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  Written by
  Sharla A. Stewart


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Tools of the trade

There is one word that will get any typewriter collector to emit a sound like the letter "n" hitting a sheet of onion skin: Crandall. Inlaid with mother of pearl, trimmed in gold, it's the Cadillac of typewriters, according to Richard H. Polt, AM'89, PhD'91. And no, he doesn't have one. But a man can dream, can't he?

PHOTO:  Richard Polt has the scoop on manuals.  His online "Classic Typewriters Page" features a "flying Oliver," a typewriter-of-the-month section, restoration tips, and a brief history of typewriters.

Some beauties Polt does have among the 70-some antique manual typewriters in his Xavier University office in Cincinnati are a Franklin, with its sweetly curving ergonomic keyboard patented by Wellington P. Kidder in 1891, and a 1931 Remington Noiseless Portable No. 7, the proverbial workhorse of the early 20th-century workaday world. The latter was Polt's first typewriter, rather commonplace as old manuals go, bought for him by his father at a garage sale when he was 12 and used faithfully until graduate school. It is by far his favorite. These days Polt rarely uses a typewriter unless he's blocked-at which point he bellies up to his Underwood No. 5. Its hard-to-punch keys, he explains, "make a clackety noise that makes you feel like you're accomplishing something."

PHOTO:  Stuart Rice has made a name for himself for his forward-thinking work on the theory of liquids, molecular spectroscopy, and X-ray studies of the surfaces, but his free time he spends tinkering with the scientific instruments of bygone days.

The fine lines of obsolete state-of-the-art technology also have an irresistible magnetism for Stuart A. Rice, the Frank P. Hixon distinguished service professor in the James Franck Institute, the chemistry department, and the College. "I like to find old instruments and play with them," says Rice, who began collecting antique scientific equipment-microscopes, sextants, quintants, and theodolites (a surveyor's instrument for measuring horizontal and vertical angles)-in the mid-1970s. His first microscope was a large, circa-1870 Ross, one of three manufacturers that in the 1850s won a Royal Microscopal Society competition to produce the world's first microscopes. Like present-day microscopes, the Ross can magnify specimens at 1,200 to 1,300 times original size-but the quality of the view leaves a lot to be desired. Rice, who received a 1999 National Medal of Science and is a member of the Scientific Instrument Society, says he has always had an eye for technology.





  OCTOBER 2001

  > > Volume 94, Number 1


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