Stereo Meta Stereo Meta

Filed under: AV Club, Finds, photography — olivander February 6, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

The above picture is a stereogram of a 1948 Stereo Realist camera, found in a local knick-knack store. So see it in simulated 3D, gently cross your eyes until the left and right images merge. Click the picture for a larger, more crosseye-friendly version.

A survey equipment company, the David White Company introduced the Stereo Realist to the market in 1947. It quickly became the company’s most popular product, despite a price of well over $1,000 in today’s dollars. Probably its most prolific and famous user was former silent-film star Harold Lloyd, who shot around a quarter million stereo images with one.

The David White Company is still around and still selling surveying equipment, but in 1971 they sold all of their Stereo Realist assets to former company design engineer Ron Zakowski.

The Stereo Realist shown above is a fairly early example, having a serial number in the low 7000s. It’s in nearly perfect condition, except the shutter is a bit sticky on very low speeds. With a little luck, I’ll be turning out real (not imitation) stereo photographs soon!

Sounds of the Past: The Remington Typewriter Co. Band

Filed under: AV Club, Diversions, Finds — olivander January 18, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

Remington Typewriter Band c.1912

Here we have the two sides from Columbia A1433, the first record of a handful released by the Remington Typewriter Co. Band.  Both were recorded Aug 27, 1913.  It used to be common for large companies to have their own employee-comprised concert bands and sports teams that played primarily for the enjoyment of the employees.  Of course, these company bands also acted as a form of advertising.  At the time these recordings were made, the band would have been under the leadership of Harry Putnam, former director of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus Band.

Formed in 1905, the Remington Band quickly became well-known outside the sphere of the factory grounds, performing regularly at events all around Herkimer County, NY.  In 1910, they embarked on a month-long tour of New York state and just inside the Canadian  border.  Possibly their highest-profile gig was playing at the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1939.

Beginning in 1926, the band could be heard at 8:30 every Wednesday evening on WGY, broadcasting from a studio built in the Remington employee cafeteria.

Reflecting the new corporate structure, the band changed its name to the Remington Rand Band in 1936.  After WWII, the band changed names again to the Ilion Fireman’s Band, a band which eventually became today’s Ilion Civic Band.

Click to download/listen:

Side A: Salute to the Sultan

Side B: Fraternal Spirit March

We’ve all got to have something to fall back upon

Filed under: Errata, Finds, ephemera — olivander @ 1:22 pm

From a 1917 Duluth, MN, city directory:

The Silver Lining

Filed under: Finds, typewriters — olivander September 1, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

Detective Polhaus: “Heavy. What is it?”
Sam Spade: “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of.”

Last night was rainy. Several storms moved through the area, bringing heavy rain, strong wind, and occasional light hail. The lightning show was spectacular.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have been out in it, braving the rain-slicked roads in the Mustang. It’s low-traction and high-torque. It doesn’t take much to make it fishtail or hydroplane in bad weather. But no rain clouds would deter me this night as I rounded the Twin Cities and headed north. For you see, these storm clouds had a silver lining.

A sterling silver lining, to be exact.

Sterling Smith-Corona Sterling

It’s a bit tarnished now, but with the proper care it should shine up nicely. For those unfamiliar, this is the almost-never-seen sterling silver edition Smith-Corona Sterling. The body is solid sterling silver, made by Gorham. They were made as part of a promotional window display for dealers in late 1931. The most accurate figure I have located for the total number made is 184. Only a fraction of those seem to have survived. Perhaps the reason for that is that Smith-Corona actually suggested to dealers that if they didn’t sell the silver machine by the end of the promotion they could recoup most of the cost of the $127.50 display by selling the machine in a regular housing and taking the silver housing to a silversmith for the market price of the silver.

I’ll have more about how this particular model came to be on Machines of Loving Grace soon.

EDIT: MoLG has been updated.

Not all girlie-girl typers are pink

Filed under: Finds, Machines of Loving Grace, typewriters — olivander January 18, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

Under normal circumstances, if I were to come across a late-model Royal Royalite in the thrift store, I would probably pass it by–especially an off-white one beginning to yellow with age. The Holland-made Royals with the “squashed Futura” look just don’t do much for me.

But an off-white Royalite slathered in flower decals…?

Now that’s irresistible tackiness! $5 was worth just the opportunity to photograph it.

If you were to guess that this typewriter was probably owned by a 16-year-old girl, you’d be right. The proof is that her class schedule, including Driver’s Ed, was written on a sheet of notebook paper inside the case. Take note, Pottery Barn set designers!

Also down in the bottom of the case were three Gold Bond Stamps. Those of us of A Certain Age remember trading stamps. Your mom would get a certain number whenever they bought groceries. At home, the stamps (most often the green S&H variety) would go into a little booklet, and after so many booklets were filled up, they could be redeemed for Valuable Prizes. I remember my mom once got a set of “unbreakable” dishes with trading stamps. (“Unbreakable” is a loose term in the presence of an 8-year-old.) I think that one could even get a Maytag washer by redeeming a ridiculous number of stamp books.

It makes one wonder: were typewriters ever offered as trading stamp prizes? Could that be how our mystery teenager’s mom bought her typewriter?

I’m leaning toward naming her Lizzie, after Elizabeth of York, whose marriage to Henry Tudor (aka Henry VII) effectively ended the Wars of the Roses by bringing together the houses of Lancaster (whose badge was the red rose) and York (the white rose). Henry subsequently adopted a white-on-red rose as his own badge. Known today as the Tudor Rose, it is still used as the heraldic emblem of the UK. It seems doubly fitting for the name, then, that our Royalite should be white with red roses.

Now if only it had script typeface.

Dis ‘n’ Dat

Filed under: Books, Errata, Finds — olivander August 17, 2009 @ 10:16 am

Who’d-a thunk?

I picked up an ice crusher at a garage sale this weekend. Been wanting one for a while (a proper mint julep just doesn’t work on the rocks), so I grabbed it without examining it too closely. And whaddya know? It’s a Smith-Corona ice crusher!

Evidently, Proctor-Silex was one of SCM’s kerjillian or so subsidiaries.

Fahrenheit 451–the comic book

File this one under either “Supreme Irony” or “You’ve Got to be Fracking Kidding Me”. Ray Bradbury’s classic novel about the diminishment of the written word as a dumbed-down society stultifies itself on comic books, television and Twittering, has itself been dumbed-down into a comic book graphic novel.

From the article on Slate:

Think back to the original novel. Comic books are the only books shallow enough to go unburned, the only ones people are still allowed to read. Beatty, the fire chief, who seems to have loved books once and whom Bradbury has called “a darker side of me,” explains it all to the hero, Guy Montag, the reluctant fireman. When photography, movies, radio, and television came into their own, he says, books started to be “leveled down to a sort of pastepudding norm.” Burning them isn’t so tragic, he suggests, because they are already so degraded.

But is this new adaptation a diminishment of the original, or a clever subversion of the comic medium? Ideas, after all, transcend the printed format and can be embedded anywhere; it’s how we integrate those ideas with our own intellects once we encounter them that gives ideas importance. Is graffiti on a brick wall any less substantial than a painting in a museum if there is an idea embedded within it?


Our 20-month-old son is addicted to baseball, or “bee-ball!” as he calls it. He demands it from the moment he wakes up till he falls asleep (there have been a few nights when the only way we’ve gotten him in his crib is to leave the TV on Fox Sports North with the sleep timer set). He wakes in the middle of the night asking for bee-ball. He throws just like the pros and mimes the hat-chin-nose signals and the base players’ stances. I’m hoping he doesn’t find the miniature Louisville Slugger factory tour souvenir.

You’d be amazed how often some sort of ball game is on TV–fortunately for the sake of peace and quiet in our house. And fortunately as well, I like baseball (being distantly related to a hall-of-famer, I suspect it’s in my blood). The spousal unit, on the other hand, not so much. But even I am becoming drained of enthusiasm for the Great American Pastime. When I am reduced to watching the Little League World Series while wanting to gnaw my own foot off, I know I’ve had enough.

Admittedly, it’s still better than watching that “Baby Einstein” DVD for the umpteenth time.

Heaven help us when football season starts.

#10: TAROPs

Filed under: Finds, Project 88 — olivander August 14, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

Typewriter: 1961 Hermes 3000

Anyone have a power cord for this thing?

Filed under: Finds — olivander @ 10:47 am

Or, why I should stay away from thrift stores.

Monroe adding machine

I was going to typecast this, but judging by the stack of unscanned Project 88 pages, you’d likely not see it for weeks if I did.

I was doing my usual weekly-or-so sweep of the thrift stores. In the back of one, in the area where the typewriters usually get dumped amongst the computer keyboards and broken scanners, I came upon this:

Monroe LA5-160

Now, you should know that I was an English major. Like most English majors, numbers and I don’t get along well. In fact, we find most numbers–especially large, hairy formulas–downright frightening. Only unlike large, hairy spiders, we can’t squash numbers underfoot before they scrurry into the dark, paranoid recesses of our minds and give us a case of the shuddering willies. So you’d think that a machine bristling with figures and arcane numerological functions would send me prancing to the safe confines of the Broken Records Dept at the other end of the store.

Ah, but I’m also a technerd and a retrophile. That means that I am irresistably drawn to all things with levers, knobs, buttons, and gears. I assure you that that is the only reason I bought it. I don’t even know how to work the damn thing. Oh, but you turn the crank on the front, and the carriage thing moves back and forth! And you push this big red button and something happens! And you press this lever and something else happens! Technerd joy!

It was only after I got it home and was looking it over in search of a model number that I noticed the two prongs hiding in the hole on the back. The one where a power cord goes. A bit of semi-fruitful Googling identified this as a Monroe LA5-160 adding machine. An electric model. More accurately, an electromechanical or electric assist model. Bother. That means that unless I can find or fashion a power cord, I can’t even play with it. And that’s only if all the electrical components still work, something I’ve had spotty luck with in other contraptions.

But here’s the neat thing: See that metal plate on the back? “Property of Defense Plant Corporation, an instrumentality of the United States Government”. Ooh, sounds mysterious! I hadn’t heard of the DPC, so I did some research.

The Defense Plant Corporation was an offshoot of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, an entity created in 1932 to umbrella the various departments developed to rebuild and stabilize the US economy in the midst of the Great Depression. Its main function was facilitating loans to businesses and financial institutions.

With the national emergency of impending war succeeding the national economic emergency, in 1940 Congress granted the RFC unprecedented powers to purchase or build essentially anything the President asked it to. It immediately set about forming a number of new “instrumentalities” to handle wartime materials and production. One of the largest of these was the Defense Plant Corporation, created in 1941. The DPC coordinated supplies and equipment between the various branches of the armed forces and the factories that produced those goods. For instance, the Army would tell the DPC, “We need ball bearings”, and the DPC would contract with a ball bearing factory to get the Army what it needed. Everything from tiny screws to entire bombers passed through the DPC this way.

The DPC also helped companies and individuals build new factories. There was a concern by factory owners that once the war ended they would be left without a market for their production. The DPC acted as sort of a guaranteer of the factories. The way it worked was that an individual would work through the DPC to build a factory at their own cost. The DPC then agreed to incrementally buy back that factory over five years. At the end of that time, the factory owner had the option to buy back the factory at fair market value.

As an interesting aside, it was a DPC contract for a new, enormous cargo aircraft that led to the construction of Howard Hughes’ (in)famous Spruce Goose. It seems that Secretary of Commerce (and thus head of the RFC) had been friends with Howard Hughes’ father, and had known Hughes since he was a child. The $23 million Spruce Goose, which flew only once–long after war’s end–became symbolic of government waste. Another DPC contract with Hughes Aircraft was for a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft dubbed the XF-11. It was during a test flight of the XF-11 that Hughes crashed into a Los Angeles neighborhood, damaging or destroying three houses and nearly killing Hughes. It’s thought that the trauma of the crash and Hughes’ subsequent addiction to painkillers from his injuries were catalysts for his later mental instabilities.

When the war ended in 1945, the Defense Plant Corporation was dissolved.

Somewhere in all of that, this adding machine was there, tirelessly cranking out calculations to help our boys on the front.

#6: Lost Holidays

Filed under: Finds, Project 88, Stolen moments, photography — olivander August 10, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

Typewriter: c.1963 Remington Holiday

Mayonaise for Susan

Filed under: Finds, typewriters — olivander July 28, 2009 @ 9:52 am

Found imprinted in the red portion of an old ribbon:

“BIG RED for the girls. Mayonaise for Susan. And a surprise for Paul.”

I’m pretty sure there’s a story in that somewhere.

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