This past week, I was featured in the local PBS series “Off 90“, which showcases various human-interest stories from along southern Minnesota’s I-90 corridor. The segment was filmed last summer but due to uninteresting reasons the airing was delayed until now. The episode has now been posted to YouTube, so anyone who is masochistic enough to do so may watch me awkwardly babble on about typewriters.
My segment begins at about the 10:35 mark, following the Frozen River Film Festival (which is worth a watch itself).
This page of typefaces comes from a L.C. Smith trade catalog that I picked up recently. Until now, I’d never seen or heard of Radio Gothic. Now, it’s at the very top of my must-have list. I even love the description: “For transcribing radiograms or similar messages in code.” It brings visions of a kid sitting by the radio with his dad’s L.C. Smith and a Little Orphan Annie decoder ring, transcribing the secret message coming from the speaker (“Always drink your Ovaltine”).
The very fact that this typeface existed–a more ornate, public-friendly version of the cold, utilitarian Gothic used by railroad telegraphers–says much about the era it was crafted for.
Radio Gothic would also make an excellent name for an alt-folk band, which I expect to happen any moment now.
Here is a wonderful period piece from 1929. Remington Rhymes of Typewriter Times was written and illustrated by John Martin–”the childrens’ friend”–and published by Remington Rand. It’s a blatant product of the marketing department. Copiously and colorfully illustrated, each letter of the alphabet is represented by short poems and parables, in nearly every one of which the modern marvel of the portable typewriter helps the children overcome an obstacle or achieve educational greatness.
Admittedly, the rhymes aren’t very good, as they more often than not are forced to contort themselves to the marketing message driven through them, and the breathless prose extolling Remington typewriters’ educational benefits can seem hokey to modern audiences. But it’s a marvelously fun cultural artifact that if nothing else will bring a smile with its whimsical illustrations. (There is one small example of unapologetic racism buried within it, which I will ask you to just accept as being part of the book’s “cultural artifact” aspect.)
Click the cover above or download it here. (PDF, 8.5mb)
I got it in my head to see if I could at a minimum get a type sample from my c.1886 Caligraph No.2, using carbon paper in the absence of a ribbon. While the typeface needs to be cleaned–and apparently several of the lowercase keytops have been switched around–I think the results are surprisingly good.
This is probably the first typing the Caligraph has done in a long, long time. I was mildly disappointed that the “Q” did not have the L-shaped tail that is depicted on the keytop.
Because the feed roller is pretty much shot, I taped the top edge of the paper and carbon paper together to keep them aligned, and then I taped the leading corners of the carbon paper to the platen. In my first attempt, the sheets tended to travel independently of one another.
I also had to type with one finger pressed against the right end of the carriage, as I was too chicken to attempt to tension the longitudinal carriage spring.
Perhaps I will eventually get it to the point where one could type a letter on it. Some typebars clash and need to be realigned. The lowercase keytops need to be unscrambled. The “(” key’s wooden keylever is broken and needs to be repaired. And of course the spring ought to be tensioned. For now, this baby step has me pretty darn happy.
This absolutely terrific short film from 1935 showed up on YouTube. It shows the manufacturing process of a Remington No.16 typewriter from milling to final assembly. There’s a stop-motion animation sequence toward the end that would have made Ray Harryhausen proud.
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.
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.