Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Heavy or Light: the KMM Mid-Production

The Rt. Rev. Munk's squiggly photo of
Bill Wahl.
A few weeks ago I was in Tempe picking up some supplies from Tempe Camera. Since I was in the general area, I visited Bill at the Mesa Typewriter Exchange for a few hours.

It was nice to talk about the weather, our respective families, Arizona history, and the Royal KMM.

Among the many Royal standards I have in my collection, this is one that has eluded me. I have been waiting for a long time for a nice example but, there just hasn't been one that I wanted. Actually, I take that back. Early in my collecting experience there was a gentleman in Flagstaff that had a KMM that I wanted, but the price was too high and we could never agree, so I let it go. The superstitious part of me thought that maybe I cursed myself.

What's so special about the KMM? Nothing really except that it's crowning feature is honored in the name of my blog!

Richard Polt's Royal KMM
In reality, it's a fairly common Royal standard. There are people who love them (Richard Polt) and others have generally positive comments about them. I think they are very handsome in the same way that a late-40s QDL is a handsome typewriter. The dark gray finish is classy without the fussiness of a gloss. I have heard that the touch and feel is similar to many of the other Royal standards; very good. It is the quintessential typewriter.

Bill and I were talking about the KMM and in the course of the conversation he asked if I knew about the heavy and light versions. Two versions? I didn't know that there were two versions.

He told me the story. One day long ago when Bill was young man he had two Royal KMMs on the bench. He had to move both of them and noticed that one was very heavy while the other was noticeably lighter. In all honesty light is a relative term. A Royal desktop typewriter has never been known for its portability.

Bill took note of the serial numbers and NOMDA indicated that they were on either side of the 1946/1947 dividing line.

3096000 3273000

Magic Margin's aluminum? bodied Royal HH.
At some point between 1946 and 1947 Royal changed the KMM in some way to make it lighter. I know from experience that my HH has body of a non-ferrous metal as do my KMGs. These are probably aluminum and I would hazard a guess that Royal decided to use an aluminum frame to save money. Perhaps this is what Royal did to the KMM to make it lighter?

Do you have a KMM? What's the serial number? How much does it weigh? I am calling on the Typosphere to help me solve this mystery. I created a Google form (see below) that would let us gather the information in an easy way. It would be really cool to narrow it down and find out how much weight was saved by switching materials. With time and enough data points we could find an answer. We might even find out that this was the beginning of the cost-saving culture at Royal that would lead to the terrible Litton merger. Would it be fair to draw a line form that point all the way back to the 1946/47 KMM? We'll see, but let's find out how much these beast weigh.

Friday, May 31, 2013

November 1957

More Royal News. I shared the edition from November 1956 a couple of weeks ago and now here's  another one from a year later. Please enjoy the typewriter-y goodness.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

November 1956

I found this interesting document and thought I would share it with the Typosphere. Royal's human resources department published this monthly magazine for the benefit of its workforce. While typewriters are present, this magazine primarily lets us have a glimpse inside the everyday life at a major typewriter manufacturer during the 1950s. 

The people who worked at Royal were not typewriter users like us. They worked for Royal and were probably loyal to their employer, but typewriters were not the cultural artifacts they are today.  No doubt, they would thing that owning more than one typewriter was just plain unusual.

Typewriters were devices intended to do a job. So, within these pages you'll see no mention of the power of unplugging from the digital hegemony or any of the usual tropes of the Typosphere. Instead you'll find celebrations of birthdays, information on major medical plans, and pictures of employee barbecues. You might even see the odd typewriter here-and-there. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chip, Rona, and a Good Companion

I have a story to tell about Communists, New Zealand, and a clandestine typewriter. While I might be stepping on toes here, I think that the ever-gracious Mr. Messenger will allow me to dabble in some southern-hemisphere typewriter antics.

Sidney Holland
The distance of Australia and New Zealand from traditional markets made shipping a vital part of their economic growth. It’s no surprise, then that the New Zealand waterfront became the locus of working-condition conflict. During WWII, labor shortages required that dock workers take on longer shifts; upwards of 15 hours a day. Anger at the situation was brought before the Arbitration Court of New Zealand and workers who were involved in the arbitration system were awarded a 15% wage increase. This did not apply to dock workers because their employment was controlled by a different governmental organization. Instead dock workers were awarded a 9% wage increase and among the rank-and-file this was seen as a slight for the vital service they offered to Kiwis.

In retribution, the waterfront workers refused to work overtime. Employers locked them out.

The center-right First National Government, led by Sidney Holland, called in the Army and Navy in to work the docks. An election was called in 1951 in an effort to capitalize on the national disapproval of the dockworkers actions. Emergency Regulations were enacted that significantly curtailed civic liberties and criminalized material support to watersiders. These regulations also made it a crime to write anything in support of the movement.

Rona Bailey
This did not stop Chip Bailey and his wife Rona Bailey from breaking the law and secretly writing pamphlets and articles in support of the watersiders.

Bailey and his wife were well-known in the New Zealand labor movement. Rona has been described as the ‘high priestess’ of Kiwi communism by a later New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon. Chip was an ardent supporter of labor and—for a while—was purged from the party’s roll because he followed his own beliefs.

These two were not about to follow Holland’s dictum. They were going to fight for what they thought was right.

The Bailey Imperial at The Museum of New Zealand
It was on an Imperial Good Companion that the Baileys would write their pamphlets and political pieces. The couple were responsible for most of the illegal pro-union writing circulated around Wellington, their hometown. Often they would have to deliver these papers in the dead of night so as to not be caught.

Craftily hiding the unlicensed typewriter somewhere in their flat (history is mum on the location), they avoided being caught until the Gestetner mimeograph they were using to make duplicates was discovered in a police raid. They were fined 15 pounds for the possession of an unregistered printing machine. This would have been about ½ a week’s salary in 1950s New Zealand.

Chip Bailey
The Bailey’s weapon in the battle for labor rights was an Imperial Good Companion.

Chip passed away early in the 1960s. Rona continued to fight for her beliefs until she passed in 2005. However, Rona's later activism was less typewriter-centric. She used her love of dance as a way to fight for human rights. She was particularly active in anti-Apartheid movements.

The Good Companion, made by Leicester firm Imperial, was an immensely popular machine and I could go on and on about them, but Robert has already covered this ground which I suggest you read.

Typewriters often play an important role in political struggles. Ideas can change history, but ideas and typewriters can really get things going.