Warning: politics and bad language ahead.
Warning: politics and bad language ahead.
On a side note, I really enjoy using the SM4. But its dog-poop brown color doesn’t do anything for me.
Meet the incredibly scarce Keaton Music Typewriter. It’s not quite a typewriter as one would think of one in the traditional sense, is it? It’s a bit of an exoskeletor typing machine. Blank sheet music (not included in the photo for the sake of showing detail) rests on the board beneath the machine; the typebars downstrike to hit it. The shift scale indicator (curved part) delineates different points on the musical scale and the scale shift handle moves the type segment back and forth accordingly. (Click here to see the main keyboard separated from the smaller staff marks keyboard.) It has three spacebars which can move the machine from a partial note to an entire chord. If I knew the first thing about musical notation, I’m sure I could tell you all sorts of other fascinating things that it can do. Alas, I do not, and the manual is missing.
Very little is known about these machines, including how many may have been made. We know from patent records that a smaller, 14-key version was made from 1936 to 1953, when the 33-key version appeared. The one above is the 1950s model. Obviously, the market for such a contraption was small to begin with. They seem to have been purchased primarily by school music departments and small sheet-music publishing companies. Certainly, the device is too plodding to have been of much use to an individual composer. A Keaton is to a regular typewriter what a large-format plate camera is to a 35mm with autofocus and built-in light meter. It seems to be best suited for producing a single master copy to use to make multiple additional copies.
The best source of information I’ve found is, not surprisingly, an article Darryl Rehr wrote for issue #25 of ETCetera. You may note that the Keaton featured in Rehr’s article is serial #3184. Mine is #3180. As of 1993, when the article was published, there were about half a dozen known Keatons. I’ve learned that a handful of additional examples have turned up since then. Certainly the total number of known Keatons is less than two dozen. Undoubtedly, additional machines will crop up as schools and shops clear out their back rooms.
On a personal note, if you haven’t guessed by now, this is the typewriter I hinted at in a previous post. It was hidden away from general sight in a back room of an antique dealer’s storage barn, where I found out it has sat for a decade. The case is dirty and beaten, but the typewriter itself is in splendid condition, all things considered. I only had to reattach a few disconnected typebars; an easy fix. (Loose or missing typebars and missing keytops seem to be a common failure point among the handful of other specimens I’ve seen. The typebars are held in place by only a weak pair of brass finger-stockings, and they keytops are simply pushed onto their posts.) Despite its intricacy, it has a wonderful semi-homemade feel, from its ALCOA-stamped pots-n-pans aluminum frame to the re-purposed battery clips manufactured by the Mueller Elec. Co. of Cleveland, OH. Oddly, the typewriter collecting community in general doesn’t seem very interested in Keatons. Perhaps it’s because one can’t type actual words with them, or perhaps it’s the nontraditional design. Or perhaps it’s just too new. If this were an equally odd and only somewhat more scarce 1800s Hansen Typing Ball, collectors would be going ape over its discovery. Oh, well. I like it, and that’s all I care about.
Maybe I’ll do a coded typecast on it someday. Everybody get out your Oliver Hammond secret decoder rings!
Big -band singer Jo Stafford died the other day at the age of 90. She made her name at the age of 17 as a member of Tommy Dorsey’s vocal group the Pied Pipers, the same group that would also introduce the world to Frank Sinatra. Her instantly recognizable husky-yet-lilting voice made her popular with servicemen on the front in WWII, earning her the nickname “GI Jo”. Later, she had a successful solo career and delved into more serious jazz.
I wish I had time to write a more in-depth obituary. Instead, I’ll let her music do the remembering for me. Here are a couple of my favorite tracks. “Bewitched” is off of one of those home-recorded disks, and is probably taken from the “Johnny Mercer’s Music Shop” radio show.
Photos of the Remie Scout, 3-bank Underwood, and Erika with her folding Corona cousin have been uploaded to Flickr!
So yesterday, I come home to find M. Clemen’s gorgeous Erika folding portable awaiting, on it’s side, by my back gate. Fortunately, he had packed it well, and no damage was done by the Three Stooges Postal Service. This is the one I received in trade for my 1951/2 Smith-Corona Sterling. Hardly a fair trade, but I’ve committed to repairing the Erika’s few functional shortcomings. Such as the platen that spins freely around its core, the crumbling feed roller, and the mangled paperclip that serves as the bell-dinger spring.
At the same time, my first round of Traveling Type arrived from Strikethru! My, she has a nice pair of
rubber stamps. A large Remington standard adorns the front of the envelope, while a large Western Union telegram facsimile fills a large portion of the back. Inside is a Travelling Type log entry form which I dare any of the other participants, including myself, to best. The script Hermes 3000 she typed her submission on makes my Escort 55 quail.
This morning, because I’d had them sent to the office to protect against potentially being left out in the rain, I had two more typewriters waiting for me! (Yes, you may assume at this point, if you haven’t already, that I have a collecting problem.) These were eBay machines that were about to be won by keychoppers, for insultingly low prices. I impulsively threw in a pair of lowball bids and walked away, only to be surprised in the morning by a pair of “You won!” emails. Suffice it to say that the total cost of both machines, including shipping, was less than the one usually goes for, minus shipping. I don’t know what typewriter gods were smiling down upon me that day.
One is a Remington Remie Scout, made sometime from 1932-1934. The serial number has been deliberately obliterated, so I can’t find out for sure. The Remie Scout was another inexpensive, no-frills Depression-era typewriter, sometimes sold as the Monarch or the Pioneer. Update: the serial number has been found! It was behind the top row of keys, hidden beneath several layers of dust. Not sure what the mangled number on the side of the segment piece was supposed to be.
The other is a 1929 Underwood Standard Portable 3-bank in forest green. I’ve lusted after one of these 3-bank Underwoods for ages. The fact that it isn’t the standard black is just icing on the cake. Alas, the ribbon spool covers are missing, but that’s fairly typical with these guys. Too soon to have photos yet, but it looks just like this one on Richard Polt’s site.
So far my promise to the spousal unit to begin unloading typewriters has resulted in exactly one typewriter removed from the house, which was canceled out by the Erika, and four new ones coming in.
I should look on the bright side: an addition to typewriters is highly unlikely to kill me with an infected needle.