A remarkable device, in sad, remarkable circumstances.
The photos below show a typewriter that produces Japanese characters, an invention of no small achievement.
The photos also show American citizens, arrested for being Japanese, in the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming, during World War II. They’re getting the machine in operation to produce a camp newspaper.
The official caption:
Members of the staff and volunteer helpers reassemble a privately owned Japanese typewriter to be used for the Japanese language edition of the Heart Mountain Sentinel, Center newspaper. The paper is wrapped around the rubber cylinder, the typist pushes the roller riding platen over the bed of type. After picking the next character, a lever is operated which picks up the type, presses it against the paper and replaces it in its niche. Complicated in appearance and operation, due to the shorthand characteristics of Japanese writing, the advance of thought is nearly equal in speed to a standard English typewriter. — Photographer: Parker, Tom — Heart Mountain, Wyoming. 1/13/43
This complicated looking gadget is a standard Japanese typewriter, the private property of a resident of Japanese ancestry at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. The machine, loaned to the center newspaper for its Japanese section which is printed for for the purpose of informing those residents unable to read English, is here being assembled by Sentinel staff members. The paper is wound on the round drum, which operates on rollers over the type bed, spotted over the required character, an arm picks the metal slug from the bed, presses it against the paper and returns it to its niche. Due to the shorthand character of Japanese printing, the typewriter is nearly equal in speed in conveying thoughts as a standard English typewriter. — Photographer: Parker, Tom — Heart Mountain, Wyoming. 1/13/43
These photos are available from several sites. The best quality is probably from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library’s contribution to the California Digital Library. Office Museum.com also carries the photos, with attribution to the Department of Interior, War Relocation Authority, National Archives, Still Picture Branch, NWDNS-210-G-E691 and E728.
From the Office Museum:
The first typewriter with Chinese characters was produced about 1911-14. Nippon Typewriter Co. began producing typewriters with Chinese and Japanese characters in 1917. “The Nippon has a flat bed of 3,000 Japanese characters. This is considered a shorthand version since the Japanese language contains in excess of 30,000 characters.” (Thomas A. Russo, Office Collectibles: 100 Years of Business Technology, Schiffer, 2000, p. 161.) A successor company, Nippon Remington Rand Kaisha, was producing similar machines in the 1970s.
To use the typewriter, paper is wrapped around the cylindrical rubber platen, which moves on rollers over the bed of type. The operator uses a level to control an arm that picks up a piece of metal type from the bed, presses it against the paper, and returns it to its niche. While the machine is complicated, because of the shorthand character of Japanese writing, the Japanese language typewriter is nearly equal to an English language typewriter in speed for recording thoughts.
Other posts on typewriters, here. Other posts on Japanese internment, here.