Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Urban Legend Institute's latest offerings

I thought my readers might enjoy seeing the latest typewriters I've scrubbed and patched up for sale at The Urban Legend Institute, WordPlay's fundraising store. Here are some pictures along with some ad copy that I dreamed up.

Why is Paul Auster scowling?

Because he thinks you're trying to pry his Olympia SM9 out of his hands, that's why.

 But you don't have to, because now you can join Auster, Neil Simon, J. G. Ballard, and the guy in "Ruby Sparks" with your very own SM9. Packed with features and featuring a legendary easy touch, this typewriter represents the best of West German engineering.

So light! So little! So good looking!

This Dutch-made Royal Companion features streamlined midcentury styling and a super-smooth carriage return. Pop it in your laptop bag and take it for a spin.

Stylin' with Sears! This little Sears Tutor, made in England, sports space-age styling and its own snap-on carrying case. A light and convenient typer for people on the go.

Here's a rugged little Smith-Corona Skyriter, the jet-age typer with its very own snap-on case. Pop it in your carryon and you can just ignore the flight attendants when they say, "Turn off all electronic devices"!

Type like Tennessee!

Yes, it's a Tennessee Williams favorite, the Olivetti Studio 44. Featuring the most forward-thinking Italian design of the 1950s, the Studio 44 is a big, full-featured typewriter -- but not too big to fit into a case that you can bring with you onto that streetcar named Desire.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The art of brainstorming

First draft for a few paragraphs in my book.

Yes, the left margin needs work.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Revolution in the mailbox: PNW, Magic City, Switzerland, and more

While I was in the UK and California, correspondence from cells of the Typewriter Insurgency trickled into my mailbox in the most NSA-proof manner possible: on slow pieces of paper!

First is a dispatch from the Pacific Northwest Contingency:

Well transmitted, Agents of the PNW! (I love those suckers ...)

Next, from our Magic City cell:

You said it, bro!

Then we have a fabulous postcard with peel-off stickers sporting the coats of arms of the Swiss cantons, from the famous and mysterious Agent Bikethru:

Is Bikethru a double agent? Say it ain't so! What is the explanation?

Bikethru, as last spotted in the London Town Liberated Zone

The counterrevolutionary card from Switzerland was soon followed by this one which simply reeks of fresh air. Same agent or not?

The Poltburo is starting to feel confused. 

Finally, I'll share a magnificent envelope from a new correspondent, whose name I am blurring since he didn't explicitly say that it should be shared with the world. The contents of the envelope are most worthy and he will be receiving a proper typewritten reply, as will others who sent me letters. Thank you very much to all, and please bear with me as the start of the academic year leaves me with limited time for typing.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Olympia typewriter postcards

I'm developing quite a collection of '50s and ’60s Olympia postcard images (just pixels, no paper). There are plenty for the SM's, just a couple for the SG's, and I have only one for the little SF. Often they feature what, to our eyes anyway, are kitschy or dated colors or accoutrements. Sometimes they show that classic combination: a typewriter and a cigarette. They always give me a feel for their world, and they make me want to type.

The Olympia SF (apparently popular with British businessmen):

The Olympia SG1:

The Olympia SM3:

The Olympia SM3 DeLuxe:

The Olympia SM3-13 DeLuxe (wide carriage):

The Olympia SM7:

And finally, the Olympia SM9, which I've ripped off from Rev. Munk's blog. Thanks, Ted!  :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Carmen's Carmen and a new documentary

I stopped by California Typewriter in Berkeley recently. It was nice to see Carmen Permillion, shown here with her recently acquired namesake, a '20s Carmen typewriter from Germany.

I also got to meet Herb Permillion (Carmen's father) and filmmaker Doug Nichol.

No photos of them, sorry, but here is the setup Doug used to interview me for his forthcoming documentary.

Yes, another typewriter documentary! And it looks like it's shaping up to be a great one. California Typewriter will be a major focus, but Doug has also interviewed many collectors, celebrities (including Tom Hanks), and other typewriter lovers, in many locations. He promises us a visually rich experience.

Doug also wanted to film me inspecting the typewriters on the shelves in the shop, and I was happy to comply. I just wish I could have spent the whole day playing with the machines on sale.

Here's a particularly interesting one, a Continental with a Croatian (?) keyboard and a typeface that looks much like Royal's famous "Vogue."

I'll keep you posted on any developments with the documentary either here or on Welcome to the Typosphere.

Monday, August 12, 2013

iPad: almost as good as a typewriter

The iPad: it's almost as good as a book, almost as good as a camera, and almost as good as a typewriter!

Should we be appalled at the presumption that a flickering pane of glass can substitute for a typewriter, or delighted at the fact that resemblance to a typewriter is seen as a selling point?

The app shown is miTypewriter.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sholes Visible: native habitat redux

About 11 months ago I published this photo from Peter Weil's collection:

I'll repeat Peter's analysis of the photo:

Sholes Visible Typewriter #2 (1901); in the office of the shipping department of the W.R. McTurk Coal Company in the borough of Girardville (in Schuylkill County), Pennsylvania, in September 1910; subject is George W. Newton, a shipper who, perhaps with intended humor, is holding a rifle or shotgun; ironically, or maybe not, Girardville was called “Gun-Town” by locals; at that time, McTurk operated at least two mines in the area, about sixty miles northeast of Reading, PA; the mines were the Girard Bear Ridge and the Girard Mammoth; office is lighted by the shaded window in back behind the typewriter and the kerosene chandelier to the right; the Sholes Visible appears to be the second of the three models (carriage return lever but no decal, “Meiselbach” or otherwise) on the lower front of the frame, which also looks to be shaped differently than the same area of the frame on later examples; sitting on a desk that appears to be, at least in part, made out of a cotton spool thread cabinet; other office technology includes a stencil-based “mimeo” machine of indeterminate brand and a book press.

Now Peter has found a photo taken in the same office, with the same Sholes Visible, three years later.

Peter comments:

Amazingly, literally and figuratively, it's deja vu all over again. This small cabinet card showed up on eBay. It is the same office, three years later and re-arranged, as in the the first photograph I had ever found of a Sholes Visible typewriter in its natural habitat.  Here the Girardville (PA) Colliery has replaced the McTurk company, but the Sholes Visible is still there. The typewriter is now relocated to a central desk that now includes a candlestick telephone. Note that the Sholes Visible looks a bit bigger in this later picture. Of the men in this room, the one standing looks a lot like the man with the rifle in the September, 1910 photograph, but I may be wrong. The glare of the guy at the desk probably meant that no one messed with him. Now it is unclear just who George Newton is (see signs in photos). In the 1910 image, there was only one person, and I assumed that the name on the board was his. But now, I am not so sure. It is quite a group portrait of tough miners in a tough, often bloody time of the coal mining wars in Schuylkill County.

        It is dumbfounding luck to have found two related photographs that include so rare a typewriter taken three years apart and purchased by me from two dealers. By the way, this dealer is from a village north of Allentown, PA, only a few miles from Girardville. I think it must have been in the estate of some descendant of one of these miners. 

I figured readers of this blog would be interested. To see the whole story of my restoration of a Sholes Visible, just click on the "Sholes Visible" label below.

Friday, August 2, 2013


(This post is scheduled to go live after I've endured my cramped flight
back to the US. So long, London!)