Total Pageviews

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Vale Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022)

Frank Moorhouse, one of Australia’s most celebrated and controversial writers, died early on Sunday morning at a hospital in Sydney, aged 83. Moorhouse wrote 18 books, many screenplays and countless essays. He was renowned for his use of the discontinuous narrative in works such as The Americans, Baby and Forty-Seventeen. He was a life-long activist who supported feminism, advocated for gay liberation and supported indigenous land rights. Moorhouse’s activism on behalf of authors led to him becoming a member of the distinguished writers panel for PEN, an international organisation for freedom of speech for poets, essayists and novelists. The 1989-2011 “Edith Trilogy”, a fictional account of the League of Nations and made up of the novels Grand Days, Dark Palace (which won him the 2001 Miles Franklin Literary Award) and Cold Light, affected the career paths of many women.

Moorhouse was born in the New South Wales town of Nowra a few days before Christmas 1938. His New Zealand-born father, electrical engineer, dairy machine inventor and manufacturer Frank Osborne Moorhouse, moved to Australia in 1925. The younger Frank began his working life in 1955 as a cadet reporter on Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and from 1957 worked as a journalist for the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, Riverina Express, Lockhart Review and Boorowa News. At 18 he published his first short story, “The Young Girl and the American Sailor”, in Southerly magazine. Moorhouse lived for many years in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, where together with Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes he became part of the “Sydney Push” - an anti-censorship movement that protested against right-wing politics and championed freedom of speech and sexual liberation. 
Clive James at a Remington Rand.
Germaine Greer.
Robert Hughes at an Olivetti Lettera 32.

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Searing Cutlass Typewriter in Taylor Swift Short

Taylor Swift last week “spilled secrets about her short film” All Too Well during a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. These included “why that red typewriter is so important” – the featured Sears Cutlass represents, apparently, “this dream and hope of being a writer”. It's a Smith-Corona manual portable sold under the Sears brand and, judging by Ted Munk's Typerwriter Database, reasonably common:

There are many online articles out there which explain more fully than I can be bothered to do the "relevance" of the typewriter to Swift's film.

Friday 10 June 2022

Typewriters in the News

In Bloomington, Indiana, last week, a typewriter and a puppet of Kurt Vonnegut were part of the "Nature Tour of the Century" during the Granfalloon Festival. Granfalloon is an annual event of arts, music and scholarship inspired by Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut. (Hoosier is the official demonym for the people of  Indiana; Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis.) Below are some images of Vonnegut with typewriters:

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, typewriters were displayed at the Richmond Museum's artifact storage warehouse during the "Doors Open Richmond" event last week. This is where the city stores historical artifact collections.

Thursday 9 June 2022

Johnny Depp and Typewriter

Have you Heard? Johnny Depp isn't taking any money from Amber but has bought himself a Glasgow-made Remington portable typewriter to write lyrics for a song he'll perform with Jeff Beck.

Margin Release, and a Turning Point for ozTypewriter

ozTypewriter reached five million page views at 8.22 last night, June 8, and to celebrate the milestone we popped the cork on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. A bit extravagant? Well, it’s been a long slog, 2917 posts in more than 11 years. The five-million mark has been both a goal and a cut-off point for me for some time now. My original intention was to stop blogging altogether, but with encouraging comments from the like of Ted, Joe, Bill and Dave, I’ve decided to merely apply the brakes, pull over and idle for a while. It’s not exactly a hibernation, certainly not a complete closure, but just slow-down time. I may, as Ted suggested, decide to turn off comments, for no other reason than that between blogging and fixing typewriters, I never have enough time to respond to all comments, or reply to emails for that matter. Plus, if everything goes according to Hoyle, we should be doing a fair bit of travelling in the second half of 2022.

Yes, ozTypewriter has become a bit of a yoke around my neck, so the plan is to continue posting, but only occasionally, certainly not with the same regularity with which I’ve tried to post since the end of February 2011. Before reaching five million page views, I simply hadn’t been able to get to all the posts I had planned to write – there are probably 30 or 40 ideas still floating about in this study, all of which I still intend to get to one day before I die. For all that, I do wonder about the ongoing relevance of ozTypewriter – online interest in typewriters, as reflected in the various social media sites and platforms, has definitely changed considerably since I started blogging. Sometimes the page view numbers just straggled along and I found myself urging on this "turning point". Blogging began to feel a little like too much hard work for scant return.

An unexpected part of yesterday's celebrations was to find this nice little Nakajima Litton Imperial portable typewriter in a Salvos store. We'd been clearing out things and donating stuff to the Salvos, when by chance I saw this Imperial hidden under a shelf. I can't remember the last time I found a typewriter at any op-shop in Canberra.
Anyway, enough of that … once I’ve recovered from last night’s celebrations I’ll start thinking about resuming posts and clearing the decks of typewriter history topics. There’s one post in particular I’ve been “getting to” for many weeks now, and it’s a bit of a “scoop” for ozTypewriter. In the meantime, we’ve just taking a bit of a break and will be back soon – although with nothing like the former ferocity

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Erika Model 4 Folding Portable Typewriter

A young Canberra lady has entrusted me with the task of working on her great-grandfather's 1927 Erika model 4 folding portable typewriter (serial number 81633). The Model 4 was introudced in 1926, not 1923, as noted elsewhere (the Model 3 came out in 1923).

This is a real beauty. And I've got it typing beautifully, too. I did the scan above without putting in new ribbon, and one can imagine how brittle the ribbon has become after being in the machine for probably 70 years or more. From what I've been told about it, I doubt if this typewriter has been used in all that time. The capitals and figures shift keys were almost rigid from lack of use, and of course the feed rollers have flattened out.

The case it comes in has a sort of mock crocodile skin covering. The case has stickers from the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore (noted for the Gin Sling) and German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd of Breman. Inside the case are the typewriter's original brushes. The Japanned paintwork is so shiny who can see your reflection in it.
These Erika portables were made by Seidel & Naumann in Dresden and sold in Australia as the Bijou. Although Bijous were taken to Egypt in 1915 by Australian military units, Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who used a lookalike Corona 3, briefly outlawed the importing company, Chartres, as an "alien" organisation because of the German origin of the Bijou. The Chartres family mostly imported and distributed Remingtons from the US, while the Stott family imported Underwoods.
The young lady's grandfather was German but apparently was in business in Thailand for most of his life. The brand name Erika comes from the grand-daughter of company founder Bruno Naumann.

Tuesday 7 June 2022

A.J. Liebling and D-Day: Armed With a Typewriter

Each anniversary of D-Day, I’m reminded of A.J. Liebling, the more so since having had the extreme good fortune to find in a cut-price bin at the National Library in Canberra a few years ago a fabulous New Yorker collection called The 40s: The Story of a Decade. This included a couple of particularly brilliant Liebling articles written for The New Yorker, one about Paris immediately before its fall to the Nazis, the other about his landing at Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944.

Liebling pulled some strings to get aboard a large infantry landing craft designated LCIL 88, embarking from Weymouth, Dorset. Typical of the great journalist that he was, Liebling had managed to use his connections with LCIL 88’s commander, Henry K. “Bunny” Rigg, who was rowing and boating correspondent for The New Yorker. Liebling’s description of US troops descending the ramp, heading into the shallow waters and their fate beyond, titled “Cross-Channel Trip (On D-Day)”, made watching Saving Private Ryan an experience akin to seeing a Disney fantasy after a Hitchcock thriller. One felt the blood and gore in Liebling's typewritten words, one didn’t need to see it or smell it on the page.  

Roger Angell, the baseball writer with the gently magic touch who died a few weeks ago, contributed a piece published in The New Yorker on the 2019 75th anniversary of D-Day. In it he said that “Liebling put himself at ease during the pause, most notably as a messmate. Liebling’s wide range of reporting often included loving passages about French cooking, but those who knew him always understood that there was more of the gourmand than of the gourmet behind this interest. In Rigg’s account, Liebling ate, and ate steadily, for the better part of three days aboard -and, after Joe [Liebling] had been safely put ashore, Rigg and his two companions found that there was nothing left in the larder for their return trip but a box of pilot crackers.” Those who saw Wes Anderson’s wonderful bit of whimsy, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, will recall that the character of food writer Roebuck Wright was in large part based on Liebling.

Another American journalist I think of on D-Day anniversaries is Bill Walton, above. By chance, on Sunday night, while waiting for my wife to return from Sydney by train, I happened to watch parts of a movie called Jackie. This is a 2016 biographical drama in which Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy and the usually superb English actor Richard E. Grant is what seemed to me a rather wishy-washy Walton, an advisor to both Jackie and John F. Kennedy.

Time correspondent Walton parachuted into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division. In England he had worked with Mary Welsh, through whom, indirectly, he befriended Ernest Hemingway, who joined Walton in Cherbourg in mid-July 1944 and with Walton covered the first phase of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in September-October. Hemingway saved Walton's life during the fighting after recognising the sound of a German plane and throwing Walton out of the jeep they were riding in, moments before it was strafed.

After Hemingway’s suicide in 1961,  Walton used his connections with the Kennedys to help Mary Welsh obtain a passport to Cuba to retrieve her husband's effects and papers. In return, Walton convinced her to deposit Hemingway’s papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, of which Walton became a trustee.

Bill Walton far right.

In 1997, when Soviet Union archives became available to US historians, it was revealed that in 1963 Walton had gone on a secret diplomatic mission to Moscow just eight days after Kennedy's assassination. At the behest of Robert F. Kennedy, he secretly met with Georgi Bolshakov, a Soviet journalist and spy who served as a backdoor channel between the Kennedy administration and the Soviet government. Walton carried a message from Robert Kennedy: Although Lyndon Johnson was a “sabre-rattling anti-communist”, Kennedy assured the Soviets that Johnson was nothing more than a “clever time-server incapable of realising Kennedy's unfinished plans”. Kennedy also informed the Soviets through Walton that he intended to run for president in 1968, and that if he won there would be a significant thaw in US-Soviet relations. Walton conveyed the Kennedy family's belief that the President had been the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy and not a Soviet assassination.

65 Years Using Manual Portable Typewriters

Taken today, marking 65 years of using manual portable typewriters.
Taken in Fremantle in 1982, my 25th year of using manual portable typewriters.
I remember well the first time I used a manual portable typewriter. It was on this day in 1957, 65 years ago. The typewriter was an Underwood Universal, which was in my father's tailoring establishment at 37 Mawhera Quay in Greymouth, New Zealand. Leading toward the end of the financial year, the family (that is, my siblings and I) went to the store on a chilly Friday evening, back then the end of the working week, to help our father with his annual stocktaking. I, being nine-years-old and the youngest of the five of us, wasn't of much use in this activity, so I was allowed to sit at our father's desk, listen to the Bakelite radio and use the little Underwood typewriter, while my brother and sisters helped check stocks of suits, shirts and ties. The radio was tuned to station 3YZ, and at 7pm on came the "West Coast Hit Parade", a weekly half-hour Top 10 programme hosted by the genial John Pike. How well I recall that rocketing up to No 1 was Elvis Presley's All Shook Up, which pretty much summed up how I felt about seeing one of my own compositions coming up before my eyes in type, for the very first time. There haven't been very many days in the ensuing 65 years that I haven't used a typewriter.

Sunday 5 June 2022

Typewriters in Museums

The Deutsches Museum in Munich will next month unveil a redesigned permanent exhibition called “Image Script Codes”, which includes such beautiful old typewriters as a Sholes and Glidden, a Hansen writing ball, a Lambert, a Blickernsderfer and, for good measure, a Hermes Baby.  This will be the first modernized section of the museum. It embraces everything from cave paintings to letterpress printing to the emoji. The exhibition explains fundamentals from traditional printing technology to writing in the digital era. The typeface, which plays the main role in printing technology, is examined. “To describe our exhibition, ‘The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back 1234567890’ would fit well,” says curator Carola Dahlke.

Meanwhile, the Schreibmaschinenmuseum Peter Mitterhofer in Parcines, in the province of South Tyrol in northern Italy, has played host to the 12th collectors meeting. The museum has almost 2000 typewriters, and shows the history of the development of the typewriter with special attention to the Parscines inventor Peter Mitterhofer and his typewriter prototypes constructed 150 years ago.

There is also a German Typewriter Museum in Bayreuth with a collection of historic typewriters going back to 1936 The collection includes more than 300 typewriters.

This photo was taken in February showing a working room with typewriters in the former vault of the Bundesbank Bunker Museum in Cochem, western Germany. The Bundesbank Bunker was a bunker of the German Federal Bank in Cochem for the storage of an emergency currency. From 1964 to 1988, up to 15 billion marks were stored in the top-secret facility to protect Germany from a national economic crisis in the event of hyperinflation caused by the Cold War.

RIP Ron Reed (1947-2022)

One of Australia’s leading sports writers, Ron Reed, has died at the age of 74. His death gave me a bit of a start, and not just because that’s the age I am now (although Ron was closer to 75 than I am). I had no idea Reed was ill, and as far as I can see none of the many tributes to him that have appeared online and in print this weekend have mentioned a cause of death. Indeed, Ron, affectionately known to all and sundry as “The Hound”, was writing his regular sports column in the Melbourne Herald up until just a fortnight ago. The last one was about the death of cricketer Andrew Symonds, and it was full of Ron’s disarming honesty, a great rarity among so-called sports journalists these days. For instance, Ron came straight out and admitted, “Regrettably, I never got to know ‘Roy’ [Symonds] at all. Can’t remember a single one-on-one conversation, only press conferences which were not always all that useful because he didn’t seem to enjoy engaging with journalists and as far as I could tell what relationships he did have with them were often testy.” A week earlier Ron had written about the disgraced Australian basketball Liz Cambage, who he said was “the most disappointing big-name personality in Australian sport – by a long way. Happily, this is not a title for which there is much competition – especially among our female athletes.” Ron had also last year published a book titled War Games, about his father William Cecil Reed's World War II service, including his survival of the bombing of Nagasaki, where Bill Reed was a prisoner of war.

Ronald William Reed came from Warrnambool in Victoria and began his working life there as a proof-reader's assistant on the Standard before getting a cadetship in the late 1960s.
He became a general reporter on the Herald but soon after went to London and worked as a sub-editor for Reuters and for the Evening News. He returned to Melbourne in 1971 to become chief sub-editor on the Herald’s sports desk, editor of the Sporting Globe and sports editor of the Herald, then chief sportswriter for the Herald Sun. He retired in 2016, after 45 years with Herald and Weekly Times Group.
I worked alongside Ron on many occasions, notably on covering Ashes cricket series and Olympic and Commonwealth Games. He was a good man to work with, always amiable and helpful, far from the outwardly “gruff” individual mentioned in so many obituaries. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Ron appeared to be one of the few other Australian members of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), and therefore knew his way around the testy subject of the allocation of positions in the press tribune for the opening ceremony. Inside information and contacts like that were invaluable when covering major events such as the Olympics, and it came down to having the experience gained from many years of sports writing overseas. Assignments such as the Olympics and Ashes tours were always “plum” appointments in Australian newspapers, and the number of times newspaper executives gave these jobs to people who were completely unqualified to handle them was staggering. Ron Reed was always the right man, and Australian sports journalism is all the poorer now that he has gone.

Thursday 2 June 2022

Miss Americas and Their Underwood Portable Typewriters

The sash. The tears. The glittering crown. And, best of all of course, the Underwood typewriter. In the eight years that the Miss America pageant was staged in Atlanta City between 1925 and 1938, the thing the winners took home with them that proved to be of the most lasting value was an Underwood portable. At that time, actuarial scientists had calculated that the odds against a Miss America making a successful marriage were 4-1 and that Miss America could expect “no more than 3.9456 years of bliss.” Notwithstanding their luck with marriages, the Underwood typewriters offered a lifetime of joy. Of those Miss Americas given Underwoods, we took a look, back in March 2016, at the life of Fay Lanphier, who won the 1925 crown, and today we go to the other end of the list of Miss Americas who were also Underwood typewriter recipients, to Marilyn Meseke.

Miss Meseke was born Mary Ellen Spurrier in Lima, Ohio, on October 7, 1916, less than two months before her father, Virgil Hall Spurrier, died following a long illness from edema due to congestive heart failure. Virgil died a week before his 21st birthday, leaving a widow, Nellie Violet (nee Cook, 1894-1957) with two children under the age of two. Mary Ellen was raised in Marion, Ohio, by her maternal grandparents, Charlie and Clara Meseke, who changed her name to Marilyn Meseke. She attended Harding High School in Marion (photo left) and through her grandmother’s urging took up dance and piano lessons.

Meseke entered and won the Miss Ohio competition twice, first in 1931 when still 14 and ineligible for the national pageant, and again in 1938. That year’s Miss America was the first to score talent and Meseke’s tap dancing skills stood in her good stead. Marion, Ohio, had become the first and only town to boost of both a Miss America and a US president (Harding). Meseke, seen left in later life, moved to Florida in 1977 and died in Mount Dora on September 12, 2001, aged 84.

The first Miss America to be given an Underwood typewriter, along with all her other prizes, was Fay Elinora Lanphier, born at Greenwood, El Dorado, California, on December 12, 1905. Her father, Percivelle Casper Lanphier, died in Oakland in February 1920, four days before the birth of a fifth son and leaving Fay's mother Emily a widow with seven young mouths to feed. Aiming for a career as a secretary, Fay stayed on at Oakland High School and graduated in 1924. That same year, as an 18-year-old, Fay won the Miss Alameda title, was crowned Miss California and came third in the Miss America contest. In 1925 the strawberry blond, hazel-eyed Oakland typist became the first Californian to take out the Miss America title (she was also Rose Queen, and the only contestant in Atlantic City to represent an entire state).

Lanphier became the first Miss America to star in a movie. She appeared as "Miss Alabama" opposite Louise Brooks and Douglas Fairbanks Jr in Paramount's The American Venus. The movie was released on January 31, 1926, almost exactly coinciding with the launch of the new Underwood four-bank portable typewriter, which Lanphier duly promoted on a  16-week personal appearance tour. Fay died from viral pneumonia at the East Bay Oakland suburb of Orinda on June 21, 1959, aged 53.

The second-to-last Miss America-Underwood typewriter winner, in 1937, was 17-year-old Miss Bertrand Island, Bette Cooper. Bette was born on August 11, 1920, to Mabel and Marin Le Brun Cooper in Hackettstown, New Jersey. At the time of being crowned Miss America, Bette had just begun her first year of junior college, after attending Hackettstown High School. In 1936 she had entered a beauty pageant at the Bertrand Island amusement park on Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, and won the title the following year, adding to it Miss Lake Hopatcong 1937. The morning after being named Miss America, Bette, unable to stand being in the glare of the spotlight, had made off  with her chaperone Louis Off. Eventually it was agreed that in exchange for Bette retaining her Miss America title, she would take part in only a fraction of her expected duties. When Mrs Elizabeth Cooper Moore (in photo right in later life) died at The Mews in Greenwich, Connecticut, on December 10, 2017, at age 97, she was the oldest living Miss America at the time. Yet her obituary in the Oakland Tribune made no mention whatsoever of her beauty contest career.

By 1961, Royal portables had become associated with Miss America pageants. Above, actress Joan Crawford prepares to be a judge for the pageant in Los Angeles.