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Friday, 23 January 2015

Who Was John Gardner, 'Typewriter Specialist, Inventor and Dealer'?

Typewriter historians are familiar with the 1890s British curiosity the Gardner, an ultimately failed attempt to market in Europe a low-price (eight guineas), low-maintenance 13- or 14-key single type element machine expressly designed for correspondence. 
Lancastrian John Gardner, a self-styled "typewriter specialist, inventor and dealer" came up with the idea for this strange 7 3/4lb, 10 1/2 inches x 10in x 5 1/8in device with a 24 square inch keyboard sometime in the late 1880s. This was at the very time that Charles Spiro was convincing British typewriter importer William Richardson that buyers weren't so interested anymore in small, cheap typewriters, for just correspondence or any other purpose.
This advertisement appeared regularly in Manchester's The Guardian newspaper between mid-December 1894 and March 1895
As a consequence, so few of Gardner's typewriters were made and sold that when one came up for auction at Christie's in South Kensington, London, on March 3, 1994, it comfortably exceeded the estimated price range and sold for £3520 (or $US5267 at the exchange rate back then). The Gardner was described as having a nickel-plated frame on a japanned iron base with gilt scrolling. Three years after the sale, an image of this Christie's Gardner appeared in Michael Adler's Antique Typewriters:
The Gardner was manufactured by that name by the Gardner British Typewriter Company in Manchester, England, as the Victoria by Carl Lipp at Fuldaer-Schreibmaschinenfabrik in Fulda in central Germany and later, in 1899, in association with bicycle-makers Atilla-Fahrrad-Werke AG (formerly E. Kretzschmar & Co) in Dresden-Löbtau in eastern Germany, and in 1893 as the Victorieuse by German manufacturer Charles Terrot at his bicycle branch factory in Dijon in eastern France.
The 14-key keyboard, showing the action in depressing the spacebar and shift key in order to utilise all 84 characters. On the 13-key version, 78 characters could be typed.
There are two online insights into the Gardner, at Paul Robert's Virtual Typewriter Museum and an article written by Berthold Kerschbaumer on Richard Polt's The Classic Typewriter Page Typewriter Spotlights, under Gardner (Victoria). Paul wrote, "In retrospect, some typewriter designs are admired mostly because their inventors managed to invest tremendous energy and ingenuity in something that was bound to fail. The Gardner is a good example. It is one of the most impossible writing machines of all times." Berthold described the Gardner as "one of the most peculiar constructions in the long history of the typewriter". 
From the Breker Collection via the Virtual Typewriter Museum
As with early typewriter histories by Müller, Mares and Martin, there is much about the machine but nothing about its inventor - name and home city aside. The same applies in later books by Adler and Rehr (image below).
Eight years ago (almost to the day) Jeff Leater of the Yahoo typewriter online forum set out to unearth John Gardner, but said, "I tried to find info on John Gardner, the only one who came close in 1890 was a stationer. Gardner was a well known name in the area." There was a Manchester stationer called John Gardner, but he was born in 1858 and was married to a Harriet, so he wasn't our man. There was also a printer and a machinist, occupations which sometimes offer clues to identifying typewriter inventors, but not in this case.
From Müller
This week I went about finding the real typewriter-inventing John Gardner, and learned that Leater had been dead right: I had to call up at least 370 British census pages, checking out Mancunian John Gardners and other John Gardners in Lancashire, all but one of who were occupied in an utterly bizarre range of jobs (I never knew there was such a paid task as a "stiffener"). Finally I hit pay dirt, after many, many hours of searching.
And when I did, there was no mistaking that I had found the right man. John Gardner is quite possibly the only man in history to list himself on a census return form as a "Typewriter specialist, inventor and dealer". I'd had some hint this was how he described himself, as on his March 7, 1890, application for a US patent for his typewriter (issued November 24, 1891), Gardner said he was a "typewriter specialist", something I don't any other typewriter inventor has ever done. (This patent, for a 13-key machine, had been granted in England on May 27, 1889).
The 1890 13-key, one shift key machine patent drawing
The 14-key, two shift keys layout on the later Victoria (1899-1900?)
OK, so now we know at least a little about his gentleman. John Gardner was born in Rhodes, Middleton, Manchester, and baptised there on September 20, 1863. His father, also John, was at the time a "machine painter". Middleton is a town within the metropolitan borough of Rochdale, in Greater Manchester. It stands on the River Irk, five miles from Rochdale and 4 1/2 miles from the Manchester city centre.
The family moved about the county of Lancashire as John's father sought work and, following his death, John's widowed mother Sarah (née Jacques) battled to feed three young sons. At the time of the 1871 census, they were in Lancaster St Anne's, where John senior worked as a (billiards?) table baizer. By the time of 1881 census, John's father had died and John was living with his mother at Glossop, where he worked as the family breadwinner as a 17-year-old clerk. In early 1888 John married Emily Duckworth in Derbyshire. At this time John would have been well advanced in his typewriter venture, which was patented first the next year.
By 1891 John was living at 226 Manchester Road in Altrincham, a market town within the metropolitan borough of Trafford in Greater Manchester. It lies south of the River Mersey, eight miles from the Manchester city centre, three miles from Sale. John had lost a younger brother called Richard in childhood, and he and Emily now had a young son called Richard, as well as a six-month-old third generation John Gardner. The couple later had five more children; the last survivor among them, William, died in Norwich aged 100 in 1992, just two years before his father's typewriter was auctioned by Christie's. William's two daughters died in 2004 and 2007.
It is in the 1891 census that John describes himself as:
The 1895 Kelly's Directory of Manchester lists him as:
Paul Robert and Ernst Martin date the Gardner typewriter to 1890; Martin says the company was based at 64 Haworth Building, Cross Street. Wilf Beeching dates the machine from 1893. Mares says the typewriters were made at a plant on Carr Street, Manchester. 
Suggestions that the Gardner typewriter enterprise had gone out of business by the dawn of the 20th Century appear to be correct. There was no further Guardian advertising beyond 1895 (the year Berthold Kerschbaumer pinpoints for the end of English production)and by the time of the 1901 census John Gardner had moved with his large family out of the Manchester area altogether. He was working as a self-employed mechanical engineer in Preesall, a small town known at the time as Preesall with Hackensall, on the eastern bank of the estuary of the River Wyre. He was still in that area, at Knott End, Fleetwood, when the trail runs cold in 1911. Gardner was by then calling himself a mechanical and electrical engineer, "experimental only, no manufacturing", working on his "own account" from a home office, with son William assisting.
Anyway, here are some more Gardner typewriter words and images:
The type sleeve, very much like that of the Crandall single type element, was made of vulcanised "india rubber"
 The type action, also showing the back hammer
 From Mares
From Adler (he probably means 1889, not 1899)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

RIP Harry Gordon (1925-2015): Korean War Correspondent

Australian war correspondents Harry Gordon (left), of the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial newspaper, and Ronald Monson, of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, type their copy on portable typewriters in North Korea in 1950.
Harry Gordon, one of the last surviving journalists to have covered the 1950-53 Korean War, died late on Wednesday, aged 89, at his home on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Harry was just 24 when he was sent from Melbourne to Korea, and was one of the youngest war correspondents to cover that conflict. Harry also covered the Algerian War in 1960. In Korea, he worked alongside such legendary war correspondents as Marguerite Higgins and Richard Tregaskis.
Harry Gordon (left) and Roy Macartney, chief correspondent for the Australian Associated Press-Reuters, hauled down this Soviet Union flag from the city hall of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. The Eighth US Army and the South Korean Army captured Pyongyang on October 19, 1950.
Henry Alfred Gordon was born in Melbourne on November 9, 1925, and educated at Melbourne High School, where he was the school’s middleweight boxing champion. In 1941 his family moved from Melbourne to Sydney, and Harry got a job as a copyboy with the Sydney Daily Telegraph at 25 shillings a week.
Harry joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an aircrew trainee when he turned 18 in November 1943. Toward the end of World War II, in 1945, he returned to the Daily Telegraph and spent the next four years honing his journalistic skills, moving on to the Brisbane Courier-Mail and then becoming sports editor of the Singapore Straits Times. He joined The Sun in Melbourne in 1949.
Harry Gordon with Korean villagers, 1950
The Sun sent Harry to Korea in 1950 and he was embedded with the Third Australian Infantry Battalion (3 RAR). 3 RAR was committed as Australia's main land force contribution to the joint United Nations forces in the War, arriving in Korea in late September 1950. The battalion formed part of the 27th Commonwealth Brigade and took part in the UN offensive into North Korea and the subsequent retreat into South Korea following the Chinese offensive in the winter of 1950–51. In October 1950, the battalion distinguished itself at Chongju during the UN northward advance to the Yalu River, where it attacked and captured a large North Korean defensive line in a combined arms operation with tanks and artillery. It was one of three units to receive the US Presidential Unit Citation after the Battle of Kapyong, fought between April 22-25, 1951. From October 3-8, 1951, 3 RAR fought the Battle of Maryang San, which is widely regarded as one of the Australian Army's greatest accomplishments of the Korean War. 3 RAR remained in Korea until the war ended in 1953, but by 1952 Harry was in London.
Harry Gordon, right, with fellow Australian war correspondents Lawson Glossop (Sydney Morning Herald) and Ron Monson on the Chongchon River bridge at Sinanju during the UN forces' advance through North Korea toward the Yalu River in late 1950.
Harry covered the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games for Australian Associated Press, then returned to Australia to become this country's outstanding sports writer of the second half of the 20th century, travelling widely to cover Australia's Golden Era of Sport (1954-64). During this time he also started writing regularly for The New York Times magazine. But, back in London in 1960, his experience as a war correspondent was put to further use, as he covered the Algerian War before going on to the Rome Olympic Games. He was to cover the next 14 summer Olympic Games, up to London 2012.
Harry was appointed editor of the Melbourne Sun on New Year's Day 1968. Under his watch the Sun became the largest selling newspaper in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1973 Harry rose to the position of executive editor of the Herald and Weekly Times Group and in 1978 he was appointed editor-in-chief of Queensland Newspapers, where he transformed the Courier-Mail. He returned to Melbourne as editor-in-chief of the Herald and Weekly Times in 1984. He was also a director and then chairman of Australian Associated Press and in 1987 became contributing editor to Time Australia.
In 1980, Harry was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for his service to journalism in Queensland, and in 1993 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to the community and to the promotion of Australian sport. Harry wrote 15 books - one of which, An Eyewitness History of Australia (1976), won the National Book Council's First Prize for Australian Literature. In 1999 he was awarded the Australian Olympic Committee's Order of Merit. In 2001 the International Olympic Committee awarded him its highest honour, the Olympic Order. In 2002 he received Australia's inaugural award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports Journalism. In 2003 the Melbourne Press Club presented him with its Lifetime Achievement in Journalism Award. 
One of Harry's greatest achievements was launching a 1970 newspaper campaign to combat Victoria's 1000-plus annual road toll, which led directly to the state imposing a world first: mandatory seatbelts in cars. The law is now rigorously applied nationwide.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Why Carole Lombard Can Pop Up At My Typewriter Anytime

The famous 'Howard the Typewriter' scene from True Confession (1937), involving Carole Lombard as cheerfully compulsive liar Helen Bartlett with Una Merkel as Daisy and Irish actor Tom Dugan as "Typewriter Man" (Mr Macdougal?) . The poor old typewriter gets bounced around a lot!
It's 73 years and a week since Carole Lombard, the highest paid and most gorgeous Hollywood star of the late 1930s, died, aged 33, in a plane crash at Double Up Peak, 32 miles south-west of Las Vegas. Happily, she left behind ample photographic and filmic evidence of her stunning beauty.
These included images, still and moving, of her using typewriters.
At least two of Lombard's movies, Up Pops the Devil in 1931 and True Confession (1937), prominently featured typewriters.
Up Pops the Devil was about an advertising man (Steve Merrick, played by Norman Foster) who quits his job to become a novelist, upsetting his wife (Anne Merrick, played by Lombard) and straining their marriage. 
Quite why the typebars on Norman Foster's typewriter are raised in this way I cannot imagine. Maybe he'd hit them with the frying pan and cooking ladle?

Screwball comedy True Confession was a box office success and one of Lombard's "wackiest" films. She played pathological liar Helen Bartlett, who wrongly confesses to murder. Bartlett is a typewriting "writer" but cannot think of anything to write and instead lives in her fantasy world of telling lies.  
Carole Lombard with press agent Russell Birdwell in 1938.