Total Pageviews

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Mitterhofer Typewriter Claim Upsets US Historian

The 1864 Mitterhofer machine was on show in the exhibition "Mountains, People and the Economy of the Ostmark" in 1939.
Today the 200th anniversary of the birth of early typewriter inventor Peter Mitterhofer is being marked in his home town of Parcines in the Tyrol. In August 1925 US newspapers ran a story from Innsbruck saying a memorial tablet had been unveiled at Mitterhoffer’s home. The story claimed Mitterhofer was THE inventor of the typewriter, and went on to state that Carlos Glidden had seen Mitterhofer’s machine at the Imperial Polytechnic Institute at Vienna and given the idea to Latham Sholes and Samuel SoulĂ©. That is to say, the Sholes & Glidden was a COPY of Mitterhofer’s machine. This caused huge indignation in America. In October 1925, US newspaper stories headed “Exposes attempt to discredit famous American inventor” explaimed how Colonel John Wright Vrooman (1844-1929), president of the Herkimer County Historical Association, had proved that Glidden had never been outside the US and had never heard of Mitterhofer. Vrooman had “defeated a foreign attempt to take the honor [of inventing the typewriter] from America.”
Ninety-seven years on, however, Mitterhofer's Wikipedia entry still says, "Technical details of his developments were patented by Sholes and Glidden in the US in 1868 independently of Mitterhofer as an in-house development and created the basis for the series production of the first usable typewriters ... Professor Rudolf Granichstaedten-Czerva, who published a biography of Peter Mitterhofer in 1924, [said] Mitterhofer experienced the success of the typewriters manufactured in the US by Sholes, but without having any part in it. On August 27, 1893, he died bitter. On his tombstone is the saying: 'The others who learned from him were allowed to reap the fruits of his talent'. It was probably the great similarity of Mitterhofer's models with the models produced in America by the Remington company that prompted the Innsbruck professor to write the saying on the tombstone." All of which, of course, is utter nonsense.

Sunday 18 September 2022

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King’s Typewriter

My dear friend Gary McGill, originally from Dillmanstown outside Kumara, was, I believe, the only male born in New Zealand on the same day that King Charles III entered the world. Gary still has a typewriter. I wonder if Charles still has his?

Charles got his typewriter on May 5, 1949, nine days before he turned six months old. It was given to his mother, then Princess Elizabeth, at the British Industries Fair at Olympia in London. The typewriter is an Empire Aristocrat with 18-carat gold key rings and typebars (which Gary’s doesn’t have). The Aristocrat was presented to the future Queen by a Mrs S.S. Elliott, secretary of the Office Appliances Trade Association. Future British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, as president of the Board of Trade, had welcomed the princess, her husband, mother and sister to the fair.

Mrs Elliott told Elizabeth, “We thought that perhaps Prince Charles might begin to learn his alphabet from the keyboard.” “What a good idea,” replied Elizabeth.

The Empire Aristocrat was made by Bill Mawle’s company, British Typewriters, in West Bromwich. It was from this plant, originally established as George Salter’s Spring Works, that in 1878 the West Bromwich Albion football club emerged, out of the company’s cricket team. In 1935 Mawle, a World War I flying ace (and later Group Captain Mawle OBE DFC), was sales manager for the Imperial Typewriter Company in Leicester. He was sent to a trade show in Switzerland and there spotted a new slimline portable typewriter, later to become famous as the Hermes Baby. Mawle bought the British rights to the design for £3000 and returned to Britain to begin manufacturing at the then abandoned Sattler factory. Mawle’s company, later known as Empire Typewriters, was sold to the American typewriter concern L.C. Smith Corona in 1962.

WD-40 and Typewriters: Never the Twain Should Meet

Whenever I fix a typewriter, I offer the customer free after-service care. Yesterday, for the first time, that offer was taken up. Three years ago I had worked on a 70-year-old Royal HHP standard which had been bought for a Canberra woman by her mother-in-law, from the San Francisco Typewriter Exchange. Last week the owner contacted me to say the keys and typebars wouldn’t move. She wasn’t wrong. It would have taken a sledgehammer to get them operational.

The owner said she had no knowledge of anyone spraying anything into the segment. But, from experience, that is exactly what had happened. And the guilty item: WD-40! WD-40 is a water dispersant spray, not a lubricant. WD-40 shouldn’t be allowed within a 100 miles of a typewriter, the keys and typebars of which work through a combination of a multitude of gears, levers and springs and good ol’ gravity. Allow WD-40 anywhere near those gears, lever connections and springs, or the groves of the segment, and you’re asking for big, big problems. WD-40 works like Lanolin, it congeals and clogs.

It took 24 hours of serious bubble bathing, relubricating and much gentle manual persuasion to get the keys and typebars working properly again. Today’s lesson? Never use WD-40 as a lubricant. And never, ever, use it on a typewriter.