28 de enero de 2012

Marvellous pencil sharpeners

Here is some pencil sharpeners from the Alfred R Wepf collection. Alfred is only the occasional pencil sharpener collector. He is more into typing.

Bleistift-Schärfmaschine "Jupiter" 1
First comes the "Jupiter" 1, produced by Guhl & Harbeck in Hamburg, Germany
Bleistift-Schärfmaschine "Jupiter" 1
Elegant and functional design
Bleistift-Schärfmaschine "Jupiter" 1
Plus it works! See more technical details at http://www.jupiter-spitzmaschinen.de/3.html

Automatic Pencil Sharpener
Here comes the Automatic Pencil Sharpener, made in the U.S.A.
Automatic Pencil Sharpener
Add caption
Sacapuntas Play-Me
And here comes a Play-Me pencil sharpener from Spain!
Sacapuntas Play-Me
Nice details!
Sacapuntas Play-Me
they put quite some work in this side ornament
IDUNA pencil sharpener
But here is the King of Kings: IDUNA, made by IDEA from Germany
IDUNA pencil sharpener
IDUNA logo. The machine was made in Leipzig. "D.R.P." is short for "Deutsches Reichspatent", and patent n° 341369 was issued on 30.9.1921 to Martin Berndt of Leipzig-Eutritzsch for a "Schreibstiftspitzmaschine" (patented as of 8.10.1919) 
An excerpt of DE341369
Here is the US patent (US1504019 of Aug. 5, 1924)

IDUNA pencil sharpener
strong and solid
IDUNA pencil sharpener
One can choose the fitting pencil size
IDUNA pencil sharpener
The upper cylinder then moves right or left accordingly
IDUNA pencil sharpener
Simply the best! Usually it is mounted on a wooden plate, which we left out from the photo.

7 de enero de 2012

Stella - a lonely star on typewriter heaven

Last time we talked about Octave Rochefort's "Dactyle" typewriter. A friend just mailed me the copy of a Dactlye advertising booklet from around 1900 (the company was founded ca. 1893, and in the booklet they claim that in the past eight years, they had sold 8.000 Dactyle typewriters in France alone).

Interesting enough, the Dactyle company at that time not only sold Dactyle typewriters model 2 and 3 (equivalent to the Blickensderfer models 5 and 8), but also a typewriter called "Stella".

The ad shown below is pretty detailed and features a good photo and thorough description of what seems to be a hybridation between the Dactyle n°2 and an index machine. Bear in mind that "Stella" cost only 100 francs, as compared to 250 for a Dactyle n°2. The ad starts off admitting that "Stella" might be a good deal slower than the Dactyles. However, on the whole it would perform well, as this would be the only disadvantage. The print would be impeccable and it could manage up to 10 carbon copies easily. 

Stella would use the same type wheel and carriage as the Dactyle. But then, the print was not done by keys, but in two movements using first the type wheel to choose the letter, then push to print it.

© Au fil de la plume, n°85 
© Au fil de la plume, n°85
As all the other products in the Dactyle catalogue are licensed and not own developments, I supposed that also the "Stella" might be a re-brand of an original developed elsewhere. Et voilà, thanks to a mental spark connecting the right synapses, combined with information from Chuck & Rich's Antique Typewriter website and museum I could find it: NIAGARA!

© typewriter.rydia.net
According to the information given by Rich & Chuck, these are pretty rare machines, so watch out for next time it crosses your path. At that moment, flip your wallet open and smile.

Some more information: - sales price was 15 dollars in the U.S., 70 RM in Germany, and as already mentioned 100 French francs. Ernst Martin p.192 reports that the first year of production of the Niagara was 1902 (so probably the brochure presented here dates from shortly after 1902). Although sales seem to have been low, it was produced at least past 1909, when - again according to Martin - Blickensderfer introduced a Hebrew version of this machine.
- The highest serial number I could find (Niagara) is 300 (Finnish typewriter museum).
- One more name variant: a Niagara labeled "Best" is mentioned in Historische Bürowelt n°1, 1982.

6 de enero de 2012

Did Pétain type on this one?

Now here is something unusual, and as a historian I hope I don't fall into utter speculation with the following story. Maybe it is too good to be true, but who knows?

It started with this wooden box I received in the mail (admittedly, I knew there was a typewriter inside, but still there is always a certain thrill about opening the case, especially around Christmas).
Dactyle typewriter
Dactyle typewriter
Dactyle, from France - very nice!!!
Manufactured in its first year of production, which was around 1895 (serial number 49!!).
But what about the inscription found on the left side of the case?
I read "Gl * P * PETAIN"

Now please help me to think this a bit further. Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain (1856 - 1951), called Philippe Pétain, was a French military. Not any French military. Seen as hero because of his deeds in World War I, he entered politics around 1930 and became the head of Vichy France in World War II. He was already 84 years old when he assumed power in 1940. Too bad, because in the following years he awfully spoiled his reputation by collaborating thoroughly with the Germans, which cost thousands of people's lives.
source: wikimedia commons, Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H25217
  After the war, he was tried for treason, sentenced to death - later on commuted to life sentence - and spent his last years in exile on a small island.
Now, why would this charming machine have belonged to Maréchal Philippe Pétain?  
Here is my proposal:
In order to find out whether this typewriter could have belonged to "the" Pétain, we have to take the following elements into consideration and under scrutiny: the name inscription, and time and circumstances of use. From the previous owner I could by the way get no information other than he himself had found this typewriter on a Swiss market. So let's see:

The inscription is "Gl * P * PETAIN". "P" and "Pétain" would obviously fit, knowing that he was addressed as "Philippe", rather than with his real first name "Henri".
This is my "G" with superscript "l". Your opinion, please. I tried to find out whether there was a fixed code of abbreviations of military ranks for the French army in the early 20th century. It appears that at the time, there were no uniform rules on the topic. So "Gl" might well mean "Général".
Now, obviously, by World War II this typewriter would have been hopelessly outdated, but my assumption is that during World War I, Dactyle typewriters also of the first generation - as is the specimen in question - were still in use. Those were very functional and light portable machines and certainly came in handy in the field. I could not find many reports about Blicks in the field, but it is well known from Corona 3s that they were widely used in the armies. So, I would contend that this model could have been in use by French military in World War I.
But would the rank and the time coincide? Pétain is better known as Marshal of France, but this was a later title. On the eve of World War I, surprisingly enough, and Pétain being already in his late fifies, he still had not been promoted general. He had fallen out with his superiors on a question of military tactics, which explains. So he was close of taking his pension, when in 1914 the war broke out. He distinguished himself in a first battle, and was promoted General on 31st August 1914.

So, we have a name tag on the typewriter's case which would fit the General, also a fitting time-frame and circumstances likely to support the hypothesis that this machine was indeed General Pétain's. Now, your opinions please!

Read more on the Dactyle and its fascinating promotor Octave Rochefort on typewriters.ch.

P.S.: You might wonder about the hand with the star of David - this emblem is to be found on every Dactyle typewriter, it was put there by the manufacturer. Reason still unknown. The hand is a so-called "Hamsa", supposedly with apotropaic effect, and popular in both Islam and Judaism. Here it is combined with the Magen David, or Star of David.

Would you believe it

Would you believe it? A rare look at Friedrich von Knauss's machine, as well as Mitterhofer's typewriter. Austria erit in orbe ultima...


click here to see the clip

Also very entertaining, a Lambert vs. Smith-Corona Electric contest:


click here to see the clip