Category Archives: Vintage

Vanishing Breed: World’s Last Typewriter Factory Closes its Doors

Hold on to your ribbons and keys: The world’s last typewriter factory, located in Mumbai, India, is closing its doors. As late as 2009, the factory, Godrej and Boyce, was still rolling out 10-12, 000 machines a year (down from 50,000 a year in the 90s). But the ubiquitous computer just proved too much for it.

The concept of impressing ink-coated letters onto paper may date to a 1714 English patent held by Henry Mill. The first working typewriter was said to have been built in 1808 by Italian Pellegrino Turri. Our current typewriters (and computer keyboards) owe the most debt to the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer, produced in New York, beginning in 1873, from gunmakers E. Remington & Sons. Some of you may still have Remington manual typewriters.

Sholes, a newspaperman from Wisconsin, created the QWERTY keyboard that we still use today. The first one made only capital letters. There is more early typewriter history on this excellent site. This is another great site featuring lots of pictures and information about different models of early typewriters, from American Visible to World.

U.S. typewriter production was dominated by just four brands — Underwood, Royal, Remington and Smith-Corona — from the 1920s until they stopped production. Remington, then Remington-Rand, moved production to Europe in 1961. The last Smith-Corona and Royal typewriters came out in the 1970s. Underwood merged with Olivetti in 1963 and began diversifying. The last Olivetti portable typewriter was produced in Spain in the 1980s.

Though I typed a “novel” on a manual typewriter in 6th grade ( a tome in which terrible fates befell the fictional denizens of an elementary school, truth be told), and learned manual typing from typing teacher Stella Staley to prepare for high school, for most of high school I typed papers on a series of lovely IBM Selectrics. These were probably the slightly outdated castoffs from my parents’ ad agency office, but still — they were quite sleek, in lovely colors (robins egg blue or gunmetal gray), and they had fascinating metal balls that spun around to find the designated letter. Best? You could change the font by changing out the ball. (I also remember the change-over from white-out to type-out correction paper.) It turns out IBMs had been somewhat stylish (and electric) since the 1930s.

Now, of course, there is a collectors’ market for typewriter ribbons and other accessories, not to mention the typewriters themselves. And while news of this last typewriter rolling off the factory belt may hit some of us with an odd sense of surprise and nostalgia, I note that the same keyboard from almost 150 years ago is still with us, and that some people (even in high schools today) continue to say “typing” rather than the duller-sounding “keyboarding” or, God forbid, “word processing”.

This wistful change brings both and “end of an era” feeling and the notion that I personally can’t imagine how long-form writers ever typed complete novels without the luxury of inserting, deleting, copying and pasting at will — even if I once tried it myself.

Be sure to see: The typewriter dance number.

This just in: Some typewriters are apparently still being made, in the U.S., for the prison market. So, perhaps more accurately, the world’s second to last typewriter factory closed its doors.

Photos: IBM typewriter ads, top to bottom, Model Year 1954, 1930, 1948, 1948, 1959, 1967. These and many more on etypewriters.com. Early writing ball typewriter, 1903 Remington ad and popular 1920s Underwood 5 manual typewriter on this typewriter history site. Later Underwood 5 typewriter on Wikimedia Commons.

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Fool your Family with Easy April Fools Day Pranks

Though we all love a good laugh year-round, April Fools Day offers some great opportunities to crank up the pranks. Here are a few simple pranks that are great for all ages and use simple kitchen ingredients.

Why do we even celebrate April Fools Day?

Even though the Julian calendar, which we use, was adopted in 46 B.C., many Europeans were resistant to the change — really resistant, as it turns out. For centuries, their New Year coincided with Easter and other Spring celebrations. In the 1560s, France’s King Charles IX finally decreed that the New Year should officially begin on January 1, and Pope Gregory in Rome followed a full 18 years later. It is said that the Europeans who hadn’t gotten the memo on the date change continued to celebrate New Year’s in April, thus they were considered fools, and the source of our modern day pranks.

In France, the fools got paper fish hooked to their backs. These are vintage “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish) postcards:

Other theories hold that April Fools Day arose from the Spring renewal festivals that have long been held throughout the world. These have wonderful names and customs – Hilaria in Rome; Holi, the festival of color in India; Hock-Tyed, a randy event in Great Britain.

The Museum of Hoaxes site has more information about April Fools Day in history and literature. The infoplease site casts some doubt on the calendar theory and posits another, from Boston University History Professor Joseph Boskin, who explained that a group of court jesters told the Roman emperor Constantine that they could do a better job of running the empire, so he let a jester named Kugel be king for one day. “It was a very serious day,” Boskin said, and his story was run by the news media in 1983.

There was one glitch: Boskin himself had made the story up — in great April Fools Day tradition.

Fun and Easy Food Pranks

So, what are some fun and easy April Fools Day pranks that you can pull on your family? I’ve often used mealtimes to turn the tables and have some fun with food pranks, many of which will be a treat to eat even after the joke’s over. All of these are quick and easy to pull off, with ingredients available at most grocery stores.

Fishy Fish Sticks

What you’ll need:

Log-shaped candy bars such as Twix, Mounds, or Kit Kat, or wafer cookies
Shreded or toasted coconut, or crushed graham crackers
Peanut or other nut butter or corn syrup

How to do it:

If you are using shredded coconut, toast the coconut by placing the shredded pieces on a baking sheet and baking at 350 degrees for 2-4 minutes, or until it is light brown with some white shreds remaining. Allow the coconut to cool and then spread it, or the graham cracker crumbs, atop a sheet of wax paper. Roll the candy or cookies in the peanut butter or corn syrup until they are lightly coated, and then roll the coated candy/cookies in the coconut/cracker crumbs. (Note that some candy bars may have to be cut to more closely resemble the shape of a fish stick.)

Sweet Potatoes

What you’ll need:

Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
Butterscotch or caramel sauce

How to do it:

Place a scoop of ice cream or frozen yogurt on a plate. Top with butterscotch or caramel sauce. Let the sauce drip down to resemble gravy.

Different Dog

What you’ll need:

A banana
A hot dog bun
Peanut butter
Vanilla yogurt
Red and yellow food coloring

How to do it:

Place the banana into the hot dog bun. Mix drops of red food coloring into a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter until the color of the peanut butter resembles ketchup. Mix drops of yellow food coloring into a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt until the color of the yogurt resembles mustard. Generously spread the “condiments” over the banana to make the hot dog.

Not So Fried Egg

What you’ll need:

Lemon or vanilla pudding or yogurt, or a canned peach half
Marshmallow sauce (used for sundaes)
Piece of toast (optional)

How to do it:

Spoon a generous amount of marshmallow sauce on a plate or a piece of toast. It will spread. Finesse it with a spoon into an egg-white shape. Place a small, neat spoonful of pudding or yogurt, or the canned peach half on top of it so that the whole resembles a fried egg.

Smile and Say “Grilled Cheese”

What you’ll need:

A pound cake
Buttercream or white frosting
Red and yellow food coloring

How to do it:

Cut the pound cake into slices to resemble bread. Toast them in an oven (on a cookie sheet) or in a toaster oven just until they turn golden brown. Once they’ve cooled a little, stack two slices for each sandwich and cut each stack in half diagonally. Mix drops of the red and yellow food coloring into the frosting, stopping when the frosting appears like American cheese. Carefully spread a generous amount of frosting onto the bottom slice, then gently press the top slice over it. This will make the frosting ooze a bit over the sides of the “bread”, so that the whole resembles a melted cheese sandwich.

A Stiff Drink

What you’ll need:
A package of flavored gelatin.

How to do it:

Dissolve the gelatin according to box directions. Pour the gelatin into drinking glasses and place a plastic straw in each. Refrigerate the gelatin until firm, then watch when someone tries to drink their “drink”.

A Meaty Dessert

What you’ll need:

A meatloaf recipe
Mashed potatoes
Cake decorators’ icing

How to do it:

Combine the ingredients for the meatloaf recipe. Before baking, divide the mixture into the two round cake pans and pat it flat. Bake as usual, shortening the cooking time to adjust for the thinness of the meat loaves. Prepare the mashed potatoes, adding a little extra milk to them and whipping them until they are fluffy. Once the loaves have cooled a little, place one of them onto a plate and cover it with a thin layer of mashed potatoes. Place the other meatloaf on top of the potato layer, and finish frosting the “cake” with the remaining potatoes, swirling them with a knife to imitate cake frosting. Decorate the top with a fun April Fools’ message.

Backwards Meal

Even if you don’t have time to make or buy special food, you can serve a meal backward, starting with dessert. Or you can have a whole backwards day where meals are concerned. Even a few drops of food coloring can instantly change a bowl or oatmeal or a scoop of mashed potatoes.

Have fun and get silly! Happy April Fools Day.

Photos: Wikimedia, Blogger of the Beach, Susan Sachs Lipman

Photo Friday: San Francisco Storefront

San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood is perfect for strolling and for conjuring just a bit of San Francisco’s Beat era history. Our family ends up there a lot. We peruse the small shops with their arcane displays. We get fresh-baked biscotti in Italian North Beach, or dim sum in neighboring Chinatown. We buy beads and postcards, leaf through records in low-ceilinged store basements, where milk crates are stacked floor to ceiling and a person can barely squeeze between the stacks. Among the old, there’s always something new. A fresh look down a street that winds all the way to the Pacific Ocean, or up at a line of laundry blowing in the breeze between buildings. I hope the arcane and the lovely find you, wherever your travels take you.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Michele at Fun Orange County Parks has gotten the ball rolling by submitting a wonderful, magical picture. Thanks for playing, Michele!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman at Gallery 28

You may also like:
Photo Friday: Ghost Sign
Photo Friday: Empire State

Stir up (or cook down) some Colonial Apple Butter

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In a world of wonderful jams and butters, apple butter might just be the ultimate slow food. Comprised of just a few natural ingredients, and no sugar, the best apple butter cooks most of the day over a low flame, so that the resulting mixture is wonderfully dense and has a rich, caramel-y taste. I’d been wanting to get in touch with my inner Colonial cook and make some, when a friend happened to bring over a bounty of Fuji apples from her backyard tree, and then another friend further inspired me by making amazing dried apples from her tree. (Lucky me!)

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Apples were indeed plentiful in Colonial America. Alice Morse Earle’s book, Home Life in Colonial America, lists such dishes as apple-slump (baked apples under a cake topping), apple-crowdy (a turnover-like dessert), and something called apple-mose, along with various types of pies. The book quotes a Swedish parson writing home about the Delaware settlement in 1758:

Apple-pie is used throughout the whole year, and when fresh apples are no longer to be had, dried ones are used. It is the evening meal of children. House-pie .. is made of apples neither peeled nor freed from their cores, and its crust is not broken if a wagon wheel goes over it.

I washed the Fuji apples, appreciating their pretty shapes and colors. In Colonial country homes, it was not uncommon to hold an apple-paring, in which friends and neighbors came to help peel the crop of apples for winter’s dried apples, applesauce and apple butter. The ingredients for apple butter were put into large brass kettles, which were then hung in big, open fireplaces. The finished apple butter would be stored in barrels in the house’s basement. Quince and pear butters were made as well.

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My apple butter is extremely easy to make, requiring only the ingredients you see above:

8 cups apples (a cup is approx. 2 small apples)

2 1/2 cups apple cider

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

This recipe yields 2 jars of apple butter and can easily be doubled or tripled. I arrived at it through a combination of various vintage, Amish, and canning books, along with some trial and error.

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1. Wash, peel and chop the apples into small pieces.

2. Place the apples into a large pot and cover with the cider.

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3. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.

4. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

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5. Simmer on low heat, uncovered for 6 or more hours, or until the mixture cooks down to a paste. You may opt for occasional periods of slightly higher heat, if you find that your mixture remains too watery or if you want to caramelize some of the apples at the bottom of the pot.

This is the “inner Colonial” part — the long, slow cooking process and the fantastic way your house will smell and feel as you do it.

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6. Using a wide-mouth funnel, ladle the mixture into jars that have been prepared for canning. (I boil them for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.)

7. Seal the jars and boil them again, for 10 minutes. Let them sit for a day. (If you follow strict canning guidelines, you can store your apple butter for the future. If you do not, then you’ll want to eat the apple butter within a couple of weeks and store it in the refrigerator.) Please refer to the USDA canning guidelines, downloadable Guide 1, for more information on proper home canning.

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Preserves and butters of all kinds make wonderful gifts and spreads, especially one like this, in which there is barely anything to get in the way of the wonderful, fresh, age-old Fall apple taste. Try apple butter on toast or crackers, with cheese, poultry, or even other fruit.

The colonial kitchen above is located at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. If you are able to get to this museum, I highly recommend it. It’s like no other — approximately 40 buildings on beautiful grounds house collections of folk art, paintings, quilts, dolls, design, and entire detailed re-creations of such staples of the past as apothecaries, blacksmiths, printing shops, train stations, one-room schoolhouses, and homes of many eras. Look for an upcoming post that details more about the one-of-a-kind Shelburne Museum.

In the meantime, enjoy your butter and fall!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Blueberry Tuesday: Summer Triple Berry Crisp

Continuing the series on desserts that use luscious blueberries and other fruits at their peak (see the Blueberry Buckle recipe), this post features my all-time favorite fruit dessert, the Crisp. What makes a crisp a crisp, and not a buckle, crumble, cobbler, or slump? you may be asking. Crisps have exceedingly wonderful crunchy, sugary tops over a slightly thickened cooked-fruit base. Fruit and topping are perfect together — different from one another, yet complimentary.

This recipe is adapted from June’s Apple Crisp in the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook. As you’ll see, crisps can be made with berries, apples, apricots, peaches, or any fruit that’s tasty and in season.

Triple Berry Crisp

Serves 6

Approx. 2 C fresh berries or other fruit, washed (and peeled in the case of apples)
1.5 T fresh lemon juice
1 c flour
1 c sugar
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter cold, cut into pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8″ cake pan.
2. Place a layer of berries in the pan and sprinkle with lemon juice. Repeat layers until all berries are in the pan. Lightly press on the berries to even them.

3. Process the flour, sugar, cinnamon, & salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade just to combine. Add the butter and process, using repeated pulses, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
4. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the apples, making sure the edges are well sealed.

5. Bake until the top is golden and the fruit is tender, about 1 hour. Fruit and juice may leak into the topping – this is fine.

The crisp is equally terrific made with peaches or apricots.

Why choose?

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Sonoma Marin Fair: The Rides and Games

I love summer’s county and state fairs, none more than our local Sonoma-Marin Fair, in Petaluma, which has come and gone this year. The Marin fair is closer, and the Sonoma fair bigger, but frankly, this one that we latched onto many years ago (before Anna was even born) is the keeper. It’s a wonderful combination of farm animals and agricultural events; classic rides, games and food; a wide midway for strolling; country performers; and down-home exhibits and contests that recall simpler times when people came to fairs to show their baking and animal-handling prowess and to be exposed to new things.

Here are some photos from last year’s fair. This year, I took so many, that I divided them into sections. Come along and ride the thrilling and classic fair rides and soak up the atmosphere and draw of the traditional fair games on a summer day and dusk in June.

I love this Falling Star sign so much, I took movies of it!

Coming up: Fair farm events and food.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Blueberry Thursday: Bake an Old-Fashioned Blueberry Buckle

Something about ripe summer fruit brings out the old-fashioned baker in me. I reach for recipes for all manner of cobblers, crisps, crumbles, grunts, betties, muffins, and pies. And I’m not the only one. On Father’s Day, my daughter offered (or did my husband request?) a homemade blueberry buckle.

This one comes from the superb Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book. A similar recipe is in Marcia Adams’ equally inspiring Cooking From Quilt Country. She calls it Blueberry Cake with Streusel Topping. That turns out to be a fine description for the Buckle: a moist coffee cake with a crunchy crumb topping.

You’ll need:

For the topping:

1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, chilled, unsalted, sliced

For the batter:

6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. sour cream
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch pan.

Prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter to resemble coarse crumbs.

Prepare the batter: In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth, then beat in the sour cream.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt to evenly blend.

Quickly stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture just to moisten: the batter will be thick and lumpy.

If you are inspired to do a batter dance around the house or yard, this would be the time.

Gently fold in the blueberries and turn into the prepared pan.

Crumble the reserved topping over the batter.

Bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake portion emerges clean. Cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes. Slice to serve. (9 squares makes healthy portions.)

Yum! Thank you Jim Fobel, and the roadside stand in Maine, where we first had a buckle and decided we liked them.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman