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

Making Remingtons in Czechoslovakia in 1935

Filed under: AV Club, Diversions, typewriters — olivander September 22, 2010 @ 7:41 am

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.

Enjoying this music is against the law

Filed under: Diversions — olivander January 5, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

I need to take a moment out of working on the next installment of Amelia & Me, the 2009 Typewriter Roundup, the 2010 MoLG calendar (I’ll bet you didn’t think I was going to do one, did you?), and legitimate work to tell you something very important:

The new Kleptones album is finally out!

For the uninitiated, The Kleptones is Eric Kleptone, a British DJ who likes to mash together all manner of musical styles to create Something Completely Different. A listen to one of his albums is a trip through his entire musical education, without regard to genre (who would have thought that Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” vocals would have overlaid perfectly with Rage Against the Machine’s “Down on the Street” backtrack?) or obscurity (did you know that Harry Nilsson recorded a cover of “Sixteen Tons” back in 1964 just so it could be mixed with Sister Surround’s “The Soundtrack of Our Lives” 30 years later? Me, either.)

Naturally, the recording industry considers Kleptone’s work to be in violation of copyright and illegal to possess.

Midnight, Jan 1 saw the long-awaited release of “Uptime / Downtime“, the duo’s first album of original material since 2006’s “24 Hours“. As the title suggests, disk 1 is all upbeat, fast-moving, sometimes aggressive tracks; disk 2 is a slower wind-down set. I wish I had had Uptime to play at my New Year’s Eve party (heck, I wish I’d had a New Year’s Eve party), and Downtime for the day-after recovery. “Uptime” is a little heavy on the Beastie Boys samples to me, but that didn’t diminish my overall enjoyment of the side.

Here’s an example of some of the things you can expect to find buried within each track. This is a list of samples used in just the “Uptime” track “Come Again”:

  • The Beatles – “Come Together”
  • Beastie Boys – “No Sleep till Brooklyn”
  • Daft Punk – “Robot Rock”
  • Rare Earth – “I Just Want to Celebrate”
  • Queen & David Bowie – “Under Pressure”
  • Cypress Hill – “Insane in the Brain”
  • John Lennon – “Power to the People”
  • Boston – “More Than a Feeling”
  • M|A|R|R|S – “Pump Up the Volume”
  • Freeez – “I.O.U”
  • Art of Noise – “Close (to the Edit)”
  • S’Express – “Theme from S’Express”

“Downtime” finds things like Nick Drake merged with Star Trek’s computer (Majel Barrett) and Marianne Faithfull collaborating with the late Paul Newman.

And somehow it all works.

“Uptime / Downtime” is not for everyone. If your musical tastes lean more toward Tobey Keith or Jimmy Buffet, this album is probably not for you. But if you’re looking for an alternative to the packaged synthpop that fills the airwaves today, The Kleptones may just be the aural antidote you’re looking for.

NaNo Update

Filed under: Diversions, typewriters — olivander November 4, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

Here it is day four of NaNoWriMo, and my word count stands at 5,320. That’s an estimate, told to me by the NaNo Statistical Spreadsheet for Typists that I worked up. Those of us who type generally make a best guess at our actual wordcount. There are various ways of going about it, but I go by the rule of thumb that five characters = one word. My margins are set at 65 characters. I knock that down to 60, figuring that I rarely type all the way to the margin stop, and that gives me 12 words per line. I’m one of those daft people who types single-spaced. (Most of my editing is done on the fly as I retype the text into the computer.) A full single-spaced page yields 60 lines. At 12 words per line, that comes out to 720 words per page. I round down to 700 to account for paragraph breaks and new paragraph indentations.

The tricky bit is keeping track of one’s progress and knowing at a glance whether or not one is on track for a Nov 30 completion. Okay, it’s tricky for me; I stink at math. So I took apart Erik Benson’s popular NaNoWriMo Report Card spreadsheet and adapted it for typists. You enter your average number of words per page at the top, and it tells you how many pages you should be up to for every day of the month. Each day, you enter your accumulated page count and the rest of the spreadsheet will autopopulate the estimated number of words you’ve typed that day, your total word count altogether, how many words you have left, your average words typed per day, how many words you need to type tomorrow to stay on track for 50k by Nov 30, the date you’ll finish at your present typing rate, and your percentage completed toward 50k. Right now, I’m on track to finish on Nov 28.

In other news, I had to give up on my goal of typing the entire thing on the Triumph Norm. I really wanted to do it, because I’m writing about the same people who built it. I also felt that using it to write about how the workers deceived the Nazis would redeem it from its past as property of the Third Reich government. But alas, after five full pages I just cannot find my rhythm or catch a pace on it. It’s not the transposed Y and Z, because I’ve typed on enough other QWERTZ keyboards to be used to it. There’s just something about it that isn’t synching up with me. So last night I reluctantly switched over to the Olympia SM9. I could have gone with one of my other German machines–particularly the Studio 42, which may see action yet–but since I was switching away from the Triumph altogether I thought I might as well go for speed and solidity. The SM9 is pica pitch, which is why I chose it over the SG1. Man, is it nice! I’m typing at twice the pace I was on the Triumph.

For lunch-hour typing at work, I’ve brought in the Tower Chieftain II (a rebadged late Skyriter). In quick competition with the Hermes Rocket and Olympia Socialite, it was the lightest, quietest, most reliable, and easiest to type on.

From reading other posts on the official Typewriter Brigade board in the NaNoWriMo forums, it seems like a lot of people are switching typers right about day 3. A common theme is “I really wanted to type on _______, but…” Which brings up the question: if you could have any typewriter, what would you really want to use for NaNoWriMo?

The stealth carrying case

Filed under: Diversions, typewriters — olivander October 13, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

I had a problem: the typewriter that I want to use for NaNoWriMo has no carrying case. Well, it has a bottom, but the top is long gone. It also doesn’t fit into any of my other typewriters’ carrying cases. What to do?

It failed to fit into any of the laptop bags at my disposal ( Dell Latitude and Toshiba T1100 bags came close, but the zipper wouldn’t quite close). Besides, as a rule, I don’t care for toting around a bag that advertises that I have something expensive and worth stealing inside. I usually carry my laptop in a hippie backpack.

Then I spotted the Nightmare Before Christmas messenger bag that I bought at a garage sale a couple of years ago. I originally thought it would be funny to use as a diaper bag for our impending child, but the person bearing the child who has veto power over most child-rearing decisions disagreed. I slid the typewriter inside. Perfect fit! However, what had appealed to me about the laptop bags–substantial padding–was totally lacking. Modifications would have to be made.

Long story short, I give you the Nightmare Before Christmas typewriter/laptop carrying case!
Stealth typewriter/laptop bag

It’s a hybrid between the original cheapo student messenger bag and an actual laptop bag. The inside is lined sides and bottom with the removable inner padding from a laptop bag. I added the additional shoulder strap because a) I wanted a padded strap, and b) it enabled me to cinch up the original shoulder strap and use it as a handle to make it easier to pick up, put in and take out of the car, etc.

Here it is opened up:
Stealth typewriter/laptop bag
The padded side panel from underneath the typewriter slides out and, upside-down, becomes the perfect typing pad. Between it and the new rubber feet I gave the typer*, there is no vibration or “creep” whatsoever while typing.

The only drawback is lack of additional storage. I can carry a couple of pens, an iPod, a small notebook, and that’s about it. A file folder with some paper can slide underneath the inner side panel. But this should get me by for November!

* B322 rubber bushings from Ace Hardware

Undeserved accolades

Filed under: Diversions — olivander September 14, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

Monda at No Telling has presented this blog with the Kreativ Blogger award! Thanks, Monda! Apparently, there’s a fine line between creative and crazy, and I’m dancin’ just north of the difference between being handed awards and being handed prescriptions. Gosh, I didn’t even think to have them install a trophy shelf anywhere within Oliver Towers!

I don’t normally participate in memes that require passing something along chain-letter style, but receiving a creativity award from Monda is like getting a gold star in one of her writing classes, so I will happily play along this time.

As with most things that are worth having, there are Rules that accompany this award. They are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. (see below)
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

There are only about seven non-political blogs that I visit regularly, so if you know me, there’s a good chance that you’re gonna get an award! My nominees for the Creative Kreativ Blogger award are:

  1. Strikethru at Strikethru for outstanding ephemeral creativity.
  2. Mike Clemens at Clickthing for outstanding retrotech craftiness.
  3. Joe Van Cleve at Joe Van Cleave’s Blog for outstanding camera creativity.
  4. Tatiana Cardeal at Brazil | Social | Photography for outstanding photography.
  5. Speculator at La Vie Graphite for outstanding confluence of written and visual art.
  6. c.e. grundler at c.e. grundler for outstanding creativity in vintage boat repair.
  7. Little Flower Petals at Little Flower Petals for outstanding thinkspills.

Seven things you might find interesting about me:

  1. I wear a fedora almost everywhere.
  2. I co-founded our state’s only barefoot hiking club.
  3. I sometimes drive around with my iPod hooked up to an FM transmitter set to a popular station but playing an empty track, so the cars around me find their radios drowned out by silence.
  4. Favorite cocktail: orange juice, splash of vodka, splash of rum, splash of banana schnapps.
  5. I never owned a brand-new car until last year. Technically, it’s my wife’s, anyway.
  6. I have a near-pathological fear of spiders, flying, and needles.
  7. I really, really dislike talking about myself.

In the spirit of creativeness, I’ve worked up my own version of the Kreativ Blogger award. The nominees can either grab the image below or click the version in the header for a downloadable if you prefer the more quiltish style.

And now, if y’all don’t mind, I need to excuse myself and head to Target to buy a shelf.

Mischief always starts with the thrift store

Filed under: Books, Diversions, ephemera — olivander September 4, 2009 @ 9:51 am

Some time back, I found a box of library checkout cards at the thrift store. No sleeves, just the cards. Despite having no idea how I could possibly use them, I bought the box, because you just don’t leave behind something that neat. It went on a shelf upstairs and was largely forgotten.

Then not too far back, Monda posted about her love of old bookplates, a nearly extinct item both in use and the art thereof. And then it hit me.

A long time back, a Flickr friend taught me how to do injet transfers. This is like Polaroid transfers, but without the Polaroid. Here’s how you do it: Take one of those sheets of print-your-own shipping labels and peel off all of the labels, so you have only the blank wax paper-like sheet. Put that sheet in your printer shiny-side up and print on it as if it were glossy photo paper (if your image has text, be sure to flip it before printing, or it will come out backwards). As soon as it comes out of the printer, press a lightly dampened sheet of paper over the image. Pretend you’re lifting a comic strip with Silly Putty (the principles involved are actually nearly identical). After several seconds of pressing, gently lift off the paper. The image should now be transferred onto it.

You may have to experiment with your printer’s brightness and contrast settings and the amount of your paper’s dampness until you hit upon a good combination. For me, the process has been hit-or-miss, I think mostly because I’d previously worked with a notebook of homemade paper. The texture is a bit too rough for a good transfer. Which in fact is why I’d never written in that notebook and chose it for inkjet transfer experiments. Some people say that cheapo ultra-glossy photo paper also works instead of a label sheet, but I’ve had better luck with the label sheet. In theory, heavy wax paper ought to also work, but I haven’t tried it.

After reading Monda’s post, I thought, why not use inkjet transfers to make my own bookplates? Naturally, I was reluctant to risk a nice book for a potential transfer disaster (plus, moisture–on a book?! Never!). But then I remembered that box of library cards upstairs. Voila! Last night I ran off a few, until my label sheet finally crinkled and curled from too many times wiping away the leftover ink. Here are the results:

(Click each to see it larger.)

The one on the left was my first attempt. Too small, but not bad. On the right, we see that Aubrey Beardsley works well for this method, but I evidently neglected to dampen the card enough and lost most of the art deco border.

Here are a couple that I made by altering old typewriter advertisements. The one on the left is from an Adler ad, and Remington on the right. I like these two a lot.

I didn’t insert names into any of them because I figure that it would be more appropriate to type or write one’s name on the card.

So there you have it: DIY bookplates. I think I’ve just given away what a few people are getting for Christmas, but oh, well.

(Just watch. There is probably a small collective of library card collectors who are at this moment calling me a destructive heathen for destroying pristine library cards.)

Typeface index hack

Filed under: Diversions, typewriters — olivander July 9, 2009 @ 10:29 am

Typeface index book

For some time, I’ve been taking typeface samples of my typewriters. The primary purpose is to tell me where problems lie (is the typeface clean and aligned, do the keys work smoothly, does the line advance, etc work properly?). Eventually, I realized that the accumulated samples compose a pretty good reference of different type styles and sizes. Sorted by brand or date, you can also see the typefaces evolving, and companies borrowing from one another. If you’re a complete typeface nerd like me, you can also play “guess the typeface” that the company altered for their machines (“I spy Memphis!”).

The book itself is a discarded Franklin Covey planner binder that I found. The size was perfectly suited to the slightly-larger-than-an-index-card paper I had taken to using. (These are pads of 5×8 recycled scrap paper that we have here at work. I’ve found them perfect for typecasting.) I type two samples per page–type one at the top, then flip it upside-down for the next use. Those are cut in half, leaving two 4×5 slips. The problem was finding a properly-spaced hole puncher, as Franklin Covey apparently gave their rings a goofy 3.5″ spacing, probably so nobody could re-use them for non-Franklin purposes. Happily, at a thrift store I found an old Mutual Centamatic punch with variable hole spacing and sliding paper guide that is the perfect solution.

With all of my type sample slips punched, I next cut some blank sheets in two and affixed gummed paper index tabs to them so I can quickly locate all of the various typewriter brands. In retrospect, I ought to have typed on the tabs before I glued them on, because folded in two they are too thick to feed through a typer. This is still experimental and may get rearranged, so penciling on the tabs may be best for now anyway.

The final touch was to label the binder itself, using an old 3.5″ floppy disk label that I doubt I will miss.

At the moment, the index contains roughly 50 type samples. Many early samples that are simply marching down 8×11 sheets of paper will need to be re-typed before they can be included. I’m trying not to duplicate models unless they are spaced far apart in time. For example, most ’50s Smith-Corona portables have identical tyepface, so it’s pointless to include ten alike samples from Sterlings and Silents. Eventually, I hope to cross-reference the index by type style and pitch. So if, say, I want a 12-pitch san-serif typeface for a particular purpose, I can quickly identify the appropritate tyepwriter to use.

Admittedly, I’m unlikely to ever actually need to do that. But the part of me that is compelled to obsessively break down, categorize, and document the tiniest detail about my typewriters is quite cheerful about this.

Typeface index book

Regional records

Filed under: AV Club, Diversions, Finds — olivander June 23, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

Here is another of this blog’s infrequent forays into the world of early music reocordings. While visiting Sioux Falls this past weekend, I made a detour into a new (to me) thrift store calls Y’s Buys (it’s run by the YMCA). The place was huge. A bit overpriced, but ten times better than the measly Saver’s that’s further down 41st.

They had a small selection of 78rpm records, which at $1.99 apiece were ridiculously overpriced. I managed to find two interesting ones that weren’t broken (I mourn the death-by-neglect of “The Hipster’s Boogie”). I would never have paid their price if they hadn’t been a pair of labels that I’ve never seen before, and will unlikely come across again soon.

Herschel Gold Seal

Herschel Gold Seal immediately intrigued me with its obviously Jewish moniker and local Northwestern Phonograph Supply Co name. Usually, these indicate a very small record company with a limited catalog and primarily long-forgotten regional artists. The hard part about researching such labels is that today there is almost no surviving information about them. To my surprise, my initial research lasted only five minutes before I hit pay dirt.

A few years ago, science journalist and musical history buff Kurt Gegenhuber began a quest to discover the musicians who played “The Moonshiner’s Dance, Part 1″, featured in the legendary Anthology of American Folk Music. That record was also a Herschel Gold Seal release, and it led Gegenhuber on a sprawling historical journey through the Twin Cities’ early 20th-Century Jewish culture, a journey he recounts in his terrific article Music, Moonshine, and Mahjong. It turns out that Herschel Gold Seal was a house label maintained by Gennett Records for Harry Bernstein’s chain of Minneapolis/St Paul record stores in the late ’20s and early ’30s. The relationship probably originated with the fact that Harry Bernstein’s was a former Starr Piano distributor, and Starr Piano was Gennett’s parent company (the recording division changed its name from Starr to Gennett in 1917).

Gennett Records is a sprawling story in itself. They seemed to specialize in leasing their vast library of recordings to many smaller record labels. Adding to the confusion, they changed their name to Champion in 1930 but continued releasing some of the same recordings previously released on Gennett. I have found side A of this record, “Meadow-Lark” by the Royal Troubadors, on three different labels under as many band names, all apparently the same recording. This particular record, BTW, is a relabel of Gennett 3388, issued around 1927.

Side A: Meadow-Lark, by the Royal Troubadors. Recorded 10/04/1926. This side has heavy surface damage. I did the best I could to minimize the noise. It’s listenable, but not great.

Side B: Sunday, by Harry Pollack and His Club Maurice Diamonds. Recorded 10/01/1926. Again, listenable, but the quality was pretty bad to begin with, and you can do only so much with a disk that’s had its dynamic range ground down to nothing by multiple passes with a steel needle.


As a rule, I hate polka, but I was delighted to find this disk. WNAX is well-known to anyone who grew up in South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, or western Minnesota or Iowa. An unusually powerful station for a relatively small community–in the ’40s it claimed to have the country’s tallest transmitting tower–WNAX was one of the most popular stations in the predominantly rural upper midwest. The rest of the country better recognizes its most famous musical prodigy, Lawrence Welk, whose decade-long stint as leader of the WNAX house band took him from struggling road musician to household name.

After the Welk era, WNAX housed many acts, mostly specializing in the polka-style music the heaviliy-Germanic upper-plains population enjoyed. One of the longest-lived of these groups was the WNAX Bohemian Band. The Bohemian Band could be heard every weeknight at 6:15, and played under the sponsorship of Minneapolis-based Grain Belt Beer. (The “Grainbelt Polka” song featured on this record is surely a thinly-veiled advertisement for their sponsor.)

The WNAX Bohemian Band. L-R: Billy Dean, Homer Schmidt (a veteran of Lawrence Welk’s ensemble), Bill Tonyan (still alive and performing!), Keith Eide, Rex Hays, Lynn Edwards, Eddie Texel, and Fred Burgi.

I left the noise level higher in these two recordings, because the dynamic range was so unusually well-preserved in these little-played sides that I didn’t want to sacrifice it. They’re still pretty good quality. The A side and B side are a guess, as the record has no catalog number. I went by the sequence of their recording matrix numbers.

Side A: Marenka Polka

Side B: Grainbelt Polka

Ridin’ the Crazy Train

Filed under: Diversions, Newsworthy, politics — olivander April 8, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

Better-than-usual commentary from Jon Stewart on the current political santa anas. Our own state bird, Michele Bachmann, makes a cameo partway through.

Side note: to all the non-Minnesotans reading: sure, we may have inflicted upon you the crazypants likes of Michele Bachmann, Norm Coleman, Al Franken, Jesse Ventura, and Prince. Those of you not living in a state governed by an Austrian weightlifter might be tempted to view us Minnesotans as having, shall we say, questionable taste. To you I would just like to point out that we also gave you F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Garrison Keillor, the Mayo brothers, Winona Ryder, Bob Dylan, and the Coen brothers. Oh, and Kevin Sorbo. Hercules, huh? How ’bout that?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia – Obey
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

(Oh, was Winona not a good example?)

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