Sholes Visible: native habitat redux

by | Aug 6, 2013 | Sholes Visible | 11 comments

About 11 months ago I published this photo from Peter Weil’s collection:

I’ll repeat Peter’s analysis of the photo:

Sholes Visible Typewriter #2 (1901); in the office of the shipping department of the W.R. McTurk Coal Company in the borough of Girardville (in Schuylkill County), Pennsylvania, in September 1910; subject is George W. Newton, a shipper who, perhaps with intended humor, is holding a rifle or shotgun; ironically, or maybe not, Girardville was called “Gun-Town” by locals; at that time, McTurk operated at least two mines in the area, about sixty miles northeast of Reading, PA; the mines were the Girard Bear Ridge and the Girard Mammoth; office is lighted by the shaded window in back behind the typewriter and the kerosene chandelier to the right; the Sholes Visible appears to be the second of the three models (carriage return lever but no decal, “Meiselbach” or otherwise) on the lower front of the frame, which also looks to be shaped differently than the same area of the frame on later examples; sitting on a desk that appears to be, at least in part, made out of a cotton spool thread cabinet; other office technology includes a stencil-based “mimeo” machine of indeterminate brand and a book press.

Now Peter has found a photo taken in the same office, with the same Sholes Visible, three years later.

Peter comments:

Amazingly, literally and figuratively, it’s deja vu all over again. This small cabinet card showed up on eBay. It is the same office, three years later and re-arranged, as in the the first photograph I had ever found of a Sholes Visible typewriter in its natural habitat.  Here the Girardville (PA) Colliery has replaced the McTurk company, but the Sholes Visible is still there. The typewriter is now relocated to a central desk that now includes a candlestick telephone. Note that the Sholes Visible looks a bit bigger in this later picture. Of the men in this room, the one standing looks a lot like the man with the rifle in the September, 1910 photograph, but I may be wrong. The glare of the guy at the desk probably meant that no one messed with him. Now it is unclear just who George Newton is (see signs in photos). In the 1910 image, there was only one person, and I assumed that the name on the board was his. But now, I am not so sure. It is quite a group portrait of tough miners in a tough, often bloody time of the coal mining wars in Schuylkill County.

        It is dumbfounding luck to have found two related photographs that include so rare a typewriter taken three years apart and purchased by me from two dealers. By the way, this dealer is from a village north of Allentown, PA, only a few miles from Girardville. I think it must have been in the estate of some descendant of one of these miners. 

I figured readers of this blog would be interested. To see the whole story of my restoration of a Sholes Visible, just click on the “Sholes Visible” label below.


  1. Ton S.

    That's quite an amazing redux indeed. Wow. I mean what are the chances?

  2. Steve Snow

    Awesome luck and two awesome photographs. My two cents worth is that maybe it's the younger seated one to the right of the photo glaring at the camera who is holding the gun in the first photo? What do you think?

    Wouldn't it be grand if someone who reads this blog knows of someone who could put some names to faces….

  3. Rob Bowker

    Also consider the prinipal in the making of these, the photographer. Same lens, same P.O.V., I'd put money on it being the same person behind the camera. Great faces! Thanks all round for sharing.

  4. Richard P

    I tend to agree with you, Steve. I see the same sly right eye in the young man seated in the same chair in both photos.

  5. Bill M

    Wonderful photos.

    Next time I head to home I may need to do some snooping around. I grew up not far from that area — a bit farther East and South.

    However, Girardville is quite a ways from Allentown or Reading. It is closer to Pottsville.

  6. John

    That's it! I gotta get me a Sholes Visible and an Emerson!
    Well, I can dream can't I?

  7. Jim Pennington

    Excellent narratives to be found in these.
    I see the same strong head of blond hair in both photos..
    btw: I'd say that's a single shot hunting rifle he has in the first picture from the way he is holding it and the small bore at the end.
    I wonder whose thumb prints those are in the second print?

  8. shordzi

    How fascinating, thanks for sharing

  9. schrijfmachine

    Nice! And what a impressive typewriter it is.

  10. Vikram

    That is nothing short of amazing. Thanks for sharing–this is the kind of stuff that makes historical pics engaging.

  11. Anonymous

    Photography was still a luxury at the time and was usually reserved for family portraits or historical events. I think it would rare at the time for workers to pose for a casual business photo, at a coal company no less. Even rarer to do it twice a few years apart. Even rarer for the prints to have survived over 100 years. The odds of finding these two prints at two different dealers are unbelievable.

    I love examining photos of ordinary settings from such a long time ago. Bravo for collecting and posting these.


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