Total Pageviews

Thursday 17 February 2022

Rupert Gould's 'The Story of the Typewriter'

From The Tatler and Bystander, October 28, 1942.

“Home of rest for aged and decayed typewriters supported entirely by voluntary contributions no deserving case refused admission.” 

- Sign over the workroom when Rupert Gould lived with his mother Agnes Gould at 'Downside', 41 Woodfield Lane, Ashtead, Surrey. Fearing his mother’s objections to additions to his typewriter collection, Gould codenamed them “lobsters”.

It’s a little more than seven years now since I wrote what I thought was a definitive post about typewriter history books. By chance I found today that I’d missed one: The Story of the Typewriter: From the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Centuries by the famed British polymath and horologist Rupert Thomas Gould (1890-1948), who started collecting typewriters in 1927 and for more than two decades made an intense study of typewriter history. On my list, Gould’s book, published in 1949 by the London-based journal Office Control and Management, should slot in between those two extremely valuable works, Ernst Martin’s updated edition of The Typewriter and its Development History and Richard Current’s The Typewriter and The Men Who Made It.

I’ve only had a chance so far to take a cursory look through Gould’s The Story of the Typewriter, but from what I’ve read of it I’d highly recommend it to serious typewriter historians. It’s available online here. It’s nowhere near as detailed as Martin’s book – what work is? – nor is it as revealing about Latham Sholes, James Densmore and George Yōst as Current’s wonderful read. To Gould's eternal credit, he gets the inventor of the 1847 Typograph right, when so many other so-called "typewriter historians" (mainly British) got it SO wrong! And Gould does raise some interesting points. For example, he credits the invention of the Caligraph to Franz Xaver Wagner, the man better known for giving us the Wagner typewriter which became the visible writing Underwood. This was a new take for me. I have never believed Densmore or Yōst were capable of developing the mechanics for the Caligraph, though it was probably Densmore’s idea to have space bars on both sides of the keyboard. I do know, however, that Alexander Davidson (left) laid claim to designing the Caligraph, as well as the Densmore and the early Yōst typewriters. Wagner was equally experienced across a range of the earliest typewriters, so the likelihood of his input into the Caligraph cannot be dismissed.

Gould's 1943 drawing of a Sholes & Glidden, with a caption typed on his own S & G.

Gould does not mention Davidson at all. Instead his “tiny band of professional typewriter designers” includes Lucien Crandall, Charles Spiro, Wagner, Wellington Parker Kidder and Richard Uhlig. And he does point out that whoever did design the Caligraph was “gravely, though not fatally, handicapped by having to evade the Remington patents”. These were the Sholes patents surrendered to Remington through poor financial management from Densmore and Yōst. Gould appears to have had a soft spot for Wagner, right, possibly because both men were vitally involved with clocks and their escapement mechanisms, as well having an interest in typewriters. Indeed, it seems highly likely that Gould’s involvement with clocks led to his collecting typewriters and researching their history.

Gould’s manuscript was first published as a series of articles in Office Control and Management journal between January and September 1948. After Gould died of heart failure at age 57, on October 5, 1948, his articles were edited into book form by Dudley Wood Hooper (1911-1968), an accountant with training and experience in the use and development of office technology (Hooper helped form the British Computer Society in April 1957).

I came across mention of Gould’s book today when I chanced upon Time Restored: The Harrison Timekeepers and R.T. Gould, The Man Who Knew (Almost) Everything by Jonathan Betts, a senior specialist in horology at the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (as in Greenwich Mean Time). This book, published by the Oxford University Press and the maritime museum in 2006, goes into much detail about Gould’s typewriter collecting and his writings about typewriter history. These sections are also available online, here. Betts is decidedly mistaken in saying Gould “had one of the largest collections of typewriters in existence and wrote the first independent history of the instrument.” Carl Dietz’s 113 machines donated to the Milwaukee Public Museum in 1936 easily outbids Gould’s 71 by 1948. As for independent histories, there was one published in Britain by George Carl Mares in 1909, The History of the Typewriter Successor to the Pen being one example of the many independent histories written between Mares and Martin. But we won’t let that detract from Gould’s typewriter book.

Betts did, however, seek the advice of renowned British collector and historian Bernard Williams. The author wrote, “One of the surprising things that [Williams] has noted is that, unlike Gould’s published work in antiquarian horology and in scientific mysteries, his contribution to the history of the typewriter is very little known in the small but enthusiastic world of typewriter collecting. How true is that!

Rupert Thomas Gould was a lieutenant-commander in the British Royal Navy best known for his contributions to horology (the science and study of timekeeping devices). He was born at Southsea, Hampshire, on November 16, 1890, the son of a music teacher, organist and composer. Rupert was educated at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy, the Royal Naval College, Osborne, and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. He became a midshipman, and thereby a naval officer, on May 15, 1907, aged 16. He chose the “navigation” career track and, after qualifying as a navigation officer, served until near the outbreak of World War I, at which time he suffered a nervous breakdown and went on medical leave. During his lengthy recuperation, he was stationed at the Hydrographer's Department at the Admiralty, where he became an expert on various aspects of naval history, cartography, and expeditions of the polar regions. In 1919 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Commander. He became a science educator, giving a series of talks for the BBC's Children's Hour starting in January 1934 under the name “The Stargazer”. The first of these talks involving typewriters was given on June 9, 1938, and it was followed by an article in the Radio Times. Ten years earlier, Gould have given a paper to the Royal Society of Arts on the subject of typewriter history.
One of the typewriters Gould collected which is
now in the Science Museum in Londin is this 'Correspondent'

Many machines from Gould’s typewriter collection are now in the Science Museum, London, but they were initially left to the Chiswick Polytechnic.


Richard P said...

Many thanks for this. I wonder whether the Science Museum's stunning Maskelyne Victoria was in Gould's collection.

These early typewriter collectors must have been eccentric and intelligent people; they took an interest in the history of an object that had become an everyday tool and that was uninteresting to most for this reason.

Robert Messenger said...

Interesting question Richard. The museum website says the Maskelyne donor was the South Western Polytechnic. I have checked British newspapers again and they insist it was to Chiswick Polytechnic that Gould bequethed his typewriter collection. If you look at Tilghman Richards's very suspect "The History and Development of Typewriters", first published in 1938, 10 years before Gould died, and based on the Science Museum's collection, you will not find any of the Gould donations. Somewhere along the line the typewriters Gould gave to the Chiswick Polytechnic presumably went to the Science Museum?

Robert Messenger said...

PS: The Science Museum only credits Gould with the Bennett, Junior, Crandall No 3, Correspondent, Ideal, Densmore 5, Virotype, Salter, Yost 10 and Smith Premier 10 in its collection. I wonder if it cherry-picked? And if so, where are the other 61 machines from Gould's collection?