Before the fight: Ford and Reagan, October 31, 1974

December 5, 2012

Historian Michael Beschloss Tweeted out a wonderful photo:

President Gerald Ford, former-Gov. Ronald Reagan, October 31, 1974, Century Plaza

October 31, 1974: President Gerald Ford, right, met with former-California Gov. Ronald Reagan, at the Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Micheal Beschloss.

Who took the photo?  What was the event?  Beschloss asks on Twitter, why two drinks on Ford’s side of the table, and none on Reagan’s?

Looks like it’s a photo by David Hume Kennerly, the White House photographer in the Ford administration.  The photograph was taken with film, probably in black and white to save money and because it was the best way to get images for print media at the time.  Few newspapers ran color photos as a regular feature.  Electronic still photography at the time occurred in laboratories as tests.  As a pragmatic matter, media to store such photographs electronically were impractical — a large mainframe computer might have 256 kilobytes of memory for such storage, or enough for photo of poor resolution.

Kennerly’s site said this meeting came around a black-tie Republican fund-raiser in Los Angeles, at the then-swanky Century Plaza Hotel.

Vanity Fair’s David Friend called it “L.A. Noir” in a 2007 article on a book of photos by Kennerly:

Today, the image conveys a touch of Rat Pack swagger, an architectural elegance, and a hint of the California glamour that Reagan would eventually import to Washington. At the time, however, Kennerly, who had won a Pulitzer for his work in Vietnam, considered the picture too dark and brooding; he almost overlooked the frame on his contact sheet. But that darkness captured something of the spirit of the time: less than three months before, Watergate had forced Richard Nixon from office; inflation, unemployment, and gas prices were on the rise; and the U.S. was facing defeat in Vietnam.

The picture also caught the sometimes frosty relationship between the two leaders. Both Reagan and Ford, after all, would nix the 1980 “dream ticket” idea, floated by some Republican mandarins, to draft Ford as Reagan’s vice president. And Ford, during his unsuccessful 1976 campaign against Jimmy Carter, resented Reagan’s political infighting. “Truthfully,” Ford confessed to Kennerly years later, “I was upset when he challenged me [for the ’76 Republican nomination]. I thought it was unwise for a Republican to challenge a sitting Republican president. We had a pretty bitter contest. It was a head-to-head, knock-down, drag-out affair.”

“I study this picture now,” says Kennerly, “and it looks like a scene from The Godfather”—which had won the best-picture Oscar the year before.

Were I to guess, with a bit of education, I’d say both glasses belonged to Ford, one a cocktail, one water.  Reagan tended to avoid alcohol.

A great photograph, a tribute to the artistry and craftsmanship of Kennerly, especially with film; it also poses as a time capsule, freezing convention in GOP big-money fundraising, dress for men of influence and means, architecture, and so much more.

David Kennerly

Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer, and White House photographer, David Hume Kennerly; TEDxBend image


Not before the deluge, not after it, but during the storm.  Nixon was three-months gone from the White House.  Vietnam’s peace agreement was a year-old, but it was seven months to the final invasion of South Vietnam by the communist North that would force the U.S. retreat, and “reunify” Vietnam under communist rule.  The Cold War still raged.  Iran was considered a U.S. puppet.  Mao Zedong still ruled in China.  Elvis Presley still ruled in Memphis.  AIDS was unknown.  Computers were accounting machines taking floors of entire buildings.  Portable telephones were expensive devices that hogged power and generally required at least an automobile to be attached to power the thing.

Barack Obama was 13.

It was a different time.



Typewriter of the moment: Mark Twain’s Hammond

December 5, 2012

Still hoping to find a photo of Samuel Clemens at work on a typewriter.

But until then, this one will have to do:

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter, Jerry J. Davis photo

A Hammond typewriter that once belonged to Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain. Photographed by Jerry J. Davis, in an unstated location, probably Hannibal, Missouri

A Hammond typewriter, from; perhaps not the typewriter that WAS pictured above; but Twain used this one, and the link to the photo above has died but good.

A Hammond typewriter, from; perhaps not the typewriter that WAS pictured above; but Twain used this one, and the link to the photo above has died but good.

Other photos of Twain’s typewriter must exist; and since we know of at least two such machines, there must be some photos of each of them, no?  I wish museums and historians would consider the value of images of some of these objects, and make high quality photos of some of these famous machines.

Twain’s fascination with technology shines clearly in his work.  From his earliest writings we get lyrical and accurate descriptions of the mechanical workings of Mississippi riverboats, for one example.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court paints a long paean to technology of the late 19th century, transplanted in the tale several centuries earlier.

Some accounts claim The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be the first manuscript completed by typewriter — this one, perhaps? features what may be a description of this history:

…I will now claim — until dispossessed — that I was the first person in the world to apply the typewriter to literature…The early machine was full of caprices, full of defects — devilish ones. It had as many immoralities as the machine of today has virtues. After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character, so I thought I would give it to Howells…He took it home to Boston, and my morals began to improve, but his have never recovered.

– “The First Writing Machines”

As a publisher and investor, Twain pushed the development of automated typesetting machines to quickly publish the memoirs of former President Ulysses S Grant.  Though the books were set quickly, and the best-selling memoirs provided an income for Grant’s widow, the technology was still balky and cost Twain his own fortune.

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter -

Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from Is this the same machine pictured above? There are similarities, but differences more than just the angle.

We shouldn’t be surprised with his acerbic comments on the machines; Twain’s caustic humor targeted everything in modern life. notes a fraction of a letter to his longtime friend:  Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from

The machine is at Bliss’s, grimly pursuing its appointed mission, slowly & implacably rotting away at another man’s chances for salvation.

I have sent Bliss word not to donate it to a charity (though it is a pity to fool away a chance to do a charity an ill turn), but to let me know when he has got his dose, because I’ve got another candidate for damnation. You just wait a couple of weeks & if you don’t see the TypeWriter coming tilting along toward Cambridge with the raging hell of an unsatisfied appetite in its eye, I lose my guess.

– Letter to William Dean Howells, 25 June 1875

Were things really so bad?

I regret to note that in our visit to Hannibal last June I did not encounter any typewriters.  Clearly, I’ll have to go back.

Tip of the old scrub brush to OObjects.


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