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Tuesday 31 March 2015

Typewriter Update

The Restored Remington
12 (or is a 10?)
 As it was

Donald Lampert and David Wells asked if I would share "trade secrets" on this restoration job. I've never hesitated to share whatever knowledge I've acquired from one of these projects, but in this case it's not quite that simple. In short, I have no secrets to share - if there were any, I've chucked them out of my head. This was such a monstrous task, I've tended to put the experience behind me and am trying hard to forget about it. As always, elbow grease was the No 1 ingredient.
What I do recall is that at the end of the first day of working on this, I had almost given up hope of succeeding and went very close to ditching the whole thing. Whatever I'd tried, as per previous restorations, wasn't working so well on this one, and I was left with a machine with a thin white smear over its workings. The next morning I decided on one last-ditched effort. I went down to the hardware store and asked the "experts" what I should use, thinking I might come home with one good product. Instead, $70 later, I was walking home with about six products. I could probably recommend any one or all of the six.
One thing I did do which I've never tried before was to take the typewriter outside and fire a high-powered water hose at it. It was a hot day, so I quickly took it back inside and dried it out by running the air compressor through it. From that point on, things began to look up.
In removing the Gorrin tabulation system, I was concerned I'd taken away more than I needed to from the back. But Richard Polt was right when he advised me to loosen the screws on the release levers, and the carriage skipping stopped. Thank you yet again, Richard! So now it's back to being a fully functioning typewriter, and it was worth all the trouble (and expense) it took to restore it. All's well that ends well. Except I wish I could offer Donald and David some useful tips - other than sheer determination and persistence, I can't think of any.
I was going largely by the serial number when I declared it to be a model 12, but Miguel Angel Chávez Silva added to the doubt I already had about this. I'm still not certain, but I suspect Miguel is also right and that this is a Remington 10.
I have been offered 15 portable typewriters by a lady in New England, New South Wales, but being on the bones of my backside have no way of picking them up. Anyone coming through that region to Canberra that can help, please let me know.
Typewriters in the News
The typewriter is making a comeback, Kearney Hub
Typewriters are surviving the high tech age, CNN
Interesting Finds
Frans van de Rivière has acquired this very interesting machine, a Corona Silent "Typewriter Telegraph No8A" portable:
Richard Polt pointed out a similar machine was sold on eBay two years ago, one which Alan Seaver added had once belonged to Tilman Elster:
Frans also pointed to a 1977 Olympia SM9 with a Fraktur font being sold on eBay for 495 euro.
Glad to be of Service
I'm pleased my post on replacing the drawband on typewriters was of help to Mary E, the lady who is "resurrecting" a Remington Rand standard typewriter. Mary may be interested to know that the "gentleman" she refers to is the Oliver guru, none other than Martin Rice Jr. And yes, Mary, Marty is a true gentleman - and a scholar!
Spotted in Sydney
Typewriter-collecting encourager and cricket lover Peter Crossing made an 11th hour decision to go to the World Cup one-day semi-final between Australia and India in Sydney last week, after being offered a ticket by an Adelaide friend. Peter seldom fails to spot typewriters on any of his travels (Washington, Barbados, Hanoi), or to take photographs of same. This display he found at an art supply shop called Type in an arcade near the corner of George and Liverpool streets. These are, of course, grossly overpriced tinplate typewriters, not the Real McCoy.
Gone but not Forgotten
Sadly, Canberra will lose two typewriter collectors next week when Ray Nickson (above) takes up an appointment as a lecturer in law at the University of New England in Armidale. Ray will depart with his American-born wife Alice and their young daughter Cynthia - not to mention their large collection of Depression Era and other gorgeous old typewriters. They (that is the Nicksons and the typewriters) will be sorely missed around here. Canberra's population of Typospherians will drop by half.
Meanwhile, in Sydney, typewriter collector Richard Amery has also been busy packing up typewriters - in his case from his electoral and parliamentary offices - and finding places to store them. Although Richard retired from politics last year, it was not until last Saturday that his 32-year stint as a Member of the New South Wales Parliament officially ended. That was when a new member for Mount Druitt, Edmond Atalla, retained the seat with almost 66 per cent of the vote. The swing of almost 10 per cent matched that for Labor through the rest of the State, but the Liberal-National Party Coalition was returned to power with a reduced majority. Richard's collection of Imperial Good Companions remains at Rooty Hill, but other machines he used in his offices have had to go into storage elsewhere.
It's 56533-8 - or it is a 3???
The L.C.Smith No 8 serial number
Richard Polt and Donald Lampert were absolutely spot-on when last week they directed me to the serial number on my Australian rebuilt L.C.Smith No 8 (see post here). As John Guthrie had commented, once one finds it, it seems to jump out like a large snake - and one is left wondering why it took so long to locate it. I must have searched for it 10 or 12 times before giving up; even after Richard and Donald commented on my post, with accurate directions, it still took another few hours and two separate hunts to pinpoint it. In the end I rubbed tennis shoe whitener over it, so I could read it (and photograph it clearly - not a good angle for cameras!)
HOWEVER ... finding it has only raised further questions. This serial number doesn't seem to ft with the Typewriter Database figures. Is it a five-digit number with a dash and an 8 (as in the model number)? Or is it a six-digit number? And if so, what's the dash representing? From my reading of the database numbers, Model 8s have six digits (and no dash). We know this machine is a complete rebuild (in 1947) - is it possible it started life as a Model 3? If so, the serial number would suggest 1922. Disregarding the dash would probably make it an early 1926 model.
Sorry Richard and Donald, but despite your best efforts in allowing me to find the damned thing, having found it I'm still mystified.
The Ubiquitous Nippo
Niels Oskam found this Gyonne portable typewriter (listed as a "Guyonne") on Etsy from the Netherlands. Niels said he could not find any info on it, "but it's a beauty". Sorry, Niels, but it's a common-or-garden Nippo, best known in most parts of the world as an Atlas, but also sold as the Graduate, Cherryland, Orven, Elgin Collegiate, Del Mar and Wellon ... and now the Gyonne. Nippo must have had a team of workers to just come up with model names! Other Nippos appeared as the Baby Alpina, Condor, Rexina, Clipper, Jaguar and, when the team ran out of names, P100 (aka Morse), P200 (aka Argyle P201) and P300.
The seller is spruiking it as a "Spectacular RARE Guyonne Portable Working Typewriter Baby Blue Grey-ish Qwerty Keyboard with At-Sign @ 1960's New Ribbon Metal Very Elegant". And that's just the header! "AmsterdamFinds" really gets carried away with the description: "Super rare and equally elegant female typewriter, probably French design and made in France [a long way from Japan, mate!]. See on the second picture how the cover opens like a kind of spaceship - spectacular, never seen that, anyone? Looking at the design and the way it is built, this machine must be from the 60's or even the 50's as the @-sign is on the keyboard, and I have only seen that on the earlier typewriters ... The brand is Guyonne. Never heard of, no documentation found. Anyone?"
And he or she is asking a staggering $A 246 for it. Two hundred and forty bucks for a Nippo! I don't think so!
Here are a few of my Nippos:

Fast and Furious:
Hossfield, Willins and
"Timmy the Typewriter"
George Hossfield, Stella Willins (with "Timmy"), Irma Wright and Albert Tangora at the National Business Show at the Grand Central Palace in New York City in 1929.
From left, George Hossfield, Stella Willins (with "Timmy"), Irma Wright and Albert Tangora. In the second row, behind Willins and Wright, is Barney Stapert. 
Lydia Pappas, an archivist at the University of South Carolina, was kind enough to alert me this morning to footage of what purports to be the world speed typewriting championships, filmed by Alfred Gold on October 25, 1929, at 342 Madison Avenue, New York City, for Movietone News, and donated to USC's historic film vaults by the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.
No 342 Madison Avenue was, in fact, the headquarters of the Underwood Typewriter Company. And as much as Underwood dominated and controlled the world speed typing championships, there was absolutely no way world championship events would have been staged in Underwood's own HQ building! The 1929 world championships had been held in Toronto, Canada, a month before this film was shot. What this film shows is the Underwood speed typing team demonstrating its skills in mock competition.
Have a gander at the size of the bell on that thing!!!
The 6 minutes 18 seconds film, which shows Underwood employee James Nelson Kimball directing the contestants, can be found here. It includes interviews and demonstrations with world champion George Hossfield and women's champion Stella Willins. USC's description is poor, and doesn't mention Kimball, or even the great Albert Tangora or Irma Wright, who are also seen in action. It calls Willins "Ms Stella" (not using her surname once), as if an actress had just popped in from a stage production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire to take part in the typing contest. (Okay, I realise the play wasn't written until 1947.)
By the way, the Underwood typewriter Willins used in all her world championship events and demonstrations, her favourite speed machine, was nicknamed by her "Timmy the Typewriter". It had a bloody big bell for a Timmy!
Hey, USC, her name is Stella Willins, NOT "Ms Stella"
USC also has a silent 1 minute 56 seconds film shot on March 25, 1927, showing George Hossfield typing at 157 words a minute. The scenes of Hossfield showing a group of stenographers how he types can be seen here. They include close-ups of Hossfield's typing.
Here is a 15-minute silent video, one of three 16mm reels produced by the Harmon Foundation in 1939, which include Stella Willins demonstrating:

Brooklyn Eagle Magazine, September 6, 1931
St Petersburg, Florida, Independent, February 16, 1938
The New Yorker, 1941
The neutron bomb
and the Olivetti Lettera 32
Los Angeles police commission president Steven Soboroff has acquired the typewriter of Samuel Theodore Cohen (1921-2010), an American physicist who invented the W70 warhead and is therefore generally credited as the father of the neutron bomb. Soboroff collects the typewriters of the celebrated or accomplished. Cohen's is the 30th added to his collection. 
In January, Soboroff acquired the typewriter of the actor Rudolph Valentino. It's not, I believe, an Olivetti Valentine (yeah, I know, the Valentine came out almost 43 years after the "Latin Lover" died).
Miss Typewriter
By Owen Smith
Who also designed:


Anonymous said...

Plenty of variety! I've bought quite a few ribbons from Mr Amery over the past few months, what a gentleman. Love that Dashiell Hammett cover. ;)

Richard P said...

Fantastic work restoring the Remington! I'm glad I could help with the skipping carriage.

I think your LC Smith is a model 3, with "-3" indicating the model number. (Compare the serial number on my model 2: 19901-2.)

Those typing champions are amazing. They all seem to use modified Underwoods with giant bells and big carriage return levers. I love listening the bells pealing. The outdoor, breezy setting clearly created some extra difficulty! I do think it may have taken place on top of the Underwood building in New York. Is that J. N. Kimball supervising the contest?

I love Owen Smith's paintings.

Bill M said...

Congratulations on the Remington Robert. You do fantastic work!

Those typists make the typewriters look like they are being driven by motors. So smooth and fast!

Rob Bowker said...

Congratulations on the resurrection of the Remington - it doesn't look over-restored but more like it would have without having spent some time in a wet environment. Do you think the oversized bells on the competition typewriters were added to make for a better spectator event?

RobertG said...

The transformation of that Remington is inspiring. Amazed how you got the rusty metal all metal again.

(Seeing this will make me have a go at the rusty paper-tray of my RP2 again.)