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 Post subject: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 10:29 am 
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A friend recently forwarded to me a copy of a document that seemed to reveal some new details of a 73 year old event in railroad history. I read through it and it was indeed interesting. The letter, thought to have been sent between officials of a railroad, displayed virtually perfect alignment of characters in each line of text, the text was left and right justified and the kerning (proportional spacing of text to fill the line) was perfect. In addition it used a very stylish font, with angled cross bars on the letter "e", and every instance of same letters displayed consistent tone and definition.

Summary: Not what you would normally see from a typewriter in a railroad office in 1946.

I had a computer back in the 1980s that could produce text that nice, but I have not seen a 1946 vintage typewriter that could do it, and set type in that era was usually not so precisely aligned nor proportionally spaced.

Just mentioning this as a matter of general interest for those who study history. If a document seems problematic, look to see if the printing technology is consistent with what was available in the period of time it was supposedly produced.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:48 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:28 am
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Location: Ipswich, UK
As an amusing aside to that, several years ago I recreated a selection of Railway luggage lables from the LNER to display at our local transport museum using a fairly early DtP package (Jetset, if anyone remembers that) and some suitably aged paper. This was long before the delights of scanners and even decent photocopiers became common here.

I ended up making one for a particular destination, which we hadn't actually got an original copy of, and was most amused to hear someone from the local Mid-Suffolk Light Railway preservation group going into raptures over this particular one, saying he had never seen one like it before in his life!

He was rather deflated when I told him that I had actually made it on the computer.....

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:40 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Actually, that would be quite in line for 1946. Professionals at that time typically purchased their own typewriters for business use. In fact, many businesses who hired typists or secretaries expected them to provide their own machines. If a machine were provided, it could quite possibly be quite old and out of repair. That was taken from an account by a fellow who was a clerk and stenographer on the Santa Fe in the early decades of the 20th century.

As someone who is familiar with antique typewriters, there were many different models, some of which had changeable type elements. The Blickensderfer was introduced in the 1890s and had a changeable type drum that was the inspiration for the IBM Selectric several decades later. The typist could have several drums with special characters, symbols, different font, etc. Typewriters that used the standard bars could be special ordered with different fonts.

That said, it would be difficult, if not impossible to determine authenticity based on the elements of the typewriter used. If you have the original typed document on railroad letterhead, it is most likely authentic. You should be able to feel the indentations in the paper made by the type bar striking it. A properly maintained typewriter will produce extremely fine type.

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:26 pm 
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In doing additional investigation, the friend found that the letter had been published in the 1990s in a magazine. Examination of the magazine page was quite interesting. Printed on an antique paper background, the font used in most of the letter is an exact match to the article text on the page surrounding it. Same font in the article and the letter, same proportional letter spacing, with no mention that the letter is a reproduction.

All the type in the letter is the same font except one line. That is the title "Superintendent" under the signature. That line shows a completely different font, obviously written on a typewriter with a worn ribbon. Letter forms in that line are not consistent in density nor are they continuous. The alignment was imperfect, quite obviously that of a typewriter, the spacing of the lettering is not proportional, it is in equally spaced units.

The Superintendent's signature (probably scanned) was neatly placed to partially overrun and obscure the typewriter text of his title.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:20 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
PCook wrote:

The Superintendent's signature (probably scanned) was neatly placed to partially overrun and obscure the typewriter text of his title.

PC


Which means the typed title was most likely scanned with the signature. Very likely there was a real letter, and very likely they (the author, editor, SOMEONE) intended to run a scanned image of the letter. Then the downstream production people got involved, and said "What's this crap?" And so it goes.

I've had that same issue with historical societies reproducing equipment diagrams and the like, replacing all the tabular information with typesetting. Makes the diagram look like crap, and loses the effect of presenting the historical document as evidence. The flip side is if the scanned image needed a fair amount of clean-up, the hand lettering could easily take ten times as long as the line art, so sometimes one just can't justify the time.

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 26, 2020 7:03 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
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Location: New Franklin, OH
Any “historic” letter supposedly done on a typewriter is suspect if it has right hand justification. Before the advent of word processors, the only way to do that was typesetting which would not happen for a one-off letter. If it did, you’d have a hell of a time justifying the cost.

Same goes for the typeface. There weren’t very many typefaces available for your run of the mill typewriters. Those typefaces were were fixed to the machine or brand. You wouldn’t see different typefaces available until the introduction of the IBM Selectric in the early 60’s.

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 3:43 am 

Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2020 10:24 am
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I took a typing class in high school in 1980. The school had manual typewriters.

I remember that we were taught how to create justified text by adding additional spaces between some words on the line.

It was time-consuming as you had to calculate how many spaces were needed, so I cannot image a railroad doing it for common documents.


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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:38 am 
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Dennis Storzek wrote:
Which means the typed title was most likely scanned with the signature. Very likely there was a real letter, and very likely they (the author, editor, SOMEONE) intended to run a scanned image of the letter. Then the downstream production people got involved, and said "What's this crap?" And so it goes.

And the downstream editing unfortunately introduces the possibility of errors being made in small items like the typed date on the document, and such errors viewed later can create questions about the understanding of events, the situation being investigated in this example.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2020 12:18 pm 

Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2004 4:18 pm
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Location: Illinois
On a related topic, there is a letter circulating online that was supposedly written by A.C. Gilbert of American Flyer fame, where he ridicules Lionel collectors using very year-2020 language, including a homophobic reference. It is on Gilbert letterhead and typed, dated 1957. It is obviously fake, and I have complained to the Facebook groups it was posted on to have it removed.

Once these fake items start to circulate online it is very hard to get them to go away.


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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:41 am 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
jayrod wrote:
Any “historic” letter supposedly done on a typewriter is suspect if it has right hand justification. Before the advent of word processors, the only way to do that was typesetting which would not happen for a one-off letter. If it did, you’d have a hell of a time justifying the cost.

Same goes for the typeface. There weren’t very many typefaces available for your run of the mill typewriters. Those typefaces were were fixed to the machine or brand. You wouldn’t see different typefaces available until the introduction of the IBM Selectric in the early 60’s.


Different typefaces were available as early as the 1890s. IBM was a very late adapter of changeable type elements. Two popular machines that had changeable type elements were the Hammond and the Blickensderfer. Both had type shuttles which could be swapped out in under a minute. Different fonts were obtainable for desktop typewriters as well, but would require the typewriter repairman to change them.

Basically, there’s no way of verifying the authenticity of a letter based on single features such as font style and time period. Typewriters were the Victorian era word processor and manufacturers were constantly modernizing the machines with new features, including different keyboard layouts and typing systems.

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:50 am 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Macowiec wrote:
I took a typing class in high school in 1980. The school had manual typewriters.

I remember that we were taught how to create justified text by adding additional spaces between some words on the line.

It was time-consuming as you had to calculate how many spaces were needed, so I cannot image a railroad doing it for common documents.


I had the fortune to get typing class twice in high school-freshman year and senior year. Freshman year featured the original IBM Selectric with out the correction features-had to use Correcto-Type. The typewriters were replaced my sophomore year with computers and I got computer lab my senior year-more typing!

Railroads did use typing for business documents but many folks were trained typists-many clerks took shorthand and typing instruction at business schools and could type over 100 words per minute. Thus, it was nothing for them to fire off a letter or train order. That and many of them used their own personal typewriters on the job and maintained them in top condition.

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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:27 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 255
Location: Baltimore
The document could have been produced on a Varityper. This machine was a cross between a typewriter and a typesetting machine. Though only larger offices would have had one. These machines were made until the 1970s, I believe, when digital composition equipment, such as PCs running word processor programs, became more practical for most offices and small print shops.


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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:18 pm 

Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:41 pm
Posts: 524
Location: Minneapolis, MN
About typewriters.....

Typewriters had only ONE letter spacing, or pitch, all the same for every letter. You could order a typewriter with whatever font was available, but spacing was either pica , 10 characters per inch or or elite, 12 characters per inch. There were no variable pitch typewriters in common use until the event of word processors.


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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:59 pm 

Joined: Sat Feb 15, 2014 10:54 pm
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Just posting for information- having started a career at IBM repairing office products I am quite familiar with typewriters and I can tell you that the Executive models did indeed offer proportional spacing. I had to work on those suckers and they were an absolute bear to keep adjusted and operating correctly.

And yes, the type-bars could be replaced as a set to change fonts, although not commonly done as they were usually ordered as needed.

Whether the text the OP is referring to was created on one I cannot say- but they developed them by 1941 and began selling just post WW2.

https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/modelb/modelb_milestone.html

I would think at the time, and until the type-bar models gave way to the Selectrics that only the top executive assistants would be given an Executive model to use, as a poor typist clashing type-bars would soon turn all that sweet alignment to chaos. Certainly wouldn't expect to see some freight agent or new secretary pounding away on one.


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 Post subject: Re: Genuine History?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:32 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:36 am
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Location: Anchorage, Alaska
It's been 55 years since I watched my mom type on her 1960 vintage IBM Executive in her home business, but my recollection was that she had to type a document once, make annotations in the margin to show how much needed to be added to make a line proportional, and then type again inserting fractional spaces somewhere in the line. There was nothing automatic about it.


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