Showing posts with label Remington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Remington. Show all posts

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Fingers Fly

A new school year has started. Actually, it's already three weeks old. The honeymoon has worn off and the kids are deep in the study of Beowulf, Hrothgar, and the terrible events at Herot.

This last Tuesday I started the kids on the typewriters. Here are a few pictures.

In order to get the typewriters ready for classroom use I had to dust them all off and do something about the ribbons. I didn't have time to place an order from Baco so I used Ted's WD-40 ribbon rejuvenation method. I used several light coats and didn't bother with dabbing the ribbon. They weren't wet enough to warrant it. In the end the ribbons were noticeably darker and made it easier for the kids to type.

The best part, however, was giving the lecture on how to use them. I had a whole presentation and it was very odd telling a whole generation of phone freaks how to turn a knob to feed a sheet paper into a platen. Very odd.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stanislaw Lem

I cannot tell if that is a Remington or an Underwood. Any ideas? Maybe an Olivetti ICO?

Monday, August 26, 2013

True Blue

This post has been in draft for a long while. I kept thinking that I would find something interesting to share about this charming little typewriter, but I keep coming up blank. So, I'll just write a little here and see if the muse inspires me.

True Blue Deux is what this color should be called as there is a decided harmony between the two colors. Both are on the blue-green spectrum and when it was new I am sure the paint had a luster I cannot recapture.

It was $28. There was a problem with the carriage advancing and the seller was upfront about the problem. A small voice quietly urged me to buy it. My stomach led me to believe that it was actually fixable and the truth was not far off. Beneath the carriage was a space advance mechanism. A small adjustment brought the spacing back to normal.

The carriage return lever has lost its spring and wiggles. It advanced the line well enough, but there is some way to either reattach or replace the spring. The feet needed replacing and the process was the same as when I replaced the feet in my other Remington portable (follow this link).

School's back in session and I am looking at replacing the ribbons for the whole classroom collection. I have about 20 typewriters on the shelves and it seems like this is the perfect number. I have Seniors this year and they are well into the school year. They are a bit flintier when it comes to the lure of the typewriter, but I have seen more and more of them start to eye the few old-hands who have used them before. Twitches of intrigue. Eye-wide and shy and eager. We'll see how many I can persuade into using the typewriters this week.

More good news came this last week with some typewriter happenings at a local community college. I cannot say more right now, but I will keep everyone posted with more crumbs soon.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Old Friends

Remington typewriters are pretty common.

If you work in an institution that had a significant amount of post-war growth (i.e. every school in the Phoenix Area) you probably have seen (or used) Remington Rand Library Bureau Division furniture.

Work/school is crawling with the stuff. Desks, tables, and dictionary stands. It's nice to bring old friends together again.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Last Word on Justification

So, I thought that this post would have been over some time ago, but as I dug further and further into the topic, I could see that there was more than I could have ever imagined. We have all drooled over the Varityper at one point or another. That's a shame because I know– from my vast experience and rugged good looks– that drool really falls short as an ink substitute. Drool'n aside, the idea of cold typesetting typewriters really heats up by typeshuttle. Mostly because of justification which I have mentioned here.  The Varityper later became the Coxshead DSJ an example of which Richard recently acquired in an antique shop. A more drool-worthy machine never existed. I, however, will confine myself to a drier, lesser history of the justified typewritten page.

Let's start, again, with the snippet from Popular Science that started my interest in this topic. I posted it some months back. It details a new device that can be added to a typewriter to make it a justification-capable machine. The article–if you could even call it that–does not list an inventor or a date of invention. Without either it would be a slow drudgery to look through thousands of patents trying to find the responsible inventor. 

So, that's what I did. Not, first, without doing a little Shelrock Holmes routine on the advertisement. There are always a few clues that can lead you to an answer.

Since the snippet came from a 1940s edition of PopSci, I decided to hazard a guess that the "new" invention was probably not more than ten years old at that time. Since the machine was from the 40s and the photo had a 40s look (being a 150–or so–screen halftone engraving) I decided to start in the decade from 1939 to 1949. I read the passage over a few times to get a general idea of what mechanical attributes I should be looking for in my patent searches. The one section that stood out read:

I looked for any patent that clearly had a knob/dial somewhere in the vicinity of the escapement and a pointer/indicator on the carriage.

Going to Google Patent, I was able to find two patents from the era covering a device that uses a knob and a pointer. One was from an Andras Goy and the other from an Oliver O. Martin. Martin also had an earlier 1920s patent for the same type of invention.

Mr. Goy's invention features a knob, but the knob is mounted to the front of the frame and from there links to a device on the carriage of the machine that alters the movement of the escapement. There was a dial and an indicator, but the placement make me feel like the Goy method wasn't the one featured in the article. Also, the machine would need to be completely heavily modified to accommodate a forward facing knob. Goy does not mention that this would be a simple or reversible modification.

Oliver Martin's justification system, however, looks more appropriate for a modification of a current typewriter. Martin describes this within the patent. "It is the object of my invention to provide a device which may be readily attached to or embodied in commercially well known typewriters without interfering with or changing the general combinations and features thereof..."

The above device was patented in 1920. Martin also patented a newer version in 1945 and that patent was issued in 1948. My feeling is that it is Martin's later patent that is mentioned in the Popular Science article.

Martin's second patent for a justifying attachment describes his invention thus: "It is the object of this invention to provide a simple inexpensive and conveniently operable justifying mechanism which may be attached to various types of typewriters or which may be built into such typewriters to form permanent part thereof." This alone was pretty convincing, but it was the illustration from Figure 5 that sealed the deal for me.

You can clearly see a knob that it attached through a linkage to the escapement disk. This knob adjusts the size of each space to affect the kind of movement needed to make the justifying technique possible. I guess Martin's our man. 

Even with the discovery of who probably invented the justifying technique detailed in the Popular Science blurb, I started to think about this problem. It's interesting that even with these three innovative solutions to proportional spacing no major manufacturers made full justification a feature or even attempted to find their own solution. Perhaps the technology was too complicated. Maybe the market wouldn't support the additional cost of a complicated escapement. In reality, I think these innovations and attachments were a solution looking for a problem.

I have written quite a few pages on a typewriter and–excepting novelty–I haven't had much a need for a justified page. I also don't believe that this was an expected feature of the hand-typed letter. The uneven right margin was de rigueur and the quality of a typist was how even she (and the occasional he) was able to make the margin without the aid of a justifying mechanism. Good margins are addressed in the Smith-Corona Tips to Typists booklet scanned by Richard Polt (

In this instance the uneven right margin was equated with hand-typed. A letter would be conspicuous with even right and left margins. So it came to be unnecessary for this feature. I know that my life is not incomplete at the possibility of uneven right margins. I can continue on and manufacturers didn't invest the time, money, or manpower devising a means to even both margins. 

However, the technical problems of justification even plagued Vannevar Bush, the technological visionary who presaged hypertext and the power of relational searches. 

In a patent filed in 1942, Bush described a technique for justifying the text of a typewriter using the benefit of stored memory and relays. The inputting of text, calculation of required spacing, and the composing were done by different components of the larger system. In fact, the solution was to have two typewriters one to encode and the other to decode. Think of two modified Fridens connected to a memory unit. That's the kind of solution Bush was envisioning.

You can see the influence of the coming digital revolution in his solution.

The patent illustration isn't so much a picture of mechanical devices, but a flowchart. Flowcharts are the way of the future. Bush also detailed how the typewriter should have a type of digital relay system to record keystrokes.

Which isn't too far off from the USB typewriter designed by Jack Zylkin. 

But it wasn't until the computer that a consumer would be able to justify the left and right margins on-the fly. Isn't progress wonderful?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Welcome and A Remington

So, I imagine that some of you visiting today are new to my blog. Welcome. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you are here. The first part of this post is for the newcomers. It introduces the idea behind this blog and what I do with typewriters in school. The second part is about a new typewriter in my collection.

The CTP in a Nutshell

The original concept behind The Classroom Typewriter Project was to have students write without distraction. Computers have become distracting devices the divert our attention from quiet inspiration and real reflection. The typewriter is still the perfect machine for getting ideas neatly presented on paper. Moreover, the typewriter requires the author to be aware of GUMS (grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling) because a typewriter has a way of making your literary missteps very public.

To bring you up to speed on what has happened I have aggregated some of the older posts from this blog. These will be helpful in understanding the goals and what I wanted to do.

A New Acquisition

At $45 it was one of the more expensive Goodwill purchases I have ever made, but if you look at the following pictures you can see why I caved.

Now, the result shown here is less a product of the patented (not really) Magic Margin treatment and more a product of chance. I lucked out with a nice machine.

There are a few warts, but nothing that is too terrible.

An unusual key is always a nice addition. This one is called an obelus and is not always a mathematical sign. It can be a mark that signifies that some text is corrupted or spurious. The obelus can also be used for some fractional indications. 

The serial points this machine to the end of production year 1924. Earlier this afternoon I created a Typewriter Database entry for this typewriter and you can find it at: If you haven't been participating in the TWD, go now. You are missing a great collector's tool.

How does it write? The platen is standard; hard. So, the entire feel of the typewriter is slightly off, but from what I have experienced so far, I have to say it's nice. Good feel. having the type bars so high up makes for a fairly light touch with a resounding whack.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

2012 proved to be a fantastic year for typewriters. I hope to do my small part in making 2013 another great typewriter year. I also wanted to take a moment and and thank all the people who have worked to make the CTP and my tiny corner of the Typosphere so rich. I could never have dreamed that this blog, the Typosphere, and the CTP were even possible.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Positive Spur: Henry James, Theodora Bosanquet, and a Remington Typewriter

Having seen its heyday, the torch of the typewriter is only carried by a few true believers. We see these Promethians lighting pockets of darkness all over the world. The impetus is drawn from a vast mythology of typewriters; Mark Twain with his love/hate relationship to the Sholes & Glidden, Ernest Hemingway standing at a bookshelf in Cuba, Cormac McCarthy's $50 beat-up Lettera from a pawn shop in Texas. Stories are ambrosia that feed our love of these wonderful iron companions, but there is one great story of a man and a woman and a typewriter that shows how a simple machine intended to complete a task can become integral to a life.

Henry James by John Singer Sargent
Henry James is known for his meandering prose. Jamesian sentences can stretch on for lines. It's his style, and he is a master. What Hemingway did for the terse, short sentence, James did for long, complex syntax. I thought this was a by-product of writing during the Gilded Age, but James was a realist author. He wasn't a victim of Romanticism. Wharton, a compatriot and Gilded Age insider, wrote in a far less complicated way. Reading the criticism you hear mention of his "dictations" and that being an excuse for the prose.

James didn't write many of his books by hand. Early in his career he did put pen to paper, but his handwriting was so poor that it made sense to find some way to alleviate the problem. In a letter to Frances R. Morse dated June 7, 1897 James tells Morse that he took up "the click of the typewriter to which I dictate, and which, some months ago crept into my existence through the crevice of a lame hand and now occupies in it a place too big to be left vacant..."

When James writes about the typewriter he does not describe it as a tool that can be forgotten. James describes it as occupying "a place too big [in his life] to be left vacant." This tool has become far more important than a means of keeping his handwriting in check. It was a tool of composition.

However, James never operated his own typewriter, or at least that is the impression given by the papers he left behind. In 1897 Henry James hired William MacAlpine to serve as his amanuensis; a secretary. James replaced MacAlpine, perhaps due to his completely stoic reaction while James was dictating The Turn of the Screw. Whatever the true reason might be, MacAlpine was replaced by Mary Weld a young woman from one of the many secretarial schools that were popping up in The Strand (James was living in London at the time). In the great pauses that James took while dictating his prose, Weld would take out her crocheting. This, no doubt, aided in making it easy to replace Weld with someone more attuned to James' thought process: Theodora Bosanquet, the woman who would be his amanuensis until his death.
Theodora Bosanquet

James described Bosanquet as "boyish" and very much the perfect secretary for his need. Her literary sensitivities were more advanced, and she was able to translate James for the typewriter. Bosanquet read many of James’ early pieces previously and was, indeed, a fan.

Bosanquet described her first experience with the typewriter in a personal journal entry from late 1907:

“[Thursday]. 10 October, Rye…I went to Mr. James’ house and he introduced me to his typewriter—which I inspected for an hour or so—a brand new Remington and very complicated—or so it seemed to me.”

Here we get the only factual piece of information about one of Henry James' typewriters for we must conclude that he had an earlier Remington in 1897 when MacAlpine was working for him. The Remington, most likely in his study at Lamb House, would have been a No. 7. Bosanquet described it as being "brand new" and very complicated.

Remington No. 7
Alan Seaver Collection
The Remington No. 7 above certainly fits the bill. The maze of features, four-bank keyboard, and modern feature-set must have seemed very formidable when new and shiny. Alan Sever’s No. 7 looks the part of a complicated modern typewriter. A preponderance of levers and knobs make early Remingtons look positively byzantine. I have always enjoyed the fact that the key levers-- to which the keytops are attached-- are not metal, but wood. Yes, lumber. It's the Morgan of typewriters.

Remington No. 6
Alan Seaver Collection

However, a No. 7 was probably not the first typewriter that James had. We know that MacAlpine used one and that means that it was lost likely a No. 6. The No. 6 was available in 1897 and a fairly usable machine. While still a blind-writer the escapement, carriage, and ribbon advance mechanisms had all been improved.

The Remington No. 6, as period advertising described, was "A Development, Not An Experiment."

While pinning down the typewriter that James relied on is interesting, the most amazing thing is how the typewriter became more than a way to make a quick letter impression on paper. The typewriter became the trigger for a response in the mind of Henry James. His Remington made him create.

In an excerpt from Bosanquet's memoir, At Work with Henry James we can see how the noise the typewriter made, in effect, became the trigger for creating.

Indeed at the time I began to work for him, he had reached a stage at which the click of a Remington machine acted as a positive spur. He found it more difficult to compose to the music of any other make. During the fortnight when the Remington was out of order he dictated to an Oliver typewriter with evident discomfort, and he found it almost impossibly disconcerting to speak to something that made no responsive sound at all.

The typewriter was part of his creative process and Bosanquet recalls “…he liked to have a typewriter moved into his bedroom for even the shortest letters.” The typewriter became the locus around which his prose was crafted. However, there was Bosanquet, also a typewriter.

Her role is far less understood. Pamela Thirschwell, in her fascinating article "Henry James and Theodora Bosanquet: on the typewriter, In the Cage, at the Ouija board", talks about the unusual working roles of the elderly bachelor novelist and a young woman. As his amanuensis and typewriter Bosanquet was privy to many intimate moments of James' creation. The manner James created was unique to him. First he would think about the characters and the situations. He would do this silently, pacing the room. Bosanquet would be installed at the typewriter waiting for him to start speaking. At a moment’s notice he would start speaking; spending no time indicating punctuation. Often he would have asides and it was Bosanquet's job to decide what James intended to include in his dictated narrative. James told her that “I know, that I’m too diffuse when I am dictating.”

In a sense the typewriter, the machine and the typewriter (women who operated typewriters were called typewriters themselves) were entwined in the creative process. Each was inextricably linked to the other and where James, the typewriter, and Bosanquet melded was on the page. In fact, even Bosanquet became more and more reliant on the typewriter herself. The sound became synonymous with the thinking mind of James which Bosanquet desired nothing more than to completely understand.

…but what I really want most is just to get back to the dear old Remington tick. I hope to arrive with the ticker itself &c on Monday about one; and I will bring a new ribbon...

It was this way up until Henry James died. The typewriter allowed him the freedom of words to write in a way that was immensely unique. James' prose is unlike any others and a James sentence is always identifiable. Even when on his deathbed, Henry James called for his trusty old Remington and his special amanuensis to ease the pain of dying.

1. Fanny was a long-time correspondent to Alice James, Henry and William James' sister Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute. Fanny's father, Samuel T. Morse was a shipping merchant in Boston.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wall Post

When we moved to our new home about a year ago, Mrs. Magic Margin was very generous in allowing me space to display my personal typewriter collection. Everything about the "typewriter room" has been a work in progress. The biggest problem for any collector is storage space. To display a typewriter is a large investment in shelf real-estate. 

I've mentioned my love of the Expedit shelf from the mega furniture retailer, IKEA. Each cube is 12" square so any typewriter you display needs to be smaller than that. I have been able to display a large collection using this storage system, but there are machines that I don't use (because they need to be repaired or restored. I don't want to get rid of them, but I would like to have them out and appreciated. So, this was the solution:

I know that there are some in the Typosphere that might be a little hesitant to hang some typewriters on the wall, but I like it. 

Each machine is custom-hung and the mount is attached to a stud. They are very secure. I don't know about the long-term effect that hanging would have on the mechanisms, but I imagine that it wouldn't be too different from storing them upright in their cases for an extended period of time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Remington 12 Typeface

So, there were requests that I share the typeface from the newest typewriter in my collection. It's not exotic or exciting, but I like it. I even make a shopping list today on this very machine.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Little Elbow Grease Makes All The Difference

The Remington Standard No. 12 is not an especially collectable typewriter. You can find them all over the place and this one (BZ73012) is from 1926. As you can see it was also pretty dirty. 

The styling is not exactly modern. The decals have a very non-1920s look to them, but Remington stuck with this design for many years. In fact, it was in production for nearly a decade. Keeping the styling of a product for 10 years is a little odd, especially for our modern consumer society. I digress. Interestingly, some 12s still featured the right-hand return, but this version featured a left-handed return.

There was dirt caked everywhere. 

The platen is rubbish. I need to either get it recovered or try Richard's shrink-tubing trick.

Is that a bug? It wouldn't be the first I ever found in a typewriter. After looking at the layers of dirt I was willing to spray it down on the side of the house. The weather was warm and the sun was out, so I had little fears of the thing rusting too badly. It was also easy to see that it had been kept in a damp environment at some point. There was surface rust in some places, but nothing too bad.

Spraying out a typewrter with the hose takes some guts. I've done it before with good success, however, I always have done it on a sunny and warm day. If it's too cloudy things might not dry as you intended. 

Normally, I cover up the keytops, but I wasn't able to tell if these key tops were cloisonné or maybe enamel. They don't have little circles of celluloid covering the letters and I felt confident that there would be no damage from the water. I tested out on one before I committed to the endeavor and it seemed to be pretty water-resistant. 

You can see the pre-existing rust. It is also clear to see that everything is much cleaner. I also had a much better time getting the segments to move properly.

I had taken all the body panels off earlier and started the process of polishing them with Meguiar's cleaner and polish. They were very grimy and it took a while, but the black gloss paint started to shine through.

I think that the final result is stunning.

There is a very old scratch near the screw at the bottom of the type bar scoop. It's old enough to have rusted. Some amateur was probably trying to fix something and mid reinstall the screwdriver slipped and scratched the body panel.

There is one small scuff on the back right that I could not get out. It's small and barely noticable. Strangely, there is a very fancy number two written on the bump-out under the 'e' in Remington. Something like that might have been for inventory control, but it is some sort of enamel paint; shiny and hard. 

Even though it was dirty this 12 was a solid machine to start with. Dirty standards tend to clean up nicely, but if the paint is oxidized you are out of luck. Polishing will make it look better, but it will never look as nice as a good paint job that has been preserved nicely. I can never tell empirically if the paint is good ahead of time. I usually get a gut feeling. 90% of the time my gut is right-on, but there have been times when I was spectacularly wrong.

And remember that a little elbow grease makes all the difference. 

I will leave this brag post with a closeup of my favorite detail of the 12; the margin release.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Magic Margin for You!

The drab grey exterior is not exactly charming. It's pretty institutional, but from Remington's advertising department it was nothing short of revolutionary.

This particular model is the Super-Riter. Being the grown-up version of the entire Remington line it had all the gadgets you would expect from a typewriter of this caliber; full tabulator, touch select, snappy response, and even a type bar un-jammer. There is one thing missing. The margin set is not automatic. You must reach behind the paper table and use the margin set tabs. Not a terrible inconvenience, but certainly not one you would expect to see in a full-featured desktop typewriter. I looked around at American machines from the 50s and found that the automatic set margin was pretty common.

Obviously, there's Royal:

and Smith-Corona:

Underwood was a little different with their font-set marginal stops, so they don't count.

This begs the question; Why do Royal and Smith-Corona typewriters have fancy margin sets while the Remington is left out in the cold. Well, the answer has a little to do with a lawsuit.

It was October 3, 1947 when Royal filed suit in the District Court of Connecticut. Royal claimed that Remington Rand violated Royal's patent with the creation of the KMC or Keyboard Margin Control. This feature was prevalent on Remington desktop typewriters before the 1950s. Like Royal's Magic Margin it was a novel way to set margins on a typewriter. Unlike Royal's Magic Margin the KMG was on the body of the typewriter to the right.

Under the hood, both MM and KMC used an actuated arm to press a spring loaded marginal stop. If you are familiar with MM, then the KCM would make total sense. The KMC procedure was very similar to Royal's. Interestingly enough, the entire lawsuit centered around a patent created not by Hart, but a man named William Woodfine. William Woodfine is the grandfather of the Magic Margin.

Woodfine was a Canadian living in Verdun near Montreal when he applied for a U.S. patent for a "Margin Regulator for Typewriters." He wanted to improve margin system so "that rearwarly disposed margin stops may be caused to assume position in correspondence with a selected setting of the carriage through... forwardly projecting control keys." The patent was filed on November 1st, 1932 and issued on July 4, 1933. 

The most interesting part of the whole case against Remington was the revelation that Royal had purchased the Woodfile patent ten years before Smith's judgement. That would be around 1937-1938. The Hart Magic Margin patent was filed in 1938. It seems that Royal stumbled on this novel method for setting a margin and, before they issued their own improvement patent, wanted to secure the rights to Woodfine. 

Remington Rand appealed the ruling and the case came before Learned Hand. Hand was a well-known and well-respected judge and legal philosopher. In his time on the bench he heard many cases including several free speech appeals during World War I. Hand was particularly interested in patent law.

L. Hand's eyebrows frequently wrote their own opinions.

Hand affirmed Smith's earlier judgment in 1948. One of the most interesting outcomes of this case was the number of times that Hand is quoted from the Royal opinion.

Ultimately, Royal's ownership of this patent was upheld and we can see the repercussions of this in Remington's typewriter technology. Nowhere in the 1950s will you see an automatic margin on a Remington. 

The Woodfine patent was also brought up in another margin lawsuit with SCM in the 1960s. I have not looked too closely at the particulars, but I imagine that the outcome was similar. 

Even with all the legal harangue, Remington still made a very high quality typewriter that was used by large sectors of the U.S. Government.

I have another Remington desktop. It's nice as well.

I guess that if you take the body panels off, you can "unroll" the whole typewriter to work on it. I'll have to give that a try.

So, if you happen to see one of these typers out in the wild, give one a try. Even without the fancy margin set you'll still enjoy it.