Thursday, February 27, 2014

Growing Up and Deal With Bumps In The Road: Martin Luther King's Story Continues

Hi all,

Bumps in the Road, aka Part II:

I left you all in hanging last month, awaiting a new typer that has a sad story with a happy ending. You know, like Part II? :)

Thank goodness, it's still Black History Month! So, if anything, my story is still quite relevant.

A quick recap, please forgive if I repeat myself:

As you will recall, I chatted about my discovery of eleven year old Martin Luther King's typewritten letter to his dad, three days after his birthday, January 18, 1940 "on a child's typewriter."

After connecting with Stanford MLK Research and Education Institute, they weren't able to send me an actual sample of the letter due to copyright issues, nor has the national institute at Atlanta gotten back to me, despite leaving numerous messages. All I had to go by were clues from a small sample of this aforementioned letter typewritten on loose leaf paper; verbally and visually 'translated' by a helpful researcher named 'Dave,' residing at the Stanford MLK Institute. He stated: "It's really small sample; it looks like a Western Union telegram, all capital letters and quite blurry."

My first thought that the typer MLK used was the Bantam, which was produced for just one season in 1938, by the General Shaver Corporation, a division of Remington Rand. (Kindly review my last post, on January 21, 2014 for both story and pictures.)

To help the Stanford researcher give me a definitive answer, I quickly emailed, rather, texted him a quick snapshot taken of my Bantam typed efforts on my iPhone to see if the typefaces match. Needless to say, his response was that: "It's very close. Our sample is too small/blurry to make a perfect match."

Still, something bothered me-- nagged my tired brain. Even though my sample typed on the Bantam was a near match: all caps, with a sans serif Modern Gothic No. 14 10cpi typeface, the recomposed letter by me was too spaced out-- rather, too long to fit width-wise on the page (Modern Gothic No. 14 had more spacing between the words), and the lack of numbers impeded my efforts to recreate the actual letter.  Not only that, I found a November 2, 1933 Western Union telegram in my files, and it comes complete with sans serif typeface and numbers sent by Rosa Ponselle to give me a better idea of what telegrams looked like back then:

Western Union Telegram, November 2, 1933; Sent by Rosa Ponselle, Professional Singer
(Surprisingly, the telegram typeface proportional spacing actually looks and acts the Bantam's Modern Gothic No.14! Notice the spacing between the words, and the taller letters? Very, very similar. Still, numbers and equal signs are not part of the Bantam's keyboard-- so onwards, as they say.)

What to look at next? I needed to rationalize why another typer would be used-- better yet, to see this situation from entirely a different angle... I thought to myself, wouldn't Martin try to use his dad's typer, or better yet, type on one owned by the church that his father worked at?

To be more specific: I have had many happy recollections as a child, playing at our family store that's existed since the turn of the century-- having a blast stamping paper and whatnot, with their huge array of rubber stamps, typing on their typers and a host of other office activities at the same age. Surely, eleven year-old Martin would do the same?

But what of the institute comment? "Martin's letter to his father was typed on a child's typewriter..." Then I had an 'aha' moment! What if the child's typer was an affordable Depression typewriter, one that contained a somewhat complete keyboard with numbers, that would be good enough yet affordable for a humble church to own, or a minister to purchase? Perhaps a stripped down model intended for smaller budgets? That would be the Remie Scout, advertised as a 'child's typewriter' that sold for only $19.75. See the advertisement below:

Remington Typewriter Magazine Advertisement, 1932

Another holler goes to Richard Polt, whose website, The Classic Typewriter Page: presents Remington Portables, helped me understand how many Remie Scouts were made, and range of time that it would be sold. These typers were made between April 1932 to November 1934; approximately about 16,000 single case, and 24,000 double case, with or without the front frame.  In today's dollars, a $19.75 Remie Scout typer would cost about $337.21. Wouldn't that be the price of a low-end iPhone 5S, I think? Ah, the price of technology both then and now!

I pulled out my simplistic "Blue Valentine," a blue, frameless, two-tone Remie Scout that is all caps and of course, ran into my first hurdle: the paper feed rollers were flattened out. (How did I miss that when I purchased this about 4 years ago? ;) An oh, dang! moment. I had planned on typing MLK letter to his dad as I had done with the Bantam.  Here's a picture of this no shift key machine, fabricated by Remington just prior to Valentine's Day, 1933; the serial number is S28,494. The typer has a sans serif typeface, a Modern Gothic 20, 10cpi. (This time, the letters are half the height than the Bantam's Modern Gothic 14 typeface, more skinny width-wise, and less spacing between the words.) A petite typeface in comparison to the Bantam typeface, I would say.

Remie Scout Model. Typewriter #01

Well, a confession must be made-- I really, really wanted to provide a Remie Scout/MLK typecast for this blog! To accomplish that, I did a quick search online, and located yet ANOTHER Remie Scout, this time in a lovely two-tone green, without the shift keys, and also frameless. It was owned by the famous Durkee family that owned general stores up and down the coast of Maine, in a small town named Islesboro.  An estate auction was held, and the Durkee family were clearing out items from an old barn. And the kicker? The typewriter was stored for many years, and it came in pristine, brand new condition! It came with a like-new case and a very rare, almost new vinyl typewriter cover, stamped "Remie Scout Model." in gold foil. One must think the typer was bought, then put in storage and completely forgotten.

After quickly purchasing it on January 22nd, I ran into a truly big snag. I sent the seller packing suggestions, that really do work (and very easy to do) and she promised she'll follow them to the letter. Speaking of which, if any of you typecasters/collectors out there would like to have my easy-to-follow packing suggestions for your transactions, feel free to send me word! ;)

My fingers were crossed the typer would arrive in time to finish this blog for January. The big unlabeled package arrived on January 30th, and I could feel things moving loosely around inside... not a good sign! Suffice to say, upon opening the package, very little packing material was found to protect the cased typer. The vinyl typewriter cover was placed on top of the case itself, along with a small amount of erasable paper. The oh so sad part, is upon opening the case-- I could see this poor frameless typer had been banging around the case the entire trip from the coast of Maine to Southern California, where I live. Truth be told, the space bar was completely smashed (!) under the last row of keys. So much that it jammed the carriage as well. If a baby typer could cry, this would be the right moment.

Can I whine here? Really whine? No I can't, because its always counter productive... time to focus on the positive, and get this baby working again. The one good thing was that the finish wasn't harmed bouncing around in transit, unbelievably so! ;) I dare say, all this damage could've been easily prevented, but I had the seller's word that she would package this well, using my aforementioned packing suggestions. Sigh. Huge Sigh.

I will say, Good News do arrive in the midst of the carnage:

This beautiful yet damaged typer is a very, very early Remie Scout! The serial is S11,466 made early to mid April of 1932, the first month of production (Another shout of thanks to Richard Polt, who generously provided me with an exact age list for Remington typewriters, no less than a few days ago! Utter Joy! :).

The platen is virtually unused, super clean, the never handled chrome shiny, and the paper feed rollers in fantastic shape. As I name all my typers based on historical events (when the typer is made), or the previous owner-- this typer must've been created on or near the anniversary of the Titanic's sinking 20 years before-- it's tempting to call this "Unsinkable Molly Brown..." Mmmmph. But hey, I'm sure I'll come up with a better name than that!

These last few days were spent negotiating with the seller a refund to help with the cost of repair. Next, must get the poor critter in working condition, so that I may resume this blog and with that, submit a typecast of Martin's birthday letter to his dad, as it would look back on January 18, 1940.  Done! Finally!

Without further ado, here's the pictures of the repaired survivor; enclosed in its case and vinyl cover, by itself. Following is a subsequent letter/typecast on the Remie Scout, and finally, with the Bantam typecast (and Bantam typer) for comparison:

Remie Scout Model. Typewriter #02 in Case with Vinyl Cover
Remie Scout Model. Typewriter #02

MLK's Letter to Father, on Remie Scout Typewriter #02 (actual size)

MLK's Letter to Father, on Bantam Typewriter #02 (for comparison of typefaces- actual size)

Bantam Typewriter #02; added pic again to show frame + keys + appliance design

(This aside, I also purchased (yep, on a buying spree! ;) another Remie Scout that is arriving in about a week, a full frame that is black glossy with black keys, with double shift with "small and capital letters," as stated in the ad. Yet another typer in the same family is in my collection, is a pale two-tone green Monarch double shift typewriter. In the above advertisement, they both would cost almost twice as much, at $34.95. The reason these aren't shown is because the researcher at Stanford told me the MLK letter is all caps. I promise will feature the rest of the Remie Scout family at a future date. :)

I welcome all your comments! I'm still new at this blogging, tinkering my way through!

Please forgive the length of my tale, as I had to share all of it with you.

May your days be cheery and bright!

Warmly, Gigi :)


  1. Well, I'm glad to see that the green Remie looks good as new. And I love the vinyl cover for it -- which strikes me as a rather deluxe touch for a simple typer.

  2. Hi Gigi, I've always enjoyed reading your posts in the yahoo groups and I'm so glad you have a blog :) thank you for sharing with us, so glad to have such interesting reads! I also just got a frameless Remie Scout which arrived in Singapore this month and the same thing happened to me, my spacebar went under the whole last row of keys, mine had no case or cover either but the seller did follow my instructions to double-box with lots of styrofoam so it must be the shipping. I'll look foward to following your blog and congratulations on your new blog :)

    Elaine Yap

  3. Oh sorry forgot to ask my question, I'm pretty curious as my Remie has no case, does the typewriter lock down into the hard case? Thanks!

  4. Nice score! I'm pleased you were able to repair the shipping damage, it's in wonderful condition! (: