≡ Menu

Incredible eBay finds

Remington Type Write 1877

My eBay budget is somewhat limited, but when I see items like the ones below, I am sorely tempted. Generally, I stay in the shallow end, admiring rare machines from afar, but, oh, to place the winning bid!

Early Remington, er, Sholes & Glidden ephemera

The Sholes & Glidden, known simply as the Type Writer.

The Sholes & Glidden, known variously as the “Type-Writer” or “Type Writer”.

Remington Newspaper 1877

Very early marketing for the typewriter. Nearly priceless.

Wow. Absolutely, wow. Did anyone know that W.O. Wyokoff published a typewriter periodical in the late 1870s? This 12-page newspaper, dating to Aug. 1877, was lately offered on eBay. It sold for $1,200. To note, it is number 4 of volume 1. How many others are out there? NB: This publication predates the Remington Typewriter Company.

Super-low serial number

My machine has a low serial number of 537, but that is not the lowest out there.

My machine has a low serial number of 537, but that is not the lowest out there.

Someone, somewhere acquired an Underwood 3-bank portable with a serial number possibly as low as 57. It was sold late last year, but the serial number wasn’t entirely clear in pictures (and I’ve lost the image!). I have a very early Underwood portable in my collection, serial number of 537, but not nearly as low as 57. I checked TypeweriterDatabase.com, hoping it made an appearance, but no such luck. Anyone got it?

Three Virotypes!

Local pickup only from Italy, but the seller was accepting international bids.

Local pickup only from Italy, but the seller was accepting international bids.

The Virotype is on my most wanted list (a mental list that changes regularly), and when I saw this listing, my jaw dropped. One might sell for over a grand, but three? The Italian seller advertised local pickup only, which may have dissuaded some bidders. I e-mailed him, and he noted that he would ship overseas ultimately. The three sold for around $1,400.

The mystery machine
Electric Remington - read about in ETCetera typewriter magazine

All I will say about this machine is SUBSCRIBE TO ETCETERA if you are not already a member. In my estimation, the machine above, sold last year on eBay, is one of the most remarkable finds of the 21st century. Absolutely electrifying.

© 2016, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


A belated (typewriter-related) Valentine

A notice from The Speaker (1897), announcing an article on the evolution of the typewriter:

Evolution of the Typewriter - a romantic history of the machine

The article was published in The Strandbut a romantic story? If by “romantic” the publisher meant “exotic,” perhaps. It emphasizes artistic uses of the typewriter — drawings and such — and only minimally on practical applications.

Some of illustrations are indeed “romantic” —

Typed Peacock

Explains The Strand, “No one who has not tried to make these pictures on a typewriter can understand how difficult they are to do… The tail of the peacock is made of small o’s and small parentheses inside of large parentheses, combined with straight and oblique lines, while the based of the tail is made of a mass of small o’s and parentheses.”

Bar-Lock Typewriter

Evidently, even though two decades had passed since the introduction of the first practical typewriter, the Sholes & Glidden, the typewriter was still a novel machine, still very exotic to people. That the typewriter would revolutionize communications was not yet fully appreciated, though the idea was apprehended. After describing some fanciful machines (a typing glove, for example!), The Strand writes:

But after all, leaving for awhile these “fancy machines” and going back to the “common or garden” typewriter of commerce, the question naturally suggests itself — “cui bono?” “What is the use of spending time and energy in learning to work a machine when the pen will do the same work well enough?” Aye, but will it? There’s the rub. Even a moderately quick writer with the pen will find considerable difficulty in keeping up, for many hours at a stretch, a speed of more than twenty words a minute. An ordinarily quick operator [i.e. a typist] will easily treble that record, and that, too, without experiencing any undue fatigue.

The Strand sagely notes the pen will not disappear — “the fact of the matter is that the typewriter is to the pen what the sewing machine is to the needle. Needles are still manufactured by the under million…” — but, one day soon, the typewriter will be adopted by all.

It is difficult to appreciate that sense of novelty the typewriter evoked in those formative years, but it was quite a romance.

© 2016, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 1 comment }

Go Set a Watchman: Harper Lee’s unfinished message


Harper Lee’s two novels demonstrate painfully that our collective work toward racial equality is unfinished. To Kill a Mockingbird, a story of judicial triumph (inasmuch as the jury even debates Tom Robinson’s guilt), concludes with an appeal that is never initiated. Go Set a Watchman, which cannot otherwise be viewed as an alternate telling of the story, reminds us that racial equality is yet unrealized in America.

Granted, Jim Crow is gone, whites only restaurants are a historical footnote. But the deep divide between rich and poor, often reflecting racial lines, persists. We want the “happy” ending of Mockingbird, but Harper Lee reminds us that we must deal with the harsher realities of Watchman.

There is some considerable question as to whether Lee intended Watchman to see the light of day, and, now, with her passing, we will never know; although the answer to that question was elusive even when she was living, given the state of her mind. But there is a part of me that believes she intended something.

That she may have penned Watchman after Mockingbird (which I generally doubt) only amplifies my belief that Lee intended to deconstruct our interpretation of America, as seen through the lens of Mockingbird.

Anyone reading Watchman senses the novel was left unfinished — the official line is that Watchman was an earlier draft of Mockingbird. Truly, Scout’s reminiscences of her childhood are Watchman’s more delightful sections (something her publisher observed when it asked her to rework the story), but Louise Finch’s struggle with her father — and herself — in Watchman is more potent. That struggle leaves the reader uncomfortable… and perhaps that was the message.

That Lee embraced this conflict, that she exposed it, is her lasting legacy, reminding us that if we want the Atticus of Mockingbird, we must still attain it.

© 2016, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.