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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Typing and Playing the Piano at the Same Time

German pianist Wilhelm Backhaus types on a Remington portable typewriter while playing the piano at the same time. From Typewriter Topics, 1922.
Look, ma! No hands (on the typewriter, that is!):
Backhaus in 1920
Backhaus (March 26, 1884-July 5, 1969) was one of the first modern artists of the keyboard. He was particularly well known for his interpretations of Beethoven and romantic music such as that by Brahms. He was also much admired as a chamber musician. He was an enthusiastic user of Bechstein pianos and Remington portable typewriters.
Born in Leipzig, Backhaus began learning piano at the age of four. He toured widely throughout and made his US debut on January 5, 1912, as soloist in Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphony Orchestra. In 1930 he moved to Lugano and became a citizen of Switzerland. He died, aged 85, in Villach in Austria, where he was to play in a concert.
Composer Robert Stone does it differently.

Learning to Read With a Typewriter, Aged 2

 Willmoore Kendall Jr (1909-1967)
Typewriter Topics, October 1922
Willmoore Kendall Jr was an American conservative writer and professor of political philosophy. Kendall was born on March 5, 1909, in Konawa, Oklahoma, to a blind First Methodist Church minister, the Reverend Willmoore Kendall Sr (1887-1942), and his wife, Pearl Anna Garlick Kendall (1887-1977).
Willmoore Jr learned to read by using a typewriter at age two, graduated from high school at 13, from the University of Oklahoma at 18, and published his first book at 20. In 1932, he became a Rhodes Scholar and studied at Oxford University. He became a Trotskyist and went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. His experiences with the Spanish Republic led him to renounce his communist convictions. In 1940, he obtained a PhD in political science from the University of Illinois. He served in the OSS during World War II, and stayed on when it became the CIA in 1947. He joined the Yale University faculty, where he taught for 14 years. Among his students was William F. Buckley Jr, with whom he founded the National Review. Kendall later converted to Roman Catholicism, taught at the University of Dallas and was a founder of the politics program and co-founder of the doctoral program there. He died of a heart attack on June 30, 1967, aged 58.
Kendall is the model for the character Jesse Frank in S. Zion's 1990 novel Markers.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The French Contin Typewriter: Ideal or Continental, or Neither?

Has anyone ever seen a Contin? It's the typewriter I will probably NEVER use!
Is the Contin no more than the French version of the German Continental? Conventional wisdom would have us believe that's what it is.
This is a 1922 Continental
I don't think it is. To start with, Contin is actually short for Continsouza (as in movie projectors, rifles), not Continental.
What's more, if it is a French version of a German typewriter, it's much more likely to be an Ideal:
Image courtesy of Georg Sommeregger
The Ideal model C
But I'll let you be the judge.
The Contin was definitely manufactured in France - it wasn't assembled there from German parts or simply rebranded in France. (Contin did, apparently, rebrand Remington portables.)
When the Contin was launched in August 1922, it got extensive coverage in US trade journal Typewriter Topics, without any reference to the Continental or the Ideal. Topics' 1923 typewriter history has an entry on the Contin which makes no connection with Continental or the Ideal.
Ernst Martin, however, gives Contin as one of many model names for the Continental, without referring specifically to France. This may have led to Dirk Schumann's serial number database listing the Contin as a French Continental. Martin doesn't, as far I can make out, mention the Contin in his Ideal entry.
Typewriter Topics, 1922
Michael Adler has an entry on the Contin without mentioning the Continental or the Ideal.
Leonhard Dingwerth doesn't mention the Contin in his chapters on Wanderer-Werke of Schönau (Continental) and Seidel & Naumann of Dresden (Ideal), but elsewhere lists the Contin as a French machine.
The Iberia. See Richard Polt's comment. I don't think I'll be shipping one in from Spain or France!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Departure Lounge

There are 45 post-war portable typewriters stacked up in storage boxes in the stairwell. By this time tomorrow I am hoping most if not all of them will have gone to new owners. Fingers crossed ...

Ribbon Vibrator Mechanism on Patria-Swissa Piccola-Voss Portable Typewriters

It's always difficult to try to help out a young chap - or young lady for that matter - with a typewriter problem when the typewriter is not within easy reach - and the person with the problem is probably thousands of kilometres away. I most certainly would never call it "easy-peasy". I don't know where Joji Furukawa lives, but I'm guessing it's not just around the corner.
What I do know, because he told me so, is that Joji is 14 and has just got himself a lovely little sky blue Patria portable. And the ribbon vibrator doesn't work. He doesn't have the money, he says, to pay for a typewriter technician to fix it for him, and he wants me to help.
The best I can do, in these circumstances, is to shoot a video of the ribbon vibrator mechanism in operation in these models, and take some photos of it. The typewriters I used were a Swissa Piccola and a Voss Learnette, both the same machines as Joji's Patria.
Joji, if I were you I'd be looking closely at the photos and comparing them with all the lever and spring connections on your Patria's vibrator, and watching the video to see how they all work together to lift the ribbon to the print point with each key stroke. Good luck with it!
And now for something completely different ...
Typewriter Anatomy Quiz
What brand of typewriter does this ribbon spools set-up come from?

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Typewriting's Boy Wonder

This is Parker Claire Woodson, born in Chicago on August 31, 1895, who in August 1910 emerged as the "Boy Wonder", the "Marvel" of the speed typewriting world. In January of that year, Woodson had entered a business school in Chicago to learn shorthand, and while there took up typing. Within six months, and still aged just 14, "Master Woodson" mastered the impressive art of carrying on a conversation while simultaneously typing at extraordinarily rapid speeds - exceeding 230 words a minute!
As the Tacoma Times said on March 14, 1912, "Can Go Some On Typewriter - WHEW!" - "Greased lightning is slow compared to Parker C.Woodson ...":
On December 6 that same year, the Urbana Daily Courier reported:
Born the son of James and Bessie Hurst Woodson, Parker C. Woodson first came to public attention in 1910 with this little item in the trade journal, Typewriter Topics. Woodson, living at the time with a widowed aunt, Florence Reber, in Chicago, won a typing contest in Omaha, Nebraska. Despite his tender age, Woodson was immediately snapped up as a demonstrator by the Remington Typewriter Company and started giving exhibitions of typing, such as in Brooklyn later in 1910.
By 1911 he had moved to New York and was demonstrating his amazing skills on a Remington 10.
In 1912 Woodson was much in demand, travelling to New Jersey, Helena, Montana, Fargo, North Dakota, and Riverside, California, to give exhibitions of his typing:
An edition of Remington Notes (Volume 2, No 10) in 1913 ran this item, which was reproduced in ETCetera (No 47) in June 1999. The then ETCetera editor, Darryl Rehr, referred to Woodson as being a professional, but at this stage, given he was still 17, he was not classed as such, even though he was working for Remington:

On January 2, 1914, Woodson, aged just 18, married Francis Farris in his home city of Chicago.
By 1915, now living with his wife at No 525 146th Street West, New York City, and describing himself as a "typewriter demonstrator", Woodson had entered the major national and international speed typing competitions as an amateur. Using a Remington, he found himself well off the pace of the crack Underwood team members. In the Boston amateur half-hour test, he finished fourth behind future (1919) professional world champion William Friedrich Oswald (1896-1963), and in the world championships in New York he moved up to third behind Oswald. Woodson was, nonetheless, the fastest of the Remington typists, amateur or professional, and finished away ahead of future Underwood great George Hossfeld:
World championship, New York 
Still ranked an amateur in 1916, Woodson dropped further down the finishing order, behind 1915 novice champion Hortense Stollnitz (below), using a Remington, and Hossfeld. Oswald finished second behind Margaret Owen in the professional event.

 William Oswald
 A young George Hossfeld
Margaret Owen
By 1917, Woodson had seen the light. At the time he registered for military service in World War I, he too had switched camps and joined the Underwood team:
Woodson served in the last few months of the war and afterwards packed up his typewriter and in 1920 went back to Chicago with his wife and young son Parker Jr to become a private secretary. After marriage break-ups he married Ruth O'Brien and moved to Detroit to be an advertising company manager; then married Minnie Lee Collins and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia, as manager of a meat packing company, Wilson & Co. He retired to California and died in Novato, north of San Francisco, on March 21, 1981, aged 85.