July Question of the Month – an irregular series

Thank you for enlisting the help of The Seattle Public Library to identifythe history and use of the “floating shift” typewriter key you saw for sale in the FriendShop at our Central library. I am a librarian in the Business, Science and Technology department and I am happy to provide a little background information on this fascinating technological development.

According to popular advertisements of the 1930s and 40s, the “floating shift” key was a revolution in typewriter technology pioneered by the L.C. Smith and Corona company some time after the Smith and Corona companies merged in 1926. The earliest clear explanation we have been able to find for the function of this key is in an advertisement on page 11 of the September 13, 1936 issue of The Seattle Times.

The advertisement reads as follows:
“When you press the shift key (a) on other portables (to type capital letters), the entire heavy carriage (b) is lifted. When you press the shift key on CORONA, only the light type-segment (c) is moved—and it is lowered, not raised! Not only that, but the shift operated on ball bearings, almost without effort. CORONA’S ‘Floating Shift’ means faster, easier, quieter operation… perfect alignment… and genuinely lessened work.”

This innovation was likely fueled by intense competition among typewriter manufacturers of this era, as an article entitled “Flying Truck Here: Crowd Sees Tests,” we discovered on page 15 of the August 5, 1927 issue of the New York Times attests. This article describes a stunt organized by the Royal Typewriter company (an industrial underdog) to demonstrate the high caliber and durability of their portable machine by parachuting thousands of typewriters out of an airplane.

If you would like to view these and other historic newspaper articles about the amazing typewriter, head over to the Seattle Public Library website at www.spl.org. Click on the link “Articles & Research,” then the category “Magazines & Newspapers,” and scroll down to select either Seattle Times Historic Archive (keywords: corona floating shift) or New York Times Historic (keywords: 1927 flying truck typewriter.)

Thanks for submitting your question to The Seattle Public Library!

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June Question of the Month – an irregular series

Hi, I am looking for children’s picture books about or set in the Puget Sound area.  Non-fiction books for children about Puget Sound and marine life found there would also be appreciated.  Perhaps something like Davy’s Dream or There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout.

Thank you for your question about books about marine life in the Puget Sound for ages 4-8. You already know about one of my favorites, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Trout, but I did find some others that I think might work.

If this isn’t enough, or these aren’t quite right, we would need to either look for stories about ocean life in general (not Pacific Northwest specific), or look up individual marine animals that live in the Puget Sound to see if there’s a book. I’ve found some titles for some of the more common animals like salmon and orcas, and I threw in Eric Carle’s Hermit Crab since it has common sea animals. Most of these, however, either focus on animals that live in the Puget Sound, or hasvea significant number of local sea life in them.

Fiction and “light” nonfiction:
Whales Passing by Eve Bunting
Sockeye’s Journey Home by Barbara Winkelman
Salmon Forest by David Suzuki
Salmon Creek By Annette LeBox
O is for Orca: A Pacific Northwest Alphabet by Andrea Helman (includes but is not limited to marine life)
1, 2, 3 Moose: A Pacific Norwest Counting Book by Art Wolfe (includes but is not limited to marine life)
Where Do I Sleep A Pacific Northwest Lullaby by Jennifer Blomgren (Includes but is not limited to marine life)
A Killer Whale’s World by Caroline Arnold
Little Otter’s Big Journey by David Bedford
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

Adventures in Greater Puget Sound by Dawn Ashback
The Lifecycle of a Salmon by Ruth Thomson

Thank you for using our online reference service.

Got a stumper? Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do.

May Question of the Month – an irregular series

How can I get a copy of the Seattle newspaper birth announcements for babies born Sept 1st 1967?

With your Seattle Public Library card you have unlimited free remote access to our subscription database the Seattle Times Historical Archives. (the link will take you to a page where you will need to input your library card.)  These are the searchable images of the entire digitized newspaper for 1900-1984! This file is made available courtesy of a generous gift of the Seattle Public Library Foundation.

The “Seattle Times Historical Archives” is located on our website: http://www.spl.org/library-collection/articles-and-research/databases-a-z 

During the 1960’s there was a “born yesterday” column in the following day’s paper. We’ve scanned the column for September 2, 1967 and attached it to this answer. If the information you need is not included, you can check other dates by using the links we’ve supplied!

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April Question of the month – an irregular feature

I am interested in a rather obscure topic. Do you have any information about the history of the whalebone corset and the industry of whaling and whale oil? 

Thank you for your questions regarding whales and whalebone corsets.  There are a number of library resources that might be interesting. 

We have a reference book on the history of corsets.  You can find it using the following search on  in our catalog:
Chose – Subject from the drop down search menu in the upper right hand corner of the screen
Type the terms “Corsets”, “History”, “19th Century” in the search box

We also have books about whaling.and whaling ships. If you select the keyword search from the same drop down box then you can use the search terms “whaling” and “ships”.  And of course the Library also has several books about the whaling industry.

In addition, you may consider looking at the long article on corsets in Wikipedia – it has sound historical information and ax excellent references and external links section.

We hope this information will be helpful; please let us know if we can be of more assistance.

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March Question of the Month: an irregular series

I’m doing geneological research and had trouble browsing the 1910 Census records due to insufficient information. The city of Lanark, Montana in 1910–what county was it in? what Township & Enumeration District was 1910 Lanark, Montana considered to be in?

Hello, and thank you for using our Ask a Librarian service.   Your request for information on the 1910 Census enumeration district for Lanark, Montana, was referred to the History Department for a response.

The present location of Lanark, Montana (it is not currently listed as a place on Montana State Highway Maps, but is on U.S. Route 2, between Bainville and Culbertson near the North Dakota border) is in Roosevelt County. However, Roosevelt County was not created until 1919 from Sheridan County, which in turn was created in 1913 from Valley County. Valley County was created in 1893 from Dawson County. Continue reading “March Question of the Month: an irregular series”