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Friday 28 February 2020

Bernie Sanders: In the Footsteps of Eugene Debs?

Eugene Debs dictates while his younger brother Theodore
types a letter on an Oliver typewriter.
Today’s Guardian Weekly declares on its cover, “The Ascent of Bernie: How Sanders rose above the Democrat pack”. This follows the Vermont senator's dominating performance in Nevada last week. It certainly seems as if Sanders, like Eugene Debs before him, is the man they can’t hold down. Mind you, I don’t expect Sanders, at age 78, will ever manage to emulate Debs’ effort in standing for the presidency a staggering five times.
A much younger Sanders at a Debs exhibition.
Just over a year ago The New Yorker published a 4347-word “A Critic at Large” article from historian Jill Lepore titled “Eugene V.Debs and the Endurance of Socialism: Half man, half myth, Debs turned a radical creed into a deeply American one”. In it, Lepore pointed out, “Socialism has been carried into the 21st century by way of Sanders, a Debs disciple, and by way of the utter failure of the two-party system. Last summer [2018], a Gallup poll found that more Democrats view socialism favorably than view capitalism favorably.”
                         A Remington typewriter at the Eugene Debs House in Terre Haute.
Saunders’ fasincation with Debs goes way back, wrote Leport. “The most delightful way to hear Debs is to listen to a recording made in 1979 by Bernie Sanders, in an audio documentary that [Sanders] wrote and produced when he was 37-years-old and was the director of the American People’s Historical Society, in Burlington, Vermont, two years before he became that city’s mayor. In the documentary - available on YouTube and Spotify - Sanders, the Brooklyn-born son of a Polish Jew, performs parts of Debs’s most famous speeches, sounding, more or less, like Larry David. It is not to be missed.”
        Among the Debs speeches Sanders recorded was the one in which Debs spoke out against World War I soon after the US became involved in 1917. “I am opposed to every war but one,” Debs said. “I am for that war with heart and soul, and that is the world-wide war of the social revolution. In that war I am prepared to fight in any way the ruling class may make necessary, even to the barricades.” As a member of the Senate in 2010, Sanders repeated Debs’ sentiments. “There is a war going on in this country,” he declared in a speech of protest that lasted more than eight hours. “I am not referring to the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. I am talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people against working families, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country.”
        Eugene Victor Debs was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on November 5, 1855. This is a significant date for many folk in Britain and the old British Empire: it is called Guy Fawkes’ Day, and marks the day in 1605 when Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords in London, hoping to kill King James I.  But that was more a religious issue than a social or political one.
Deb, socialist, political activist and trade unionist, was one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World. Ironically, early in his political career, Debs was a member of the Democratic Party. He was elected as a Democrat to the Indiana General Assembly in 1884. Debs was instrumental in the founding of the American Railway Union, one of the nation's first industrial unions. The 1894 Pullman Strike was ended by Grover Cleveland sending in the Army and Debs was convicted and served six months in prison.
It was to be the first of two spells behind bars. But from this one Debs emerged as a committed adherent of the international socialist movement. He became a founding member of the Social Democracy of America (1897), the Social Democratic Party of America (1898) and the Socialist Party of America (1901). Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President in 1900 (earning 0.6% of the popular vote), 1904 (3.0%), 1908 (2.8%), 1912 (6.0%) and 1920 (3.4%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his Indiana in 1916.
The Eugene Debs Memorial at Madison Square Garden. 
         Debs’ speech denouncing the US joining World War I led to his second arrest, in 1918. Warren G. Harding commuted the sentence in December 1921. Debs died in Elmhurst, Illinois, on October 20, 1926, aged 70, not long after being admitted to a sanatorium because of to cardiovascular problems that developed during his time in prison.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

The LIFE of George Silk and the Typewriters He Shot

The caption simply said, “Man typing on a typewriter during a boxing match between Archie Moore and James Parker, Toronto, Ontario, 1956.” Nothing more, nothing less. But the moment I saw the photograph, I recognised who the “man” in the white dinner suit, black bowtie and white silk (appropriately, as it turns out) pocket handkerchief was. None other than Rocco Francis “Rocky” Marciano, then aged 32 and just retired as unbeaten heavyweight champion of the world. His typewriter? Well, I had a little more difficulty identifying that, but my best guess is a Japy P68 portable (picture of same below from Georg Sommeregger. It's one of only two photos in this post not taken by the same man, but more on that later.)
         What I can say for certain is that the bout took place at the Maple Leaf Stadium on July 25, 1956, and, as Associated Press wired, “Archie Moore, San Diego, California, chopped up James J. Parker with the greatest of ease … Referee Billy Burke called a TKO in 2:02 of the ninth. The outclassed lanky Toronto heavyweight dripped blood from cuts around the left eye … [Moore] feinted Parker into a pretzel and sliced the left eye as early as the fourth."
        A check of newspaper reports of the event established that yes, the fat fingers of Rocky Marciano – The Rock from Brockton, The Brockton Blockbuster - did indeed tap out coverage of the fight on a typewriter at ringside, for a Toronto newspaper. The story just didn’t mention the white dinner suit, black bowtie or the Japy portable (if that's what it is). But given it’s Eastern Canada, I guess there’s a fair chance of French portable would be available for use there. Most astonishingly, it seems this photograph never saw the light of day in any magazine or newspaper at the time. Indeed, this blog post may well be the first time it has been published.
     Here we see First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at a Corona 4 portable during her exhaustive 1943 South Pacific tour, which took in New Zealand and Australia. Below is a journalist at an Olympia SF portable on a flight during Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. Rafer Johnson, seen here in Rome, where he won the 1960 Olympic Games decathlon gold medal, wrestled Palestinian assassin Sirhan Sirhan to the ground after Sirhan shot and killed Bobby Kennedy in the kitchen passageway of The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. Assisting Johnson in restraining Sirhan was writer George Plimpton – who, coincidentally, also got bloodied by Archie Moore, in New York in January 1959. This last photo was taken by Herb Scharfman for Sports Illustrated, and it’s the only Scharfman-Sports Illustrated photo in this post.

        The rest were all taken by New Zealander GEORGE SILK for LIFE magazine. (Except, of course, for those of himself.)
            Finally – at least as far as these typewriter photos are concerned - a shot taken during the Calderonista Invasion of Costa Rica, of yet another unidentified man holding a newspaper while tuning his radio in Costa Rica, in January 1955. Is that man using a Hammond or a Varityper? Sure looks like it!
        Photojournalist George Silk was born in Levin, in the Horowhenua district of New Zealand, on November 17, 1916. He worked for LIFE for almost 30 years, from 1943 until it folded at the end of 1972.       
A guy drags his Siamese cat to the Los Angeles cat show in 1952.
Shooting brilliantly in both black-and-white and colour, Silk covered everything for LIFE that moved, or didn't move: Dog, cat and flower shows, movie stars and moon launches, Miss Universe and sports (Muhammad Ali, World Series Baseball, Super Bowl and college football, rugby, America's Cup, summer and winter Olympic Games, Empire and Pan-Am Games), presidential campaigns and the Kennedys extensively, travel ... and war, lots of war. There is certainly much gore in his massive portfolio of 9615 images, but also often touching humour, the off-beat, and in sport a growing fascination with capturing movement in still shots.

Silk is most famous for his Christmas Day 1942 photo of blinded Australian soldier Private George "Dick" Whittington being aided by “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel” Raphael Oimbari from the Battle of Buna-Gona against the Japanese invaders in Papua New Guinea. Publication of the photo in New York prompted fellow New Zealander, poet and journalist Elizabeth Riddell, to play a more meaningful role in the war. Riddell was working in New York for Ezra Norton’s papers, Truth and the Daily Mirror, when she saw Silk’s photo. She was irritated by the trivialisation of the war in the United States – thinking it came across as “one great big Hollywood thing”. Silk’s dramatic photo was the final straw. She told Norton she needed to get to London and off she went, to gain accreditation as a war correspondent.
Silk's career as a war photographer began in 1939, when he was hired as a combat photographer by the Australian Ministry of Information. From Papua New Guinea he went on to cover action in the Middle East, North Africa and Greece. Trapped with the Desert Rats at Tobruk in Libya, he was captured by Rommel’s German forces but escaped 10 days later. Silk covered the Italian front, the Allied invasions of France and also the Pacific Theatre. In New Guinea, Silk walked 300 miles with the Allied forces, an ordeal later described in the book War in New Guinea. He was with US forces in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was wounded by a grenade during a river crossing in Germany. Silk commandeered a B-29 to take aerial photos of the devastated Nagasaki and Tokyo in 1945 and the next year shot a photo essay of famine in China's Hunan Province. He was named magazine photographer of the year four times by the National Press Photographers' Association.
In early 1960 Silk returned to his native New Zealand, for the first time in 14 years, for a photo essay, published under the headline “Lovely Land Too Far Away” in the March 21, 1960, issue of LIFE. Images here include a couple in a grotto in Franz Josef Glacier on the West Coast, glow worms at Waitomo in the Waikato, Silk’s niece Jeanette Morgan gulping down a very fresh oyster and rainbow trout at Taupo. There are also double-page spreads of Milford Sound and Mt Taranaki. It was a tribute from the heart to a much loved homeland.
Silk died of congestive heart failure on October 23, 2004, in Norwalk, Connecticut, aged 87. Other photos of Silk (taken by other photographers):
With Carl Mydans, left.
At the Thule Air Base in Greenland.
Self-portrait, 1965
 At the Vancouver Empire Games, 1954.
At the Melbourne Olympic Games, 1956.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Flora Fanny Stacey (1845-1909): The World’s First Typewriter Artist

Writing in London’s Guardian newspaper in December 1975, Alex Hamilton said, “ … though typewriters could be bought from 1874, no drawings made on them earlier than 1898 survive. So the founder’s laurels must go to Flora F.F. Stacey, whose picture of a butterfly gave a lift to The Phonetic Journal of October 16, 1898 [It was actually the 15th, ed]. Nothing else about her has come to light.”
That last sentence herewith totally changes. Flora Fanny Stacey (there was no final initial “F”) was born at Hounslow Heath on the western outskirts of London in early April 1845. She died a spinster in Kensington, London, on February 15, 1909, aged 63. Her estate was valued at £2636, four shillings and one penny, or $US408,280 ($A618,595) in today’s money. For at least 20 years until her death she had operated her own business and been a highly successful teacher of typewriting and shorthand, as well as music, based mainly in the Earl’s Court area  of London.
Flora Fanny Stacey's typewritten drawing of her own Royal Bar-Lock
Stacey’s pioneering artwork with her Royal Bar-Lock typewriter was largely forgotten for almost 70 years from 1904, until Australian poet Alan Riddell produced his book Typewriter Art following an exhibition of typewritten poetry and typewriter art he organised at the Concourse Gallery in the Barbican Centre on Silk Road in London in March 1974, to celebrate the centenary of the typewriter. Alan Thomas Cockburn Riddell was born in Townsville, Queensland, on April 16, 1927, and died in Fulham, London, on May 27, 1977, aged 50. He spent his early childhood in Sydney before going to live with foster parents in Scotland in 1938. He graduated with a Master of Arts from Edinburgh University before joining the British Navy as a signalman. Riddell founded the Scottish poetry review Lines, which he edited from 1952-55 and again between 1962-67. He lived in Greece, Spain and France and during various visits back to Australia he worked as a journalist for The Age, The Daily Telegraph and The Sydney Morning Herald (where he was editor of the education supplement from 1969-1970).
Since Riddell’s landmark book on typewriter art, others have been produced and in these as well as articles and blog posts, Riddell’s scant knowledge of Stacey’s life has simply been repeated without any effort to “cast more light on it”, as Alex Hamilton might have said. Many of the references to Stacey merely describe her as “an English stenographer”, when she was clearly much more than that. Some have even suggested she was “young”, when it fact she was 53 years old when her prize-winning butterfly first appeared in 1898. During the next six years no more was published about Stacey, but in 1904 more than 50 United States newspapers ran versions of a syndicated story about her typewriter art. Some of the more extended spreads, such as in the The Chicago Sunday Tribune and the Boston Globe, organised typewriter art competitions to coincide with publication of the richly illustrated article.