Anachronic Typewriters on Ripper Street, Season 2

Updated: Jan 17, 2019


Season 2 of Ripper Street appears to be "of the time" as you will notice what look like age-appropriate clothing (although, I'm by no means an expert), street views, and even current events. Episode 4 sees electricity coming to Shadwell, a district in London. This is chronologically accurate given that the "London Electric Supply Corporation (LESCo) opened Deptford Power Station, UK's first AC power system, designed by Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti" in 1891 (Timeline UK Electricity, n.d.). Given that season 2 opens in 1890, that puts the real event just one year after the dual of electric companies shown in episode 4.


We find typed papers, evidence of typewriters, in season 2. To the left you will note that this particular paper was dated 1888. As such, to be accurate, it would have likely been typed on a Remington, Caligraph, or Hammond, the three major brands of that period (EOMCURATOR, 2000-2016). A typed order may have been different, but certainly not an anomaly at the time.


This season shows other popular office equipment as well, like the paper embosser shown in the picture to the right, and what I believe is an ink well in the background.








Scattered throughout this season, we also see plenty of telegrams and telegraph machines, which had been around since the 1830s, and was trans-Atlantic by 1866 (History, 2018).


Although typed papers are spotted, this season seems to be bereft of my favorite prop of the time: typewriters. Finally, in Episode 6, we have the first sighting:


Season 2, Episode 6

Time Stamp: 19:40

Time Stamp: 20:04

Brand: Empire

Model: 1

Date of Manufacture: 1892-1927


Of course, the first sighting is with the newspaper reporter, only this time it isn't an Oliver. We can make out the brand and rounded shape fairly clearly in the shots above. While very pretty, this is an interesting choice for a typewriter of London in 1890. Thanks to the Virtual Typewriter Museum (n.d.), we know that the Empire was first produced in 1892, and was originally made for the Canadian and US markets (called the Wellington in the US). The typewriter was later built in Germany under the Empire brand initially, but later switched to the Adler brand as model 7. The Typewriter Database (n.d.a) does indicate there was an introduction of these typewriters to the English market in 1899, so it is not unrealistic to think this typewriter is a model the British would purchase . . . eventually. From the pictures on the museum's site, we can see that this particular model was not the one produced in Germany, so Ripper Street would have had to cart the machine across the Atlantic Ocean and back in time at least two years, or simply drive it back 9 years, to make this one work for the episode. As a side note, according to Martin Howard (1999-2018), it is rare to see white keys on this typewriter, which makes me wonder if this one is on loan to the show from his collection.


Season 2, Episode 7

Time Stamp: 36:24

Time Stamp: 36:35

Brand: Smith Premier

Model:  4 or higher

Date of Manufacture: 1896-1940


This typewriter was almost missed if not for the familiar sound of someone at type. Given the ribbon placement, the lifting mechanism on the platen, the feed of the paper, and other clues, it is clearly a blind writer. The shape of the machine, the type bars, and the pin-striping give away the brand and the model. (Unfortunately, it is difficult to see from these pictures given the Netflix movie-advancer bar that comes up automatically when I move the mouse.) If this were a model 1, the show would finally have gotten the timing of the typewriters correct; the model 1 was first manufactured in 1889, as per the Typewriter Database (n.d.b). Unfortunately, this is not a model 1. The most obvious clue that gives this away is the side of the machine: pin-striping is placed where there should be a frame, and no ornate detail is embedded on the side. Furthermore, given that the top four rows of keys are black, and the next three are white, it is likely this is a model 4 or higher. Since the model 2 was produced no earlier than 1896, and the rest of the models were either released at the same time, or followed, we have another case of an anachronically placed typewriter, this time by 6 years.



Special thanks again to www.netflix.com, from which all the screen shots of typewriters on Ripper Street were taken. When I have time, I'll continue with Season 3 as we have actually watched through to Season 4 already. (It's a great show!!)

References


EOMCURATOR. (2000-2016). Typewriters in the early office. In Early Office Museum. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://www.officemuseum.com/typewriters.htm


History.com Editors. (2018, August 21). Morse code & the telegraph. In History. Originally published November 9, 2009. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/telegraph


Howard, M. (1999-2018). Empire 1. In Antique Typewriters: The Martin Howard Collection. Retrieved from http://www.antiquetypewriters.com/collection/typewriter.asp?Empire%201#.W7DfNmhKi70


Timeline of the UK Electricity Supply Industry. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_UK_electricity_supply_industry


Typewriter Database, The. (n.d.a) Empire typewriter serial numbers. Retrieved from http://typewriterdatabase.com/empire.24.typewriter-serial-number-database


Typewriter Database, The. (n.d.b) Smith Premier typewriter serial numbers. Retrieved from http://typewriterdatabase.com/smithpremier.98.typewriter-serial-number-database


Virtual Typewriter Museum, The. (n.d.). Empire. Retrieved from https://www.typewritermuseum.org/collection/index.php3?machine=empire&cat=kf

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