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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Alex Rose's Typatune

Typatune inventor Alex Rose at his "musical instrument" in August, 1939, the month his patent was issued, at the Inventors' Exposition of the American Hobby Association at the Spears Building in New York City.
Photo courtesy of PETER WEIL.
I was actually looking for a spare parts Atlas, but as I dug under mountains of boxes at the back of my shed, torch in hand, I spotted something I'd been looking for for ages. Indeed, I had told Peter Weil way back in October last year that I was going to post on it.
It's my Typatune - all 12 inches by 10 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches of it.
The Typatune was invented by Bronx court stenographer Alexander Rose (born Kings, New York, March 11, 1901). It seems likely that, through marriage (his wife was Clara Berger), Rose was related to the great Hungarian-born toy typewriter designer and manufacturer, Samuel Israel Berger:
Rose applied for an unassigned patent for the Typatune on March 8, 1938, and it was issued on May 23 the following year. Rose gained some publicity for it on August 30, 1939, when a column on the Typatune appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle (see below).

However, the Typatune wasn't launched on the market until September 1945. In the meantime, Rose had found a company to make it, the mysterious Electronic Corporation of America. As Peter asked tonight, why would an "electronics" company make a toy "musical instrument" typewriter?
The patent number on the Typatune is misleading. It lacks the final figure, 1.
When the Typatune was eventually available for sale, it came with a book of melodies which Rose himself had arranged. This is how it looked just before reaching the market, in August 1945:
According to the caption with this August 1945 news photograph, the Typatune had been ordered by the Veterans' Administration to assist in physical therapy treatment of war veterans in hospitals.
Image of music page from Wim Van Rompuy's page on the Typetune, which can be seen here. Wim also shows us how the Typetune works:
The Typatune's timely launch, just before Christmas 1945, was publicised across the US, with the line: "Something new is the gadget at right, which looks like a typewriter, but is a musical instrument called a 'Typatune', recently invented by Alexander Rose, New York City court reporter. It has a standard typewriter keyboard, works on the piano principle, and when you 'write' on it, tunes come out." A hatch was later added to protect the keyboard:
The Typatune which appeared in Michael Adler's 1997 Antique Typewriters, courtesy of This Olde Office, Cathedral City, California, was sold for $450 not so long ago by Branford House Antiques:
Here are some other variations:
 I believe this may belong to Georg Sommeregger. See video below of Silent Night being played.
Alexander Rose died in September 1985, aged 84.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Brady and Warner Index Typewriter

This prototype is in the Dietz Collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum.
This would have been the world's first index typewriter - if it had gone into production. Indeed, if one takes the Sholes & Glidden-Remington 1-Remington 2 as essentially the same machine, the Brady and Warner would have been the second brand on the market. As it was, the Hall (northern autumn 1883) was the first commercially successful index typewriter, and the third new brand behind the Caligraph (northern summer 1881). 
Gilbert Arnold Brady, a Chicago manufacturing agent and real estate broker, and Francis Fullmer Warner, a Chicago patent solicitor, applied for a patent for their index machine on November 17, 1877, and it was issued on April 9, 1878, just after Brady's 51st birthday and just before the Remington 2, the first typewriter with a shift device, went on sale. It was the 56th US patent since 1829 related to writing machines.
Brady was born in New York City on April 6, 1827, while Warner was born in Waterloo, New York, in 1840. Brady moved to Illinois and was a merchant in Little Rock in 1850 and Manlius in 1860. He was in Chicago by 1870. In the interim, Warner had served in the Civil War. The pair died within months of one another, Warner on January 7, 1897, in New York City, aged 56, and Brady in Chicago on November 14, 1897, aged 70.

Happy Easter, Typospherians

This illustration promoted the coming 1893 Chicago World Columbian Exposition. Little did they know what was ahead of them ... the Blickensderfer 5! It would make them turn and stare and jump for joy.
For Richard ...
For Georg ...
And especially for Piotr (PT) who, although in Poland for Easter, still found time to send me the street scene image below:

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Welzie Raymond Shilling and the Short-Lived Shilling Brothers Typewriter: Briefly Visible and Hardly Reliable

The Shilling Brothers No 22 typewriter in the Dietz Collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum must be among the rarest of all rare typewriters. According to Typewriter Topics in A Condensed History of the Writing Machine (1923), only a few were ever made, in a few months between late 1921 and early 1922.
Nonetheless, the Shilling Brothers was, as Richard Polt pointed out in his excellent article "Saved From the Key Bandits" in the March 2009 issue of ETCetera (No 85), the "last incarnation" of a typewriter with a "noble history".
Typewriter Topics published this - the only known advertisement for the Shilling Brothers machine - in its January 1922 edition. It might almost be considered a stillbirth, since so few were made and sold, and so very few still survive. (The typewriter has also been called, in some publications, the Schilling, but it was never sold as this.)
Quite why this one-off model was called the 22 seems to remain a mystery. But its origins lie in the Pittsburg Visible No 12, a 1911 advance on the 1890 Daugherty and the original Pittsburg Visible of 1898 (Model 10, 1902; Model 11, 1908).
Soon after the No 12 was introduced in 1911, Pittsburg started work on a new design, with a squared-off top and deeper front replacing the familiar sloping sides. The machine was designed by James Denny Daugherty and John W.Paul for the Union Trust, which controlled the Pittsburg company. The changes led to production problems and the Kittanning, Pennsylvania, factory was closed in 1912. A receiver was appointed for the Pittsburg Writing Machine Company in mid-1913. The plant was sold in July 1914. Rights to the design were acquired by the Reliance Visible Typewriter Division of Montgomery Ward & Co in 1916.
Welzie Raymond Shilling in 1957. aged 68.
The man behind the final resurrection of the Pittsburgh Visible and the Reliance Visible-Reliance Premier was Welzie Raymond Shilling (also known as Welzick and Wesley Shilling).
Pittsburgh No 12 (1911)
Alan Seaver's Reliance Visible
This is Richard Polt's Spanish keyboard Aztec, which is virtually the same model as the proposed new Pittsburg Visible and the later Reliance Visible-Reliance Premier. Richard described his brilliant restoration of this rare machine in his article in ETCetera in March 2009 (No 85). He also reviewed the history of the machine from the Pittsburg through to the Shilling Brothers, including an American Model 9.
The back of the Shilling Brothers
Mark Adams' Reliance Visible. See Mark's blog post on this model here.
The brother in this enterprise was Herman Thomas Shilling. The pair arrived in Pittsburgh in 1912 and the following year established the Fort Pitt Typewriter Company - which, to the best of my knowledge, still exists. One version of the Shilling Brothers typewriter is said to be the Fort Pitt, but no examples of this are known to exist. The Shilling Brothers acquired the assets of the Pittsburg Writing Machine Company from Montgomery Ward's Reliance Visible division in 1921.
On an Underwood 5
The Shillings were born in Murphysboro, Jackson, Illinois - Welzie on September 18, 1888, and Herman on March 25, 1890. They were the sons of Kentucky-born coalminer George Shilling and his wife Lily Cooper Shilling. The divorced George appears to have raised the boys by himself in Oakwood, Illinois, from when they were a young age.
Welzie started work as a waiter in Belleville and then became a travelling typewriter salesman based in Springfield, Illinois. Herman joined Welzie in Belleville and Springfield and by the age of 19 was also a travelling typewriter salesman, based in Houston, Texas.
Certainly, by the time Welzie and Herman Shilling reached Pittsburgh, they were already experienced typewriter technicians, having travelled to various parts of the US in the course of selling and repairing machines. After founding the Fort Pitt Typewriter Company, Welzie travelled further afield, to Bermuda and Cuba, while Herman lived in England from 1925-29.
1916 advert from Mark Adams' blog post
From the early 1920s through to 1940, Welzie Shilling maintained in census returns that he was the proprietor of a typewriter factory. Whether Fort Pitt actually made typewriters, however, is questionable. Throughout its history, Fort Pitt sold a wide range of brands.
1917 advert from Mark Adams' blog post
In 1924 Fort Pitt moved from the Bakewell Building to the old McCloy Stationery Building at 644 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh. It expanded these headquarters in July 1936 and moved to a modern five-story building next door on Liberty Avenue in June 1957 (see article above, advert below). Herman had died, aged 53, in Albuquerque on August 19, 1943, and Welzie died in November 1967, aged 79, in Daytona Beach, Florida.