is the No 85 electric:
This advert dates from 1948 apparently:
Australian author Hinton Keith ("Blue") Garland bought this Vari-Typer Model 630 second-hand in 1968 to typeset his own books and to annotate maps and drawings. ("Blue" or "Bluey", by the way, is an Australian nickname for a red-haired male, just as "Tiny" is a nickname for a very large male. Go figure!). Garland, who was born in Wyong on September 4, 1921, wrote such works as The Pitt Street Prospector (1969), Kings in Glass Castles (1984) and another volume of political humour, The Drongo's Guide to the Constitution, The Monarchy, The Republic (1995). A "drongo" is a dill-brain, an idiot. Garland donated his Vari-Typer to the Powerhouse in 1994 and died on the Central Coast of New South Wales on September 16, 2000.
This 1970 Jue Chine (or Shine = machine) Chinese language typewriter was used by the Australia China Foundation for correspondence and office work. It was made by the Jue Chine Office Equipment Industrial Co Ltd of Taipei, Taiwan, and was donated to the Powerhouse by the foundation in 1998.


Piotr Trumpiel said...

That Underwood can double as an aircraft carrier - all it needs is a bit of tarmac put on top... :)

Don Lampert said...

Probably too big to collect in any numbers, it would be cool to have at least one! I've been looking at a very wide carriage late R. C. Allen typewriter in a local antique store for a few years. I'm getting closer to buying it as time goes on, and I learn more, and more.
Thanks (I think) for the encouragement!
What incredible beasts these are, the pinnacles of their genre! Thanks.

Rob Bowker said...

They all have that "buyer collects" look about them. There is something monumental about extra wide carriage machines. Powerhouse is a treasure trove.

Steve Snow said...

They really are wonderful Frankenstein-esque creations they are, thanks for posting. I'm also definitely in agreement with ZetiX re-aircraft carrier!

Erik Bruchez said...

I hit this page while looking for information about the Jue Shine Chinese typewriter, which I now own. Scarily enough, except for the wide Underwood 3, I own something close to all the crazy machines listed here! Time to open a museum.

Nicholas DeLessio said...

According to the user's manual, the Olympia SG3 was available with 24 and 35 inch platen options (meaning the carriage itself was even bigger.) These allegedly required outboard stabilizers to be installed by a technician. The manual claims that the 35 inch platen could fit 408 elite characters per line for 34 inches of usable typing space. Yeesh.

I've never seen these larger carriages online or in person (and question if they were ever really sold), but if one existed in some drafting house or large accounting firm, that would make it among the most beastly of typewriters ever made. SG3s aren't petite even in their smallest 13" platen form-factor so I can't even imagine the absolute girth of the largest model.

SG3s do have the added benefit of being able to remove and interchange the carriage assembly by depressing two levers, so presumably one could at least swap out the behemoth carriage when they didn't need it, assuming the stabilizers didn't interfere with that.