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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Olivetti Lettera 35 Portable Typewriter and Manual

Picked up typewriter, case and manual for a song at a recycling centre today. Too hard to resist. The colour is wheat, by the way, not taupe. 

Monday 29 September 2014

How a Remington Junior Typewriter got from Adelaide to the Aegean and Back in Wartime

This later model Remington Junior, serial number JP60237 (made January 1916)  was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney by Chartres in 1939.
It's a long story. A Remington Junior typewriter, sold under somewhat mysterious circumstances in Adelaide, South Australia, in late November 1914, found its way to Moúdros on the Greek island of Lemnos in the north Aegean in early 1915. Moúdros was used as an Allied base in World War I and in October 1918 was the site of the signing of the Armistice of Mudros, which ended hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies. 
In November 1915 the Remington Junior was returned from Moúdros to Australia by the Melbourne doctor who had taken it there - Lieutenant-Colonel William Henry Bryant of Collingwood (whose father, publican James Mark Bryant, had helped establish the Australian football code in 1858-59).
Lieutenant-Colonel Bryant, right, at a camp on the Aegean island of Lemnos in April 1915. 
While war correspondents clearly favoured a true portable, the Corona 3, at Gallipoli, the Remington Junior had been donated by South Australian businessman Charles Francis Muller (1871-1954) to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital, Australian Army Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, for use at Maadi in Egypt and on both Lemnos and Moúdros in the Aegean
Dr Bryant was commander of the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital and the typewriter was sent from Adelaide to Melbourne to be in his care. His unit left Melbourne on the Kyarra on December 5, 1914.
Twice Mentioned in Despatches for his work at Moúdros, the extremely trying conditions there destroyed the 54-year-old Bryant's health, forcing his return to Melbourne. He never regained full health, was sent to Caulfield Military Hospital and later to the Anzac Hostel in Brighton, where he died on May 6, 1920, aged 60. 
Staff Sergeant G. Leo A. Coates, an electrical engineer in civilian life, performing an X-ray on a soldier in the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital at Moúdros. The X-ray was to determine the position of a bullet in the patient's one remaining leg. 
Meanwhile, the Remington Junior had been donated to the Citizens' War Chest and loaned to the Australian Red Cross Society in New South Wales in April 1919. The loan stipulated the Red Cross give it to the Soldiers' Club when it disbanded, which it never did (disband, that is). The Soldiers' Club is better known as the Returned and Services League of Australia, which Dr Bryant had helped establish in 1916.
Sam Worthington as Philip Schuler in Deadline Gallipoli.
The incredible story of this Remington Junior began to unravel in late May, when I was asked by the producers of the four-hour mini-series Deadline Gallipoli (due for release next Anzac Day, April 25, 2015) about the chances of them acquiring an Empire Lightweight typewriter and another three-bank, the Remington Junior, to use in filming. I told them the only Empire Lightweight I knew to be in captivity was in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, where there is also a Remington Junior. But I added that I thought a Remington Junior, an even heavier semi-portable than the Empire Lightweight, was very unlikely to have been used by war correspondents at Gallipoli.
The screening of Deadline Gallipoli is scheduled to mark the centenary of the disastrous, ill-conceived ANZAC landings in the Dardanelles, Turkey, during which the lives of 8709 young Australians and 2721 New Zealanders were lost. Total Allied casualties were a monstrous 187,959, of which 56,707 were killed - for no military gains whatsoever. Winston Churchill had a lot to answer for.
The Powerhouse's Empire Lightweight
The Deadline Gallipoli producers obviously didn't like my honest, straightforward answers about these typewriters, and didn't bother to reply. I've since heard nothing more about this production, so cannot say what typewriters have been used in the filming. Shooting started in Adelaide in mid-June and was expected to last nine weeks, which means it will have been wrapped up around about now.
Deadline Gallipoli is about the landings, as seen through the eyes of four war correspondents: official Australian war historian Charles Bean, Englishman Ellis Ashmead Bartlett, young Australian photojournalist Philip Schuler, and Ashmead Bartlett's ally, Australian Keith Murdoch (father of Rupert Murdoch).
It is "the story of journalists who will not accept that truth be the first casualty of war". They "ensure that a strategic disaster becomes a legend of human heroism". Series co-producer Sam Worthington plays Schuler, Joel Jackson plays Bean, Hugh Dancy plays Ashmead Bartlett and Ewen Leslie plays Murdoch.
As I told the producers, the Corona 3 was overwhelmingly the typewriter of choice for Australian war correspondents at Gallipoli. Quite apart from it being by far the best typewriter for the task at hand, the journalists didn't have a lot of choice in 1914-18. It was the portable typewriter most readily available in Australia (through Stott & Underwood) at that time.
Ashmead Bartlett is known to have used an Empire Lightweight (bought in England) at some point during the campaign. But Bean and Murdoch definitely used Corona 3s. It is not yet known what Schuler used, but it is most likely to have been a Corona 3 as well.
This Remington Junior is in Alan Seaver's Collection
It may have been a reference to Dr Bryant's Remington Junior in the Australian National Library's Trove digital collections to that led the South Australian makers of Deadline Gallipoli to believe such a machine might have been used by a war correspondent at Gallipoli. Any journalist would have struggled to even get it ashore, let alone use it there.
The Remington Junior was most heavily pushed in Australia in the middle of 1917, through a sustained advertising campaign.
As for the one that did reach Moúdros, here's the rub ...
The Remington Junior was only launched in New York in 1914, so its use in an Australian MASH in Egypt later that same year leads to some very interesting questions. The Remington Junior donated by Muller to the 1st Stationary Hospital was sold by the United Typewriter and  Supplies Company agency in Adelaide.
The Remington Junior was made not by Remington but by Smith Premier in Syracuse, a year after the Remington-controlled  Union Trust (of which Smith Premier was an integral part) had been abandoned (in 1913; the Syracuse plant continued to operate until 1923). However, United Typewriter and  Supplies Company, set up by the trust in Australia in 1895 to sell such Union models as the Smith Premier, was still trading in this country. The Stotts, meanwhile, had lost the Australian agency for Remington typewriters to Chartres in 1910. And yet the agent for the Remington Junior was, remarkably, Stott & Hoare. It makes one wonder who held the rights to sell what after the Union breakup!
Late 1910
The only logical explanation for this is convoluted. When Chartres took over the Remington agency, it retained the Stott & Hoare business school at Remington House in Sydney, and using Stott's long-established goodwill, operated it under its original name. It did not, however, take control of Stott colleges elsewhere in Australia. Stott continued its typewriter business in all other parts of the country, notably selling the Corona 3. Stott & Hoare's New South Wales advertising during the war years concentrated on the Remington Junior, while Chartres did not advertise under its own name in that state until 1920. And the only machine approximating to a portable which was available to Chartres to sell during World War I was the Remington Junior
"Think it over ..."
"Make up your mind ..."
And "Be good to yourself during 1917 ..."
But was the Remington Junior a true blue Remington? As Alan Seaver says on his Machines of Loving Grace website, "The Junior stands out among Remingtons for how truly unusual it is compared with other Remingtons ... In fact, the Junior shares many traits with the full-keyboard Smith-Premier No 10, and especially the Smith Premier Simplex, a stripped-down No 10 that also debuted in 1914. Most notable of these is the placement of the ribbon spools behind the carriage in a vertical side-by-side configuration. The spring drum is also oddly positioned, sitting perpendicular to the carriage with the cable passing down from the carriage along a pulley. The piece that looks like a winding key on a daisy is the spring-tensioner. Note the extremely basic keyboard. A single set of shift keys, a rudimentary shift lock tab, and back space are the only keyboard controls. The margin release is a lever up on the carriage. A line-spacing toggle behind the return lever is just about the only other amenity to be found."
Alan added, "You may be surprised to find that this is a segment-shifted machine. Though segment-shift had been around for some time (since the L.C. Smith No 2), this is the first application of the technology in a double-shifted keyboard that I am aware of. The type basket shifts down for capitals, and up for figures."
Richard Polt, on his Remington portables page at The Classic Typewriter Page, points out the Remington Junior is "Not a true portable but a 'luggable' typewriter ... 'It is smaller, it is lighter, it is designed for the simpler uses' says a 1915 ad. It is similar to the Century 10 typewriter, marketed around 1919-1921 by the American Writing Machine Company, which was controlled by Remington."
Below, the Powerhouse Museum's Remington Junior:

Sunday 28 September 2014

Typewriter Update

I'd only just mentioned Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in a blog post last week - in relation to golf champion and course designer Max Howell Behr overseeing the manufacture of the Bennett typewriter by Elliott-Fisher there in 1910 - when to my utter astonishment I found a letter postmarked Harrisburg in my mail box. The return address was typewritten and the envelope sealed with lipstick red wax. How intriguing!
Inside was a charming typewritten letter from Harrisburg author and journalist Monica Schroeder, thanking me for a blog post in May about fixing the ribbon vibrator on a Facit T2 standard. Little did I think at the time of posting that I would be solving a problem for someone in Pennsylvania.
I did say that I was no saint, but that my cries to heaven upon getting my T2 working could be heard in far-off Cincinnati. Richard Polt commented, "I thought I heard some joyful shouting from the Antipodes!" Well, now we know it reached Pennsylvania, too. Monica's letter opened:
Monica's T2, Brigeet, has joined her growing collection, which includes an LC Smith 3 (she could do with some help on getting the carriage to advance), a 1938 Underwood Universal called Lucille, a Smith-Corona Coronet, a Remington 1 portable, a Sears Celebrity with script font, and an Olivetti Studio 44, all within a few months. When Monica wrote she was waiting the arrival of a Corona 3, a Royalite, a Skyriter and a Robotron. I'd say she's well and truly hooked.
Thanks you, Monica, for the lovely letter.
I guess it had to happen, but it looks like the Monpti is becoming the new Valentine. David Lawrence in Auckland, New Zealand, alerted me last night to this listing on eBay (#321535204924) - 'buy it now' price $US489. The seller, with whom I had have pleasant dealings in the past (I bought an African mahogany Rheinmetall from him), includes a two-minute video with his listing to prove this Monpti does work. Which means it's not just a rarity, but a rarity among rarities! Neither of my two Monptis performed anything like this.
David also drew my attention to a beautiful Postal for sale at $1795.95. I see there are also two Odells, at $299.99 and $685, a Varityper for $99.99 and this Geniatus at $62, after 10 bids:
From The New York Times on August 12, 1913. One hundred and one years further on, the demand for typewriters is a barometer of these rather different conditions:
1. Mental and physical well-being.
2. A high level of common sense.
3. Greater appreciation of the higher things in life.
4. Happiness, contentment and creative achievement.
5. Absence of RSI.
6. Reduction of bad language (called Twainism).
Please fell free to add to this list.
Egon Erwin Kisch as a reporter
While last week researching the story of Katharine Susannah Prichard, whose Remington 1 portable I am temporarily caring for, I came across reference to her helping the cause of Egon Erwin Kisch. This was timely, as just two weeks ago the Australian Government announced plans to relax “unnecessarily restrictive” elements of the skilled foreign worker visa scheme, including rigid English language proficiency rules.
Kisch (1885-1948) was a Czechoslovak writer and journalist, who wrote in German. Nicknamed the "Raging Reporter from Prague", Kisch was noted for his development of literary reportage and his opposition to Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. In World War I, Kisch was a corporal in the Austrian army and fought on the front line in Serbia and the Carpathians. He deserted in October 1918 and played a leading role in the abortive left-wing revolution in Vienna in November that year. In 1919 Kisch became a member of the Austrian Communist Party and remained a Communist for the rest of his life.
On February 28, 1933, the day after the Reichstag Fire, Kisch was one of many prominent opponents of Nazism to be arrested. He was briefly imprisoned in Spandau, but as a Czechoslovak citizen was expelled from Germany. 
In late 1934 Kisch came to Australia, initially planning to be a delegate to an anti-fascist conference. The Australian Government refused him entry from the ship Strathaird at Fremantle (where Prichard was in the welcoming committee) and Melbourne. Kisch then took matters into his own hands. He jumped 16 and a half feet from the deck of his ship on to the quayside at Melbourne, breaking his leg in the process. He was bundled back on board but this dramatic action mobilised the Australian left in support of Kisch, including Prichard. When the Strathaird docked in Sydney, proceedings were taken against the captain on the grounds that he was illegally detaining Kisch. Justice Bert Evatt (later Leader of the Australian Opposition and a key figure in establishing the UN) ordered that Kisch be released. Under the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, visitors could be refused entry if they failed a dictation test in any European language. This law was used to enforce the White Australia Policy by ensuring that potential Asian immigrants were given an impossibly hard test. 
As soon as Kisch was released, he was re-arrested and was one of the very few Europeans to be given the test; he passed the test in various languages but finally failed when he was tested in Scottish Gaelic. The officer who tested him had grown up in northern Scotland, and did not have a particularly good grasp of Scottish Gaelic himself. The High Court found that Scottish Gaelic was not within the fair meaning of the Act, and overturned Kisch's convictions for being an illegal immigrant. In February 1935, Kisch addressed a crowd in the Sydney Domain warning of the dangers of Hitler's Nazi regime, of another war and of
concentration camps.
Kisch in Spain
In 1937 and 1938, Kisch was in Spain, where left-wingers from across the world had been drawn by the Spanish Civil War. He travelled across the country, speaking in the Republican cause, and his reports from the front line were widely published.
In late 1939, Kisch and his wife Gisela sailed for New York where, once again, he was initially denied entry. He eventually landed at Ellis Island on December 28, but as he only had a transit visa moved on to Mexico in October 1940. He remained in Mexico for the next five years, one of a circle of European communist refugees. Kisch died two years after his return to Prague, shortly after the Communist party seized complete power. 
Kisch's work as a writer and communist journalist inspired Australian left wing intellectuals and writers such as Prichard. This group formed the nucleus of what later became the Writers League,  drawing on the example of Kisch’s own journalistic dedication to reportage.
Janet Holmes à Court
There was another odd twist with the Prichard typewriter. Back in May I heard a revealing ABC radio interview in which Janet Holmes à Court, widow of Australia's first billion dollar businessman, Robert Holmes à Court, told Richard Fidler she had been raised by closet Communist parents. When visitors arrived, her family had had to hide Communist literature in the house.
Mrs Holmes à Court then went on to describe the influence Katharine Susannah Prichard had had on her. "She [Prichard] left me two precious things," said Mrs Holmes à Court. I held my breath as Fidler probed, hoping she was going to say one of them was a typewriter. She didn't.
But a few days later I got a call from the Fellowship of Writers Western Australia to tell me it was sending me Prichard's Remington. In the circumstances, I could hardly believe my ears.
Anyone ever heard of an Avanti electric typewriter? I wonder what its bloodlines are. It looks like it could be another Nakajima product. This ad is from November 1985:
Miss Typewriter