Tuesday, January 21, 2014

You Can Teach Yourself Great Things: Martin Luther King's Typewriter (when he was eleven)

Just Write the Damn Thing, Part 1:

Um. Write the new blog. Oh wait! Gotta verify, verify information again… Dang, they aren’t getting back to me! Well, the first researcher did, and that’s good, but he’s not 100% certain. On the phone, he says,"it’s all caps, reminds me of a Western Union Telegram, and looks like it’s typed on lined loose leaf paper (ask self: were there lined loose leaf papers in 1940?). Still not 100% certain, because the sample is small and fuzzy. Sorry can’t send this to you…” So the search begins, and the deadline January 15th... for posting this incredible stuff has passed! Now my second ‘new’ deadline is today, a day after the national Martin Luther King holiday. Gee, I hope I can make it! 

Thus begins the travails of a very new blogger, who promised everyone she’ll follow up her first post a ‘couple of days later.’ Blogging implies responsibility, a followup of correct information to share with everyone. That’s why it took me four years to arrive at this point. It’s my 2014 New Years resolution to write a blog of sorts; I’m determined to get this wonderful story out, somehow, someway, despite me in the middle of alterations— rather customization of the blog page to make the space my own!

Bear with me a few moments, whilst I try to give you the backstory:

One of the usual New Year’s resolutions is to learn something new, and that turns my attention to writing about teaching typewriters with their colorful keyboards and how children learn from them, for my first typer blog post. 

But before I got started, I was immediately derailed by a thought  (I really should name this blog Unravelled Thoughts, eh? ;)… hmm… January… January events… oh what was Martin Luther King’s birthday, by the way? Naturally, I googled it, and boy was I buried deep in interesting information about his boyhood background and inspirational quotes! The hours flew by, and then I stumbled on a letter that eleven year old Martin wrote to his father, thanking him for his birthday present on January 18, 1940— three days after his birthday, which was January 15th. 

The Stanford MLK Research and Education Institute online archives mentioned the letter was written on a "child’s typewriter.” Oh, wait! A CHILD’S TYPEWRITER?!? Like, the teaching typewriter variety? That’s related to my original theme for beginning this blog! Thus began my quest connecting with the MLK Institute at Stanford, and subsequent phone calls to the MLK Institute at Atlanta, Georgia. MLK birthday came and went… of which Stanford kindly helped me a little bit, but was restricted from sending me a copy of the actual letter because of copyrights held by the Martin Luther King family. 

I quickly got creative and sent my acquaintance, Dave, a picture of the text from my Bantam typewriter on my iPhone. The Bantam is a most definitive child’s typewriter which sold for only one season, that of May to December 1938 (thanks Richard Polt for that information!), so he could tell me if the typefaces was a match. Long sentence that, but methinks you get the gist of it. Well, as luck would have it, he gave me a “I’m not 100% sure, it’s all caps, reminds me of a Western Union Telegram, and looks like loose leaf paper, as our sample is quite small and fuzzy…” with a host of apologies. He knew I would have to get further verification from the MLK Institute in Atlanta, Georgia that has the original for safekeeping/archives. Sadly though, my calls haven’t been returned as yet. But, I felt I had a very good idea which typewriter could’ve been used then: the Bantam, by General Shaver Corporation, a division of Remington Rand!

The Bantam typer was cheaply made from sheet metal, with colorful keys. Interestingly, the keyboard and typeface is in all caps and has some punctuation. The typer lacks numerical keys, and uses the Modern Gothic Large Caps typeface, No. 14, 10 pitch/characters per inch found in the NOMDA Blue Book- Remington Font Styles. (A shout to Reverend Munk, of To Type, Shoot Straight, And Speak the Truth… blog— I never, ever would have found this information out on my own, much less find this incredible NOMDA Blue Book for my archives! He has generously shared all kinds of typefaces for a range of typewriter manufacturers. Here’s the link:   1964 NOMDA Blue Book: Remington Font Styles

The Bantam's typeface is Sans Serif— that is, composed of clean lines that has no ‘hooks’ at the top or end points of the letters, and has very little space between the letters. What’s interesting is that there's larger spaces between the words (!); the spacebar actually inserts equal to the typeface size or larger spaces between finished words. Lastly, the typewriter sold for $10.95, plus $2.00 for the case. Below is a picture of one of my two Bantams that comes with an unusual appliance, that holds the platen in place whilst in the case… It’s a very unusual item to say the least— as I’ve never seen this elsewhere in the wild! The second image shows the appliance removed and placed to the right of the typer:

1938 Bantam Typewriter for Children

1938 Bantam Typewriter for Children (with appliance removed)

The Bantam has one of most ‘creative’ user manuals ever! It’s printed on newsprint, consisting of 6 colorful panels, that actually advertises the typer as well. The comic panel encourages parents to consider this model for the well-being of their children. See below:

Bantam Advertising+Manual on Newsprint; General Shaver Corporation, Division of Remington Rand
Page 01
Bantam Advertising+Manual on Newsprint; General Shaver Corporation, Division of Remington Rand
Page 02
Bantam Advertising+Manual on Newsprint; General Shaver Corporation, Division of Remington Rand
Page 03
Bantam Advertising+Manual on Newsprint; General Shaver Corporation, Division of Remington Rand
Page 04 
Bantam Advertising+Manual on Newsprint; General Shaver Corporation, Division of Remington Rand
Page 05
Bantam Advertising+Manual on Newsprint; General Shaver Corporation, Division of Remington Rand
Page 06

In today’s dollars, the value of this typer would be about $174.00, a rather expensive typer for a minister’s son to type on! My hubby came to the rescue, and suggested that this typer could easily be found in at a secondhand shop, as the birthday note to his father was written by MLK two years after introduction of the Bantam typewriter. 

Instead of the usual typecast sample, I thought it would be neat do retype Martin's letter to his dad found in the Stanford 'King Papers Project' transcription, on my Bantam typer:

MLK letter to Dad typed on the Bantam typewriter; Typeface: Modern Gothic Large Caps No. 14 10cpi

On the other hand,  the typer could’ve been owned by the church office, easily accessible to MLK— But… Something bothered me… this wouldn't be a typer the church, much less Martin Luther King, Senior (aka Dad), a minister-- would use for his sermons. Ah! I have it-- but you'll have to find that out tomorrow! ;o)

May your days be cheery and bright!

Warmly, Gigi :o)

Links & Resources:

Richard Polt's "The Classic Typewriter Page" presents "Remington Portables: Bantam"

To Type, Shoot, and Speak The Truth blog: 1964 NOMDA Blue Book: Remington Font Styles

The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford; King Papers Project

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Coming to you, very soon! :o)

January 1, 2014

Plain White Paper Alert-- albeit digitally written:

At last! At last!

A blog to share my adventures of the typer world at large!

(Confession time: this is my New Year's Resolution, to try and start writing interesting tidbits about my -- ahem -- typewriter obsession! Something I'm quite sure you all share with me! :)

A brave step for me, a chance to further explore the wilderness and compose text for you all to (hopefully) enjoy and perhaps, ponder a bit.

It's taken a better part of four years for me to finally come up for air, with a shaky hand or two-- Oh! I'm SO nervous!-- and tell you all my observations and discoveries of some fairly hard-to-find typers.

May the writer gods forgive my bad turn of prose tonight!

Hang in there a little bit longer, as I'm currently busy taking pictures, finding interesting documents within my files to officially start this blog in the next day or two. I had fun coming up with the title of this blog: The Naked Typewriter: Revealing What's There, as I've discovered all kinds of things other collectors hadn't known, plus pulling back the curtain to reveal art design of these wondrous machines... something I don't see nor hear spoken much about, along with historical information and much more.

About me:

I am a dedicated instructor, with a Masters in Education. I used to handset type for the letterpress, so when I couldn't find a great typewriter picture to use for one of my lectures, I said I'll photograph one of my own. It was a natural transition for me, from hand-setting type to collecting these machines... I was hooked!

As I began to research typewriters in more detail, I was recovering from not one, but two knee surgeries that put me out of commission for a little while. In a way, it was a blessing in disguise: you could say I was a captive audience at my computer-- the hours flew by and quite a few bits of information started to come out. I'm fascinated not only with the historical aspect, but the choices designers made in fabrication of these steel/aluminum sheets- to shape these pieces of metal in their quest to build the perfect machine! Needless to say, I began to garner interest from some of the top collectors, because of my unique research approaches, and subsequently found material that added to the pool of knowledge. With their support and encouragement, I humbly hope to share what I found with you all.

Thanks for being here, for being YOU! As always, I welcome all kinds of feedback, whilst I find my footing doing this blog.


Gigi ;o)