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Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking? 
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Post Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
In 2007 a photographer known to Flickr as "Still Crazy" visited the Heinlein centennial exhibit at the Butler Public Library in Missouri. (I think I know the identity of "Still Crazy," but I'm not entirely sure.)

S.C. snapped a picture of Heinlein's Underwood electric typewriter:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/still-crazy/1121525184/sizes/l/in/set-72157601451122435/

Why is it so strange-looking? It has an enormous hinged hood that makes it look a bit like a steam-press in a laundry. And the bulbous hood makes it much wider than an ordinary typewriter.

Its roller doesn't seem to accommodate paper wider than normal.

I speculate that the hood could be a muffler, for quieter operation. The extra width might make sense to allow the carriage to travel, to the extremes of its motion, within the hood. But I don't really know, and googling for "Underwood models," "quiet typewriter," etc. has not enlightened me.

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Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:43 pm
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
I saw it at the Santa Cruz archives. It is a muffler, and I believe he had it custom built (or maybe the one for his computer printer was custom built).


Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:55 pm
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
beamjockey wrote:
In 2007 a photographer known to Flickr as "Still Crazy" visited the Heinlein centennial exhibit at the Butler Public Library in Missouri.

Strikebreaker... hmph.

AFAIK, the typewriter was commercially made that way for quiet environments. It's possible the maker, or other era typewriter makers, or a museum, would have greater details on the history of hush hoods.

I know it was called the "baby coffin" by the Heinleins.


Tue Oct 23, 2012 5:09 am
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
I wonder if that table and chair were surplus items he picked up in Philadelphia as the war wound down?

When I started working for the Army in the early 1980s there was still a bunch of WWII era furniture in use, and it looked like those items.


Tue Oct 23, 2012 6:07 am
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
BillMullins wrote:
I wonder if that table and chair were surplus items he picked up in Philadelphia as the war wound down?

The chair is almost certainly surplus; I had one just like it for decades (and stupidly got rid of it because one bracket broke; I've spent 100x the amount a repair and a cushion recover or two would have cost on vastly inferior commercial chairs!) The archivist at UCSC had it in her office for years after it was donated and it was still in excellent condition. (Real conversation from my first UCSC visit: "We have his chair here, too." "Oh, really? Where?" "You're sitting in it.")

I do have an all-aluminum desk that was the mate of the chair; I suspect it was built for aircraft use but may have been naval surplus. My dad was civil service at an airbase after the war and he acquired a lot of surplus stuff for his shop - it's hard to convey a sense of how much stuff was just piled up for decades after the war. Even in the mid-1960s, there were warehouses full, all going for a song. One of my toys as a teen was an aircraft gyro that probably cost $5-10,000 new.

So yeah, I 'd bet that most of Heinlein's office furnishings were surplus. Fits the man, the time and all the needs.


Tue Oct 23, 2012 7:04 am
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
JamesGifford wrote:
beamjockey wrote:
In 2007 a photographer known to Flickr as "Still Crazy" visited the Heinlein centennial exhibit at the Butler Public Library in Missouri.

Strikebreaker... hmph.


?

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Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:03 am
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
beamjockey wrote:
JamesGifford wrote:
Strikebreaker... hmph.

?

Oh, didn't mean to be cryptic. Thought this was known.

When we were pulling together the Centennial, we made a number of efforts to get Heinlein artifacts for the museum room. We got a number of interesting things including his brass cannon, but we missed on others. One was his naval sword, which was in the hands of a family member but being pursued by another family faction... and the ones who had it didn't want to expose it to seizure by the others. Oh, well.

The centerpiece of the room was supposed to be a corner reconstruction of Heinlein's office, including his desk, chair, typewriter and other items. All of those were in the hands of the UCSC archives. Unfortunately, the archivist who knew the Heinleins and had lovingly amassed the collection there had retired, and her successor was... inferior. Her goal was to get rid of all this crap cluttering the store rooms, including the furniture. So Bill P, then resident RAH scholar, stepped in and as part of the Centennial effort we worked to find a good destination for the artifacts.

After it turned out that the SF Museum in Seattle was a poor choice (translation: we weren't offering them authentic Shatner-used props or Wookie fur, so they weren't really interested) Bill P worked out a deal by which the Butler County Museum would get the items for permanent display, after they passed through our event.

Because the new archivist was [insert some invective here] and had feuded with Bill for the last year or two over the actions being taken with the RAH archives, she went behind our backs and offered the items to the Butler Museum... directly, point A to B, no diversions allowed, not to be loaned out to say, those guys in KC next month. And the Butler Museum, instead of backing our position at all (to be fair, they may not have understood the situation - but they had been in the loop about the three-cornered deal) said, Sure, Dandy, Let's Have 'Em!

So the Centennial did not. The Butler Museum had the cheek, gall or innocence to ask that we promote them that weekend and please send as many of our visitors their way as possible. So we said Sure, Dandy... we'll send out a memo when we remember. Don't recall that we did. Gosh, I think we forgot.

And that's why around 750 deeply interested people did not get the chance to see these items (and maybe sneak a tiny, holy touch). That's why only a tiny number of people have ever seen those fantastic items, and vanishingly few of them looked on without uncomprehendingly blinking like cows and moving on to the display of plows in the next bay.

I don't really fault Still Crazy or others who have made the jaunt. I just hope they didn't make a donation to the museum.


Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:14 am
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
JamesGifford wrote:
After it turned out that the SF Museum in Seattle was a poor choice (translation: we weren't offering them authentic Shatner-used props or Wookie fur, so they weren't really interested)


Having since been to the SF Museum, I can say this is reasonably accurate. They do have some worthwhile exhibits, including permanent components, including homages to the Golden Agers and even the odd mention of Heinlein. But given the huge scope ("SF") and a finite space, there's no way they would put this amount of stuff for one author on display. It's barely conceivable that they might have done so for a special, one week only, Heinlein's 100th, but they'd have to have a lot more to go with it (like Making of DM videos). If they had room for Heinlein's desk as part of a permanent exhibit, they'd need to expand by several blocks to make the rest of the exhibits commensurately sized.

The place is worth a stop if you're in the area.


Tue Oct 23, 2012 9:35 pm
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
Thanks everyone, this is all new to me and very interesting. I sometimes have to layover in Seattle for many hours, or even overnight, so I'll give the museum a whirl.

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Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:20 pm
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Post Re: Why Is Heinlein's Typewriter So Odd-Looking?
RobertPearson wrote:
Thanks everyone, this is all new to me and very interesting. I sometimes have to layover in Seattle for many hours, or even overnight, so I'll give the museum a whirl.

While you're there, the Experience Music Project (with its Jimi Hendrix *wing*) and Space Needle are right next door, so plan for a day in the neighborhood. Also the Children's Museum, in case you have kids with you.

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