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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Typewriters #23

Smith-Corona portable,
Christmas 1956
Smith-Corona portable,
Christmas 1957
Olivetti Lettera 22, Christmas 1957
 Royal Futura, Christmas 1958
Smith-Corona portables,
Christmas 1962
Smith-Corona portables,
Christmas 1965
Smith-Corona portables,
Christmas 1963
Brother portables, Christmas 1970
Smith-Corona electric portable,
Christmas 1977

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Typewriters #22

Corona 3 portable, Christmas 1925
Courtesy Wim Van Rompuy
 Royal portable, Christmas 1941
Smith-Corona portable,
Christmas 1945
 Smith-Corona portable,
Christmas 1946
 Royal portable, Christmas 1948
 Royal portable, Christmas 1954
Remington portable, Christmas 1966

Christmas Typewriters #21

Hermes Baby, Christmas 1941
Hermes Baby, Christmas 1945
These two courtesy of Georg Sommeregger
Royal portable, Christmas 1949
Smith-Corona portable, 1950
Remington Quiet-Riter, Christmas 1957

Oh, Mein Papa

My father, Wallace Newman Messenger
As a child, this time of year was always the most exciting. Our folks worked wonders to keep it so. They couldn't conjure snow, admittedly, but we still got that all-important visit.
Traces of the thrill of Christmas linger on. The wonderful memories have doubtless been enkindled, now that - as of 2014 - I'm not just a father, but a grandfather and an father-in-law to boot. The prospects of living it all again seem somehow to have suddenly been heightened.
A jolly little typewriter collector under the Christmas tree,
18 Collins Street, Blaketown, aged three, 1951
The snow came later, in kea country, aged eight, 1956
Finding a train set under the Christmas tree in 1953 is one vivid recollection, the more so because it was the day my own dad got the call about the Tangiwai Disaster. Perhaps it seems a little incomprehensible now, trying to recall just how convinced we were that train sets did come down the chimney. Not to mention the bike. The football books would have been comparatively easy, at least for a slimish Santa.
That I can still sit transfixed, shedding bucketloads of tears watching silly Santa movies, is testimony, I suppose, to the enduring magic of Christmas. Either that or the Peter Pan in me, or a little bit of both.
In my dotage, there is a certain familiarity to the events leading up to Christmas Day - though, the ridiculous movies aside, it's not a familiarity that breeds one iota of contempt. 
Yet my changed circumstances have made this Yuletide feel that little bit different. Today I've been thinking about my father, and not just what he did to make our Christmases special, but what he did to make our childhoods so happy and so settled.
What sparked this was something I found quite astonishing, and I'm no longer easily astonished. A cousin in New Zealand posted on Facebook a small news item from the Grey River Argus from this day, December 21, 100 years ago, in 1914.
A century ago, my dad, aged seven, had finished first in his primer class, and I strangely felt more proud of him than I have ever done before. It was something he never told us about. Not that that's so surprising - after all, it was only a primer class. But this was the first I knew about it. And what hit me hard was the knowledge that, seven years later, in 1921, my dad, aged just 14, had been dragged out of school to go to work, to be the breadwinner for his family. It was something I know he regretted having to do for the rest of his life. Yet for all that, I had the great fortune to be brought up by parents who were both erudite, exceedingly well-read and extremely knowledgeable about the world. On one notable occasion, in 1963, my dad quickly bailed me out of a school assignment, proving to me in the process what an incredibly clear and concise thinker and fine writer he was. Six years earlier, of course, he'd also given me my first typewriter. I don't think I could have wished for a smarter dad, as formally uneducated as he was.
 My dad as a baby, 1907
In the territorial army, 1928
My grandfather, also Robert Messenger, was a hopeless, litigious drunk, embittered in the belief he was the "black sheep" of his own family, English landed gentry. He treated his wife and children appallingly. He died, aged 57, in October 1919. That left his widow, Emma, with five children at home to care for, and no income to do it. Her eldest child, Dorothy, had married in 1915 and had two youngsters of her own to raise. Her eldest son, Walter Gerald Messenger, had died, aged 21, on the Western Front in 1917, after winning the Military Medal. Two other sons had left home to be merchant seamen. Another son had died in infancy. That left my dad the eldest surviving son at home. He had three younger brothers and a younger sister. His family allowed my dad almost two more years of primary schooling, but when he reached 14, the then minimum school leaving age, in August 1921, he had to go out and find a job. He never reached secondary school, something he had yearned to do, to gain a skill. He hated every minute of the job he did do, and yet he went on to be an incredible success in life.
My dad stuck to his job for 48 years, and retired in March 1970. This is the story my mentor Jack Turner wrote about him on his retirement, a story which appeared on page one of the Greymouth Evening Star:
It's almost nine years now since I wrote a column about my dad for The Canberra Times. Today my cousin's Facebook post reinforced for me how awful my dad's childhood circumstances had been, especially those which had forced him to leave school at 14. Now I realise, too, how tragic it was that I didn't appreciate him more while he was alive. There's a lesson in that for us all.  At this time of year, as a grandfather myself, it dawns on me that my dad was, of course, my own real-life, all-year-round Santa, or at least everything the real Santa represents, even in this cynical age. He gave me so much, but when he left me the gifts he did, it was almost always sight unseen. And always without a word of thanks from me. 
The photo at the top of this post was used on a table set aside for the "dearly departed" at the reception for my son Danny's wedding to Emily last month. I thought it was a nice touch. 
Seeing the kotuka ghost? On a cheerier note, my grandson Isaac and my son Simon:

Sunday, 21 December 2014

James Bartlett Hammond's 'Mystery Widow'

Jeannette Maxwell Hammond, the "mystery widow" of James Bartlett Hammond.
A fortnight after James Bartlett Hammond, the multi-millionaire head of the Hammond Typewriter Company, died on his yacht off St Augustine, south of Jacksonville on the Florida coast, on January 27, 1913, his "mystery widow" turned up in New York City. Since there was a right royal scrap going on over who would inherit Hammond's considerable fortune, the widow's sudden appearance caused quite a surprise - and a stir. She was described as a mystery woman back then and until today she remained a mystery.
No longer. Her name was Jeannette Maxwell and she was born in Bay City, Michigan, on September 12, 1862. She was, in other words, more than 23 years younger than Hammond and was a music teacher in Michigan when they married in Boston on September 15, 1897, three days after Jeannette's 35th birthday. On her reappearance in New York in 1913, newspapers said the marriage had taken place before 1893.
A copy of the marriage certificate
Contrary to the reports at the time, she was not originally from Boston and she was not living in Germany when Hammond died. She came from Michigan (where her father, Andrew Crosbie Maxwell, 1830-1902, was a wealthy lawyer) and she had been living in Paisley, Scotland, with her future (second) husband, John Thomas Pattison (born Bowling 1860), also a wealthy lawyer. She married Pattison sometime after 1916.
She and Hammond were never divorced, but had separated in about 1902, five years after their marriage. Jeannette had been living in Scotland from 1905-09, but in 1910, three years before Hammond died, she was manager of a magazine in Boston. She and Hammond were still living together in Manhattan in 1900, which makes a mockery of the Hammond family claim that they had separated in 1898. 
 Washington Post, February 9, 1913
J.B.Hammond in 1894, three years before his nuptials.
Jeannette and her Scottish second husband continued to make regular visits back to the United States until at least 1934. But whether she got any of the Hammond money is not known. Not being divorced from the typewriter inventor, she was almost certainly entitled to some.

Christmas Typewriters #20

Hermes 2000 portable,
Christmas 1948
Courtesy Georg Sommeregger
Olivetti Lettera 22 portable,
Christmas 1953 
Olivetti Lettera 22 portable,
Christmas 1957
Smith-Corona 5TE electric portable,
Christmas 1957

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Twain's Typewriters

This image of Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter appeared in American newspapers in early November 1938 as part of the widely syndicated Believe It Or Not --- By Ripley panel. The drawing is of the Hammond which I believe is now in the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Is it a Hammond 1 Universal or a Hammond No 2? I can't tell.
There are also claims that the Hammond below (also a model No 2, though a later version) was used by Twain, and I guess it's possible (though unlikely) he may have had more than one Hammond.
The Hammond 1 Universal with straight keyboard is dated to June 1890 by Paul Robert in The Typewriter Sketchbook. I gather from Paul Lippman's American Typewriters that the model 2 was launched in 1893. But I remain confused on the different Hammond models and the year they emerged.
Thirteen years before the Ripley's panel appeared, in August 1925, Alex Miller wrote a Washington County column in The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Iowa) in which he described being taken on a tour of Hannibal by its then mayor, Maurice Anderson. Miller visited Twain's boyhood home:
Twain with Cable
The next year, 1926, Albert Bigelow Paine, claimed to have used the very same typewriter to write Twain's biography:
Albert Bigelow Paine
As well as being Twain's authorised biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine was also his literary executor and the first editor of his papers. Paine (July 10, 1861-April 9, 1937) published the biography in 1912, two years after Twain's death, and Twain's letters in 1917. Paine was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, relocating to Bentonsport, Iowa, when he was one. He later moved to St Louis, where he trained as a photographer, eventually setting up as a dealer in photographic supplies in Fort Scott, Kansas. Paine sold out in 1895 to become a full-time writer, moving to New York. He wrote in several genres, including fiction, humour and verse, and among his works are several children's books, including The Hollow Tree and The Arkansas Bear (both 1898); a novel, The Great White Way (1901); and a biography of Thomas Nast (1904). Paine's Hollow Tree series consists of short stories about animals, reminiscent of Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus tales. He spent most of his life in Europe, including France,  where he wrote two books about Joan of Arc. This work was so well received in France that he was awarded the title of Chevalier in the Légion d'Honneur by the French Government. Paine was a member of the Pulitzer Prize Committee. 
 Paine and Twain together
Paine first met Twain at a club dinner in New York City in 1901. They began a correspondence, which led to Paine approaching Twain about being his biographer. Twain enthusiastically agreed to the proposal. By January 1906, Paine was living in the Clemens home, and was Twain's companion for the remainder of his life. Paine conducted extensive research about the life of Twain, sifting through unpublished manuscripts and visiting places where Twain spent periods of his life. 
Mark Twain in New Zealand in 1895
Of all the earliest writers to employ a typewriter (machine and human), Twain's use is perhaps the best documented. We do know he was one of the first 400 people to buy a typewriter, a Sholes & Glidden, sometime between July 1 and late November or very early December 1874. He wrote two letters on it, both on December 9 that year, one to his brother Orion Clemens and the other to William Dean Howells:
Orion Clemens
And yet there is still much conjecture. Paine may well be responsible for some of this, by relying too heavily on Twain's unreliable memory.
Looks like Twain needed a typewriter!
For example, there is the question of the first typescript offered to a publisher - that is, the first book typeset from typewritten rather than handwritten pages. Twain thought it was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and by later publishing what Twain incorrectly recalled, Paine compounded the claim. Twain had actually first set the record askew with a story called "The First Writing-Machines" in the $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories in 1906:
In the 1912 biography, Paine wrote: 
Rather than adding his doubts as a footnote, Paine might have been better advised to stress the unlikelihood of Twain's claim. If it had been Tom Sawyer, it could only have written on a Sholes & Glidden, any Sholes & Glidden. But it turned out to be Life on the Mississippi, which came out seven years later, in 1883. Even then the Hammond had still not made its debut (1884 New Orleans Centennial Exposition). So what type of typewriter was actually to type the Life on the Mississippi typescript, and who exactly used it to type the typescript, remains anyone's guess.
The observant reader may have picked up another inconsistency here. While the confusion about Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi has by now been well and truly sorted out, it remains very much a part of Twain typewriter lore that he was with David Ross Locke (aka Petroleum V. Nasby) when he first saw the Sholes & Glidden in Boston in late 1874. This notion seems to be confirmed by the fact that Locke soon after joined John Hale Bates and George Washington Newton Yost in the first advertising agency for the Sholes & Glidden.
However, in his biographies and later writings and statements about Twain and his typewriters, Paine is adamant it was not Locke with Twain in Boston that fateful day, but the Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell. As with Tom Sawyer, Twain's unreliable memories  - in this case about being with Nasby - have gained widespread, undisputed currency. The record should now be set straight.
Twichell (November 30, 1838-December 20, 1918) was a writer and pastor and was Twain's closest friend for more than 40 years (he appears in A Tramp Abroad as "Harris"). They met at a church social after the Civil War, when Hopkins was pastor of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut, his only pastorate for almost 50 years. Reverend Twichell performed Twain's wedding and christened his children, and counselled him on literary as well as personal matters for the rest of Twain's life. A profound scholar and devout Christian, he was described as "a man with an exuberant sense of humour, and a profound understanding of the frailties of mankind."
A younger Twichell