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1893: Dominie shoots at typewriter thieves

Camden Daily Telegram (Camden, New Jersey), December 21, 1893 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


1901: King of Typewriters

Heralded as “The Only Successful Machine That Writes in Sight” by the Woodstock Sentinel in 1901, the Oliver typewriter was certainly successful, but it did not stand alone. Underwood was manufacturing the Number 5, and its success would ultimately outpace the Oliver. By the late 1920s, the Oliver, with its ingenious yet quirky design, would prove unsuccessful. (One typewriter repairman related to me that Olivers were painfully difficult to maintain, the adjustments being too finicky.) Still, as an early “visible” typewriter, the Oliver occupies a significant place in the history and development of the invention.

The Woodstock Sentinel wrote extensively about the Oliver in this article, published December 19, 1901 – click here (paywall). Some images are posted below:

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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The case of the missing “M”

The build quality of the early typewriters was sometimes janky. The type bars needed regular adjusting and slugs would sometimes just fly off.

The Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas), February 13, 1880 –

The following day, the newspaper was able to report:

The Topeka Daily Capital (Topeka, Kansas), February 14, 1880 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Somebody’s daddy…

The press was ever eager to find the first typewriter. Absent the aid of digital archives, they regularly announced the discovery of a “first” typewriter. Sometimes, a machine was announced, then forgotten, subsequently rediscovered, and then re-announced (e.g. the Burt Typographer). R.T.P. Allen’s patent model, made of wood and having the appearance of a toy, was also one of the “first” typewriters. Several newspapers proclaimed it the “Daddy Of All Typewriters.” In reality, it was patented in 1876, around the time of the Sholes & Glidden.

The Antikey Chop writes about Allen’s machine more extensively here.

Eagle River Review (Eagle River, Wisconsin), August 10, 1899 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Lolita, young and old

I was twelve when I asked my father who Nabokov was. The Police had rhymed “Nabokov” with “cough” in “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” and I wanted to know. My father replied tersely, “Some guy who fell in love with a young girl.” For whatever reason, I concluded that Nabokov was a figure in Greek mythology. The Greek pantheon, I understood, was a den of scandal.

It wasn’t until the 1997 release of the motion picture that I learned that Nabokov was a 20th-century novelist. Lolita was published in 1955. Even more scandalous!

Researching the Spectra movement, a literary hoax of the 1910s that was itself art, I came upon this gem:

Lolita Is Now Old
by Marjorie Allen Seiffert, as Elijah Hay

Lolita now is old,
She sits in the park, watching the young men pass
And huddles her shawl against the cold.

One night last summer when the moon was red,
Lolita, hearing an old song sung
And amorous laughter down the street
Left her bed–
Lolita thought she was young.

With ancient finery on her back,
A lace mantilla hiding her grey head,
She crept into the warm and alien night.

Her trembling knees remembered the languid pace
Of beauty on adventure bent–her fan
Waved challenges with unforgotten grace.
Cunningly she played her part
For to her peering age
Love was a well-remembered art.

Footsteps followed her–footsteps drew near!
She dropped a rose–hush, he is here!
There came hard arms and a panting kiss–

He felt the fraud of those withered lips,
He cursed and spat–“Was it for this,
You came, old woman, to the park?”
Lolita gathered skirts and fled
Through the dim dark.

Lolita huddles her shawl against the cold,
She sits and mumbles by the fire. In truth
Lolita knows she is old

Published in 1919

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.