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Monday 30 January 2017

Works in Progress

A "working" cover design
Just before Christmas I mentioned, in passing, that I had started work on a new typewriter book. I was delighted, though somewhat taken aback, by the number of encouraging comments and the very positive support I received from that one brief announcement. By that stage I had already written more than 27,000 words and the book, a history of typewriters in Australasia, just needed a little extra research and writing and some tidying up. It has, for the time being, 18 chapters and almost 120 pages, excluding illustrations, which will probably take it up to about 160 pages.
In the meantime, however, I have embarked on two more book projects (that makes three typewriter books in all for 2017). Again, almost all the research and writing has been done for the two extra works, but they have yet to be cobbled together in a publishable form. I have been toying with the idea of a book about the madmen of typewriters for some years now, and my three months of intensive research in 2015 into the truth about the life and times of James Bartlett Hammond - subsequently ignored in a book with a chapter on Hammond - clinched it for me. If anyone can think of someone other than Yost, Crandall and Hammond who deserves inclusion, let me know. 
The next step is going to be a much greater challenge - coming up with the funding to get the three books published. As with my previous two soft cover books, the print run will be small and the cover price low. I have looked at various ways of publishing, such as Lulu (with which I am not entirely impressed), but feel the best way remains meeting the cost myself of having them printed and bound in Canberra. This method has worked reasonably well in the past. My first book sold out quite quickly, so I recovered almost all the costs. But any suggestions about alternative means of raising the funds to meet printing costs and publishing will be much appreciated.

Friday 27 January 2017

Cactoblastis Day

Mural at the Cactoblastis Mexican Kitchen, Neutral Bay, Sydney 
HE day before yesterday, ABC TV had the good sense of timing to screen an episode of Murder, She Wrote called “Southern Double-Cross”, season 12, episode 20, set at “Kookaburra Downs” on the Darling Downs of Queensland but filmed in California. Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury, cousin of the mother of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull) was lured away from typing “Arnold raced out the door” on her Royal KKM at Cabot Cove, Maine, by the promise of an inherited McGill Valley in Australia. Sydney-born Nick Tate, the only actor in the show with a recognisable Australian accent, played the town mayor and publican Tom Jarvis. At one pivotal point, Jarvis asks, “You must be wondering what kind of a savage world we live in Down Under, eh Mrs Fletcher?” Later that same evening, Channel 81 showed “Captains Outrageous”, episode 13 of season eight of M*A*S*H, in which the pompous Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) tells a corrupt Australian Military Police officer, named Muldoon (John Orchard) in honour of then New Zealand Prime Minister Bob “Piggy” Muldoon, that “even the Aborigines were more civilised than you”. Radar O’Reilly is no longer at his Underwood to keep Chuck in check, and Winchester would be hung, drawn and quartered for uttering such politically incorrect words today.  The Murder, She Wrote episode was written by Mark A. Burley, producer of Orange is the New Black, and filmed in 1996; the M*A*S*H episode written by African-American Thad Mumford (A Different World) and made in 1979. The remarks in their scripts say something about those times, and probably outdated American perceptions too. But not much has necessarily improved in the intervening period. 
esterday was Australia Day. By rights it should be called Cactoblastis Day, but more on that latter. Instead, moves to refer to it as Invasion Day gained more support, though there is still much ground to be recovered to reach the reconciliation point achieved by the Indigenous Protest on January 26 in the Bicentennial year of 1988 (88 on SBS TV last night). January 26, 1988, was the day, incidentally, that I became an Australian citizen, at dawn at Cottesloe, overlooking the Indian Ocean. I remain a citizen of my native New Zealand, where the national day (February 6) marks an 1840 treaty signed between Māori and representatives of the British Crown, recognising Māori ownership of their lands, forests and other properties. No such treaty was ever offered, sought or signed in Australia, though Native Title was enforced by a High Court decision in 1992. Yesterday some of my closest friends chose not to celebrate Australia Day, but instead to attend an event in Canberra marking India’s Republic Day, the anniversary of the Constitution of India coming into effect in 1950. It was their way of making a silent protest against a British monarch of German descent being the Head of State of Australia. As much justification as there may be in referring to January 26 as Australia’s Invasion Day, sadly the truth is that these efforts are now driven much more by the seemingly unstoppable rise of meaningless political correctness – or the appearance thereof - than by any genuine concern for, and tangible advance toward, indigenous rights. Using the day to push for an Australian republic, however, is an altogether different matter, though one which still appears to have as much chance of success as the other.
A property at Chinchilla on the Darling Downs of Queensland that was abandoned in 1928 after being infested with prickly pear.

anuary 26 is the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. It is also the date of the arrival of the first species of one of the most invasive weeds ever imported into Australia. Phillip stopped off in Rio de Janiero in order to bring to what was then called New Holland seeds and plants which the British believed would be more suitable to their tastes, or more useful, than any Australian flora. Phillip landed with wheat and corn from England, and coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas, oranges, tamarind, ipecacuanha and jalap from Brazil. To the great detriment of this country, he also brought with him cochineal-infested prickly pear plants. The female cochineal bug holds in its abdomen a dark red fluid that produces a rich carmine pigment: the fabric dye that was back then used for English soldiers' red coats. Later species of the noxious weed prickly pear caused widespread land destruction and by the turn of the century it was increasing at a rate of 400,000 hectares a year, to the point at which, in the 1920s, there were more than 24 million hectares of Australia covered with the cactus. In 1925 the Cactoblastis moth was imported from South America and by 1933 most of the infested land was cleared of the prickly pear pest. On the Darling Downs in Queensland there is the Boonargo Cactoblastis Hall, built by local farmers in 1936 and dedicated to the insect which ate its way through the crisis and saved rural Australia. As I said, January 26 should probably be celebrated throughout the land as Cactoblastis Day. That way, every prickly Australian might be happy. 

Thursday 26 January 2017

RIP Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017)

Mary Tyler Moore died yesterday in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 80. The actress was born in Brooklyn Heights on December 29, 1936. She was best known for her roles in the television sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977), in which she starred as Mary Richards, a news producer in Minneapolis, and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), in which she played Laura Petrie, a Westchester homemaker. Her notable film work included 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie and 1980's Ordinary People, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Moore was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 33. In 2011, she had surgery to remove a meningioma, a benign brain tumor. In 2014 friends reported that she had heart and kidney problems and was nearly blind.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Addendum: The Mowers and the Oliver Typewriter

Charles Hudson Mower (1866-1930),
George Augustus Mower's younger brother,
who was a director of the Oliver Typewriter Company
from 1905 and manager of the French branch of the OTC.
A typewriter historian's work is never done. After I posted yesterday on the "True History of the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company" (something which had hitherto proved entirely elusive), this morning I checked back through early editions of Typewriter Topics to ensure I hadn't missed anything.
Lo and behold, in the May 1907 Topics was a small item which revealed that the connection between the Mower family of Minnesota and Massachusetts and the British arm of the Oliver Typewriter Company went back far longer than I had previously realised.
Yesterday's post outlined how George Augustus Mower, best known for establishing the Sturtevant Engineering Company in England in 1885, had gone to Woodstock, Illinois, in June 1927 and bought for £45,000 the collapsed Oliver Typewriter Company, lock, stock and U-shaped typebar, for shipping back to England. Once all the tools, dies and special machinery had arrived in Britain, Mower founded the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company in Croydon, London, in May 1928.
What I didn't know when writing this was that George Mower's ties with the Oliver typewriter dated back to 1897, when Chicagoan Charles Chase Whitacre set up the first British branch of the Oliver Typewriter Company at 75 Queen Victoria Street, London’s “Typewriter Row”. Whitacre's British Oliver agency was in fact operated as part of Mower's Sturtevant Engineering Company and was housed cheek by jowl with it in the same building. In each case the registered headquarters were further down Queen Victoria Street, at No 147.
While chief engineer of Sturtevant in London, George Mower's younger brother, Charles Hudson Mower, was a director of the (still US-based) Oliver Typewriter Company and went on to be the manager of Oliver's outlets in Continental Europe. And it was the Mowers who in the first quarter of the 20th Century controlled the European agencies for not just the Oliver, but also the Hammond, National and Royal typewriters.
For me, the first clue to these deeper ties between the Mowers and Oliver came in a snippet in Gustave Hemes' European column in Typewriter Topics, mentioning that as an Oliver director Charles Mower had responded to a toast to the company's directors at an Oliver dinner in London in September 1905.  
Charles Mower, like his brother George a highly qualified engineer, was born in Boston on February 16, 1866, and died in Vevey, Switzerland, aged 66, on October 26, 1930. For health reasons he had retired to Vevey, a town in the canton Vaud, on the north shore of Lake Geneva, near Lausanne. Charles left George a substantial £27,789 and 18 shillings in his will, and some of that may have gone to pay for George's massive investment in the BOTMC.
Like George, Charles had received his technical training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and followed his brother to England to work for Sturtevant, arriving in 1886. He became a director and chief engineer of the company. He spent several years in Germany and Russia, introducing and installing modern heating, ventilating and labour-saving workshop equipment on the firm's behalf.  Charles Mower indeed travelled extensively around the world, and in 1896 was back in the US, based at Montecito in Santa Barbara County, California.
Sturtevant were primarily electrical engineers and contractors, of which George Mower was manager and another BOTMC board member, Greville Thursfield, was one of three principle directors. Sturtevant made fans, blowers and exhausters for all purposes, water spray air filters, dry air filters, dust separators, portable and stationary forges, vacuum cleaners, steam engines and turbines, propeller fans, cupola blowers, exhaust steam pipe heads, coal samplers, rock-ore breakers and crushers, grinding and screening machinery, air separators and complete fertiliser equipment. They were specialists in heating, ventilating, drying, timber seasoning, dust collecting, vacuuming, forced and induced draught, cold air douche, smoke, steam and fume removal, mining and fertilising plants.
Given his vast experience in working with such a wide range of machinery, it is little wonder George Mower was able to be so selective, so quickly, when he sorted through the Oliver typewriter plant in Woodstock, Illinois, in 1927, picking out what he wanted shipped to England and leaving the rest behind to be auctioned off in late July. What's more, when George Mower honed in on Oliver in Woodstock, it was far from a purely speculative move. He was obviously far more familiar with this typewriter than most capitalists and investors, and had been for more than 30 years!

Monday 23 January 2017

The True History of the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company (1927-1960)

An Italian-made Oliver portable sold by the BOTMC

Of all the British typewriter manufacturers,
the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company
of Croydon, London, has remained the
most mysterious. Until now...

Minnesota-born George Augustus Mower,
who seized upon the misfortunes of the
Oliver Typewriter Company in Woodstock, Illinois,
in June 1927 to buy the company and move it,
lock, stock and U-shaped typebar, to England.

After making 1.25 million machines, the end of the line for American-manufactured Oliver typewriters was announced simultaneously in Woodstock, Illinois, and London, England, on June 1, 1927. The Woodstock announcement said all the property of the Oliver Typewriter Company would be sold the next day, either at auction or by private sale. The Times of London, meanwhile, reported arrangements had already been made for the acquisition of the plant and the transfer of manufacturing to England. The buyer was American-born English businessman George Augustus Mower. The price, it later emerged, was £45,000. A week after the June 1 announcements, the last US-based president of Oliver, millionaire Edward Herndon Smith (1859-1943), celebrated having the company off his hands by marrying church worker Vera Lash Merrill (1894-) in Chicago. Meanwhile, the widow of Smith’s immediate predecessor, Ricord Gradwell (1869-1926), was left fighting over Gradwell’s $200,000 estate with Washington actress Elizabeth Irving.
John Whitworth, at the wheel, with an earlier Oliver president, Lawrence Williams.
Long-standing plant manager and company vice-president John Walter Whitworth (1853-1934) was left to clean up the mess at Woodstock (rather than, as has often been claimed, the young accountant Chester Irvin Nelson). Whitworth was born in St Petersburg, Russia, where his father, Walter Whitworth, a mechanical engineer and capitalist, introduced the manufacture of cotton cloth into Russia, building the first cotton mill there. John Whitworth was raised in Lancashire, England, arrived in the US aged 19 and became the capable manager at Woodstock in 1898. Whitworth announced the finalisation of the British deal in mid-October 1927.
Mower had bought 1500 special machines, tools, jigs and dies, which United Tools & Instruments Ltd later valued at £57,389 16 shillings alone, more than £12,000 above the price Mower had paid for the machinery, along with world manufacturing and marketing rights, goodwill, trademarks, patents and patent rights (800 drawings in all) and the freehold Woodstock factory (which it sold to Alemite Die Casting in 1928). Mower was only too well aware that the Oliver had 1400 moving parts, which had to be made exact to within 1000th of an inch. But Mower didn’t take everything. Liquidators advertised in Indianapolis, St Louis, Cincinnati and Detroit on July 24 for an auction of unwanted (by Mower) machines, tools, parts and assorted other bits and pieces, to be held in Woodstock three days later. Sterling brothers Dave and Harry Manfield took six trucks and seven assistants to pick up machinery and other equipment.
The British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company was registered as a public company and incorporated on May 5, 1928. It had authorised capital of £130,000 from 260,000 fully paid 10 shilling shares. Within days of the incorporation, the value of shares rose to £14 3 shillings, and by the time of a statutory meeting on July 27, the value had settled at £12 9 shillings. Left with £85,000 after Mower had been paid back for his purchase of the Woodstock plant, the new company planned to expand its factory at the Victory Works, 80 Gloucester Road, Croydon, Surrey.
The BOTMC factory as it looks today
The BOTMC’s managing directors were American-born George Augustus Mower, of the Sturtevant Engineering Company, his countryman Major Walter Henry Ward, of Rockwood Co Ltd, and Englishmen Greville Richard Thursfield, of Igranic Electric, and Thursfield’s in-law Lieutenant-Colonel Adrian Francis Hugh Sibbald Simpson CMG, Royal Engineers, of Wireless Pictures. The registered office was further down Queen Victoria Street, at No 147, where Mower had headquartered some of his other companies. William Herbert Peak, of the Marconiphone Co, joined the board in 1930.
George Mower was born on January 31, 1860, in Stillwater, a city in Washington County, Minnesota, directly across the St. Croix River from the state of Wisconsin. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and travelled to England in 1883 as a representative of the Crosby Valve and B.F. Sturtevant companies, both of Boston. He remained to establish the Sturtevant Engineering Company in 1885 and later the Crosby Valve and Engineering Company. Mower acquired a controlling interest in the Bifurcated and Tubular Rivet Company and in 1898 was appointed agent for the Cutler Hammer Company of Milwaukee. He took control of Iris cars in 1909 and established the Igranic Electric Company in 1913. Mower retained the chairmanship of these companies until his death in Kensington, London, on November 26, 1941.
Mower’s typewriter company got off to a positive start. By the end of July 1928 3000 new machines were already "in an advanced state of manufacture" (Simpson). And in early February 1929 the BOTMC announced it had secured an agreement with the British Government to supply His Majesty’s (George V's) Stationery Office with British-made Olivers. The share price rose to £13 9 shillings. In October the first accounts showed a mere £1040 profit after a trading loss of £8697 from the development period to the end of June 1928 had been transferred to a development account. The BOTMC had also gained control of the United Tools and Instruments Co. The biggest problem encountered by the BOTMC was in finding and training staff in what Mower described as “practically a new industry in this country” – only one in four workers employed had been retained.
For this reason, the BOTMC’s initial venture into the portable typewriter market relied entirely on European-made machines, starting with relabelled German Fortunas in 1931 and moving on to Italian SIM and finally Swiss Patria models. The BOTMC abandoned the traditional standard Oliver design in 1933 (it returned to it during World War Two to meet Government orders when supplies from Europe were impossible to obtain) and started assembling relabelled Halda-Nordens from Sweden in 1935. The BOTMC returned to Haldas after the war, while also licensing European companies, such as Siemag in Germany, to make Oliver labelled machines.
Difficult trading conditions during The Depression lowered the BOTMC's annual profit to £365 in 1934-35 but it rose to £3396 and £3557 in the following financial two years. By 1937 a maiden dividend of 5 per cent was possible. The BOTMC held its ground in 1938 and its profit rapidly lifted in 1939, to £8053, allowing it to double its dividend.
Teddy Goddard, BOTMC's second chairman
Following the death of Mower, Edwin Alfred “Teddy” Goddard (1878–1954) took over as chairman of the BOTMC board. By this time the outbreak of World War II had also impacted significantly on Oliver’s trade and a lack of skilled labour was a telling factor. Goddard stressed the important role typewriters played in the war effort, yet said the Manpower Board did not recognise the need to keep the typewriter industry fully manned.
Just before Christmas 1942, Goddard signalled that the BOTMC was “tooled up” to make its own portable typewriter, but he did not expect the portable to go into production until after the war. Perhaps he was being a little too optimistic about when the war would end. Some £20,000 had been put aside to upgrade machine tools. In the event, however, £15,000 had to be borrowed for new plant and machinery by the end of the war, and in September 1948 the BOTMC sought to raise £39,000 and restore its capital to £130,000 by creating 780,000 ordinary 2 shilling shares. After a large order was placed for standard Olivers for US Air Force bases in Britain and Continental Europe in 1951, this share issue did not go ahead until October 1952, and by the time Goddard died in December 1954 the company was in dire straits. Rex Percy Cooper succeeded Goddard as chairman in February 1955 and three months later Goddard’s son John Howard Goddard (1919-1968) joined the board.  
In June 1956 the BOTMC decided diversification was the way to go and issued 1.7 million 2 shilling shares to acquire two allied engineering businesses as well as catering equipment manufacturer Gardiner and Gulland as a subsidiary. The ploy failed, and a profit of £6620 in 1955-56 turned into a massive £29,858 loss in 1956-57, providing for £38,177 in “obsolescence in stocks”. In December 1957 further expansion, and a name change (to Oliver Industries Ltd in April 1958), were seen as the way out of trouble. The rights to the Jardines’ Byron typewriter had been acquired, but Oliver was seeing itself as a more general industrial holding company, with interests in industrial banking, equipment hiring and TV rentals. For a short while the changes worked, and Oliver’s acquisitions resulted in a profit recovery to £28,109 by the end of 1958. In July 1959 Oliver ceased production of typewriters and before the end of the 1959-60 financial year it had suffered a net loss of £85,646. The receivers were called in. Thus ended 64 years of Oliver history.
The Woodstock plant in its heyday
A range of factors had contributed to the demise of the original Oliver Typewriter Company. Troubled times appeared on the horizon in March 1917 when, addressing the impact of World War I, the OTC drastically and suddenly lowered the price of its latest model from $100 to $49, stopped hiring salesmen, closed its branch offices and discontinued its agencies to rely entirely on mail order sales – declaring this to be a “revolution in the typewriter business”. 
The mail order "revolution"
Things were hardly improved by the death in August 1922, at the age of 60, of the company’s major investor, Cincinnati-born Delavan Smith. The OTC decided against switching to a conventional standard design. In February 1924 the general offices in Chicago were closed and staff moved to Woodstock. The McHenry County tax rate was hiked from 50 to 65 per cent when it was found Illinois was unable to meet an obligation to pay $4.125 million in soldier bonds, because county treasurers hadn’t handed over back taxes. Oliver had to cough up $7766 as its contribution. This followed the lose to fire of a staff accommodation house on Clay Street, Woodstock, and the sale of its car parts foundry to the Motor Valve Co of Chicago. The end was clearly in sight when in March 1925 Oliver entered into talks with Corona about a possible sale of the Woodstock concern to Groton, New York. Although in 1926 Oliver officials continued to put on a brave face concerning the size of the company’s staff and its ongoing production and sales, the downward spiral in its fortunes had obviously become irreversible. Borrowing and efforts to trade out of existing debt were out of the question and liquidation the only possible course of action.
The original OTC was incorporated in Springfield, Illinois, on December 28, 1895, with Lawrence Williams, later the long-standing company president, one of the incorporators, along with Douglas Smith and attorney Samuel Adams Lynde (1855-1940). Three weeks earlier it had been announced that a deal had been struck to move manufacturing from Epworth, Iowa, to Kenosha, Wisconsin. But on January 9, 1896, it was revealed by the Woodstock Public Improvement Association that “Woodstock got it”. The association donated its existing factory on condition that Oliver stayed in Woodstock for at least five years. The company took possession of the former Wheeler and Tappan pumping machine plant on January 14 and after a refit, operations started two months later. Orders were being taken by E.S. Sprague mid-May and machines were shipped by August. The major backers were Chicago capitalists John Villiers “Dutch” Farwell (1825-1908) and newspaper publisher Herman Henry Kohlsaat (1853-1924).
"Dutch" Farwell
One of the partners in a Farwell family legal firm, Chicagoan Charles Chase Whitacre, established the first British branch of the Oliver Typewriter Company, at 75 Queen Victoria Street, London’s “Typewriter Row”, in 1897. Whitacre died suddenly, aged 46, while holidaying with his family in Pointe-au-Pic, Canada, in September 1905. The building at 75 Queen Victoria Street housed a large range of agencies for American companies, many under the control of a John Sugden. Next door were the headquarters of the Richardson typewriter empire. The Oliver agency remained at No 75 after Whitacre’s death, and was also the base for the agencies for Hammond, National and Royal typewriters.
The Oliver Typewriter (Sales) Co Ltd remained in existence at 75 Queen Victoria Street after the establishment of the British Oliver Typewriter Manufacturing Company, with exclusive selling rights throughout Britain and Ireland. Upon establishment of the BOTMC, the Sales organisation placed an immediate order for 20,000 machines, with a profit of £2 a machine going to the BOTMC. Ironically, some of these machines were to be sold back in the good ol’ US of A!

Thursday 19 January 2017

The Barbie Cipher Typewriter

My grand-daughter Ely and I found some respite from the crippling heat wave yesterday by going to the Australian War Memorial. I was delighted to see another typewriter had been added to the exhibitions - the Hermes Baby bought by Brigadier Alfred Thomas Jakins "Ding" Bell (1913-2010) in Palestine in 1940 and used by him on Crete during World War II. 
Of course, I immediately thought of Georg Sommeregger and his passion for Hermes Babys, as I enviously envisaged Georg feeling no need for an escape such as ours, given the much cooler climate of Switzerland. Little did I know it at the time, but the machine in front of Ding Bell's Baby would lead me back to Georg's site for an entirely different reason.
While I tried, in vain, to get a decent photo of Ding Bell's Baby, I paid little attention to the Enigma Ultra machine in the foreground. Much later in the day, long after the sun had gone down - and taken with it much of the discomfort we'd had to endure - a truly weird connection emerged. It dawned on me that Ely, at the tender age of just 16 months, owned both typewriters AND a cipher machine
This became apparent from a Google alert to an article by Sophie Chou and published yesterday on Public Radio International's The World site, headed, "Barbie typewriter toys had a secret ability to encrypt messages". Chou wrote, "In 1998, Slovenian toy company Mehano designed a line of children’s electronic typewriter toys with the ability to write secret messages. Eventually, the company licensed the typewriter to another company that had something altogether different in mind for the toys. Slathered in pink, it was soon headed to market to appeal 'to girls' ... [from Mattel as a Barbie typewriter] ... But there’s a catch - the secret messaging feature was completely pinkwashed - never revealed as a capability of the new Barbie typewriter."
"The four encryption modes - each featuring a simple alphabet substitution cipher (or 1-to-1 encoding) - were left out of Mattel's instruction manuals and advertisements."
My earlier non-electronic model and its patent, below.
What was revealed, on this very blog more than four years ago, is that the story goes much deeper than Mehano and the Barbie typewriter. What became the Barbie was first produced in 1988 by Mehano Društvo s Ograničenom Odgovornošću, Izola, and designed by Marko Piasni, Giudo Pezzolato, Andrej Pisani, Joze Brezec, Franc Branko Cerkrenik and Andrej Mahnic. Later a close business relationship between Mehano and the Elite Industrial Group in Shenzhen, China, developed. This resulted in, among other things, Elite producing an “adult” form of the Barbie as the Olympia Traveller C (later seen as the Royal Scrittore II).
When I posted on this link between the Barbie and China, it was none other than Georg Sommeregger who commented about his own pages on the Barbie, which can be seen here and here. Some of Georg's images have been used in a detailed look at the cipher capacity of the Mehano toy typewriters, written by Paul Reuvers and Marc Simons of the Crypto Museum in The Netherlands and titled "Mehano Typewriter: Toy typewriter with built-in encryption". See in particular "Barbie Typewriter: Alphabet substitution cipher".
In June last year, Reuvers and Simons wrote, "It is little known that all electronic variants have a hidden built-in cryptographic capability that allows secret writing ... Whilst the earlier models were all made at the Mehano factory in Slovenia, the latest one [E-118] is assembled in China.
Georg Sommeregger's image of the E-115
"The original version [E-115] ... was capable of encoding and decoding secret messages, using one of four built-in cipher modes. These modes were activated by entering a special key sequence on the keyboard, and was explained only in the original documentation. When the E-115 was adopted by Mattel as an addition to the Barbie product line, it was aimed mainly at girls with a minimum age of five years. For this reason the product was given a pink-and-purple case and the Barbie logo and images were printed on the body. As it was probably thought that secret writing would not appeal to girls, the coding-decoding facilities were omitted from the manual. Nevertheless, these facilities can still be accessed if you know how to activate them." (Encryption is not available on the earlier mechanical typewriters.)

Tuesday 17 January 2017

The Typewriter as a Double Entendre: Smitten by Tubby's New Yöst

Tubby's Typewriter is a short silent film from 1916 directed by Frank Wilson, the second in the series of comic The Adventures of Tubby produced by Cecil M. Hepworth. Sadly the original print was burned by Hepworth in 1924, and the final scene is missing here. But one can easily imagine what happens when Mrs Tubby turns up at The Ship restaurant.
Australian actress Violet Hopson plays Tubby's jealous wife
Johnny Butt plays Tubby, smitten by a New Yöst typewriterHis young wife is played by Violet Hopson (1887-1973), born in Port Augusta, South Australia as Elma Kate Victoria "Kitty" Karkeek. A major star of the silent era, Violet started out as a child actress with the Pollard Opera Company in Australia and New Zealand in 1898 before going to Britain with her older sister, Ora Zoe Harris Karkeek, in 1900. Violet later became a pioneer in the British film industry when she set up her own production company.
Washington Post, 1920
My New Yöst