By Olga Kouptchinski, Visitor Host
This Typewriter is my favorite artifact at the Oshawa Community Museum. It peeks out at me from the storage attic of Robinson house, its golden buttons shining from the claustrophobic storage space. The complexity of its parts and the durability of its shell is what attracts me to this artifact. Its organised cluster of fragile, metallic components is encased in heavy steel, without having to take it apart it reveals a bisection of a 1920’s mechanism. This showcase of inner mechanisms offers a unique visual experience like looking behind the backstage curtain. This piece of equipment stands the test of time, narrowly escaping the Planned Obsolescence of the depression era economy stimulus. In other words, this heavy typewriter is part of the final line of 20th century products that were meant to last a lifetime.
I have done some research on Remington’s depression-era typewriters and I found out that aggressive marketing and a seamlessly endless variety of functions and special features allowed Remington to thrive despite the economic downturn. The Remington typewriter was not exclusively produced in the states, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and the U.K. all had their own typewriter manufacturing companies. The typewriters were all based on the Remington model, adjusting details according to the country’s typing demands. Remingtons were made in Canada by “Remington Typewriter Company of Canada, Ltd.” or later by “Remington Rand Limited.” A Canadian version is prominently marked “Made at Toronto, Canada” some may also be marked with a Union Jack decal and the phrase “British Empire Product.”
This typewriter was made sometime during 1925 and it is one of the first to feature Remington’s patented “noiseless” feature. The noiseless mechanism is characterised by the type bar which is prevented from slamming against the platen at full force. The momentum of a small weight brings it the last few millimeters to the front of the platen, reducing the clanking sound. It’s not truly noiseless, but it is quieter than a conventional type bar typewriter.
You may recognise the company name “Remington” as a gun manufacturer, the company specialised exclusively in arms production until 1873 when they unveiled the first typewriters. The company quickly sold the typewriter business, and by 1886 the typewriter was distributed by Remington Rand, then Sperry Rand. It is interesting to think of the tiny mechanisms needed for guns as the precursor to the tiny mechanisms within this artifact. The evolution of gun mechanics into typewriter parts made me think of the “words as weapons” metaphor. Journalism can attack corrupt institutions more effectively than force and I like to think of the typewriter as another form of the gun. Like the speed and mechanical precision of the bullet, the typewriter fused quick production and the legitimacy of the printed page. This particular typewriter is unlikely to have been used as a stimulus for change, but rather as an essential part of distribution and organisation of the Lander’s Coal Company in Oshawa.