Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sterling Silver Surfer


painted with vegetarian vomit

or is that "celery"?

Safest Stripper™ at work

No puns please.

There is method to this madness ...

A little extra shine ...


Uh-oh ... now look what I found!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Byron Typewriter Company & the Byron Mark I

Further reading #1:

Further reading #2:

Illustrious family built an empire of industry in city
by David Lowe, Nottingham Evening Post, Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jardine's was once one of Nottingham's biggest employers. ... When John Jardine died in 1895 the business was taken over by his only surviving son Ernest (later Sir Ernest Jardine).... By 1930 Sir Ernest had a substantial interest in at least 31 companies – 13 of them directly involved with lace .... He was also involved in the manufacture of typewriters, having become chairman of Bar-Lock in 1925....
  After the war, typewriters were in such short supply that output could barely keep pace with demand. In 1951, the Nottingham Journal reported: "Today, more than 500 people are employed in the works, where the Bar-Lock typewriter is manufactured from start to finish, and where every 15 minutes a new standard typewriter is completed."
  But competition was increasing, especially from America, and Bar-Lock managers realised they had to modernise to survive.
  In 1953 they announced the name was going to change from Bar-Lock to Byron and a radical new model was going to be produced.
  Almost £1.25m was invested to produce a first-class standard machine. The typewriter not only had a new name but a new trademark, the poet Byron's profile surrounded by a wreath, and new colours. Instead of traditional black, machines were now two-tone, dark green and light stone. The typewriter was also equipped with "finger-fit" plastic keys, shaped so as not to break the typist's nails. ... 

The postwar body style of the Bar-Lock, rechristened Byron (ca. 1953)

"Byron typewriter, designed by Herbert Norman James, M.S.I.A., in 1955 and produced by BYRON BUSINESS MACHINES, 16 Berkeley Street, W.1. Left: first prototype of new machine. Right: latest prototype, white balls have been replaced by 'spade' handle on carriage return lever, and finger grip knobs on platen.  Original pastel colours replaced by metallic blue-grey and black."

How do you like that first prototype?

The July 1955 issue of Design magazine (UK) featured an article on the new Byron as a piece of industrial design. Click here to see it (PDF). Photos did not come through clearly on this scan provided to me by the University of Brighton Design Archives, but the text is readable and interesting. Here are a few highlights:

"It is new, not only in general appearance, but also in important mechanical principles. ... The new men [in charge of the company] are almost all under 40 years of age and are keen to make a completely fresh start. ... Its massive appearance is mainly due to the provision of extra space within the casing for carbon ribbon mechanism and to allow for the introduction of a similar but electrified version of the machine at a later date. Herbert Norman James, the industrial designer who was called in as consultant, has evolved a pleasing form which is also attractive when seen from the viewpoint of a visitor waiting at the wrong side of the office desk. ... The plurality of buttons has been carried a stage too far. ... The recent deplorable tendency to incorporate such features in several types of appliance is apparently due to a desire to flatter the user by giving her the sensation of operating a complicated control desk that is incomprehensible to the humbler onlooker."

Herbert Norman James was born in 1918, according to a list of British designers on the web. That's all I know about him. The Design story gives credit for the mechanical innovations to F. S. Hardy and Dennis Whitehead.

Why the name "Byron"? Lord Byron's estate, Newstead Abbey, is in Nottinghamshire, and the typewriter factory was in Nottingham. Do you think the Romantic poet would have used a machine like this?

The following two ads, from 1955 and 1956, promote the new Byron as a "milestone in typewriter history." It clearly was not yet available to the public, but was being exhibited at industrial shows. These images come from Leonhard Dingwerth's anthology of typewriter advertisements.

Finally, here is a 1957 ad (Times of London, Sept. 11) that indicates that the typewriter is under production and available to the public. Only a few such ads exist. They were the last gasp of the company -- at least as a maker of "real" typewriters ...

The failure of the Mark I and the takeover by Oliver was not the end of the Byron typewriter story!

The Revere toy typewriter pictured below bears an uncanny resemblance to the big Mark I, and seems to use exactly the same paint.

In fact, some of these machines were actually called Byron Junior!

Another name variant for this toy is Kamkap. My Revere is stamped on the back as "patent applied for" and made by Petite Typewriters in Nottingham. Tom Furrier shows us a similar Petite which is marked "08-55." Presumably this means August 1955. The appearance of a Kamkap in a 1956 Sears catalogue confirms that it was made before the collapse of Byron.

Apparently Petite was not sold to Oliver; instead, the toy branch of the company continued and thrived into the 1980s. Later toy typewriters from the company are often identified as made by Byron Jardine.

Big Brother and Little Brother:

Byron Jardine continued to create toy typewriters into the 1980s, often labeled "Petite." Here is an electronic talking typewriter manufactured by the company.

If you've read this far, you probably want a Byron Mark I yourself. I can't help you there, but please download the two fonts I've created using this typewriter -- one using a cloth ribbon, and one using a carbon ribbon. (The latter is called "Byron Mark II" -- even if there never was such a typewriter, there can be such a font!) You can find the fonts on my website.

Now I'd like to hear from anyone who owns another Byron Mark I, a Byron Secretary, or any other late Byron. Leave a comment here and we can compare our machines!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Paper pusher

As I'd hoped, the John R. Green Co. of Covington, Kentucky is a shameless destroyer of American forests and purveyor of nondigital substances.

The company has occupied this warehouse since 1950, but the building looks like it's another half century older than that.

Just look at those goodies. And here is their record book section:

Ah! The coveted Form 201 -- 7-6-7 -- W.O. Long, printed by The Riegle Press of Flint, Michigan. I bought three.

The picturesque "Main Strasse" neighborhood of Covington, where the Green Co. is located, is known for its Goettafest. If you came to my house this summer for the Typefest, you know what I'm talking about.

And here's another Covington attraction: The Smilin' Smoker. Straight-laced Cincinnatians like to cross the Ohio River into Kentucky for cheap tobacco, cheap booze, and cheap women.

Me, I'm just going to enjoy my new stash of paper.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Here are a few contributions to the typosphere's exploration of dealers' labels and decals:

This one is self-explanatory.

This is from my 1929 Underwood portable with Ukrainian keyboard.

And this one is from my 1922 folding Corona -- the first typewriter I bought as a "real" collector, in spring of 1994, when I was on fire with typewriter desire after reading Paul Lippman's American Typewriters: A Collector's Encyclopedia. Amazingly enough, International Typewriter Exchange is still in business.