“From Home Depot to major hospitals. From Sears to NASA’s Space Shuttle. Walter Drake is the name behind some of the finest thermoformed plastic packaging in the world.” It makes sense then, that they should put their name on a plastic typewriter.


My immediate reaction upon seeing the name on this typewriter was to think of it as a product of the marriage of two Elizabethan explorers, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake.


In reality, it’s a product of Japan (Brother), but there’s reality and then there’s altered reality, which, let’s face it, is often more interesting.

From The Typewriter Is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation:


“That evening, October 17, 1954, he ingested several of the peyote buttons. As the drug took effect, Allen looked out of the window at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. In the San Francisco fog that shrouded the building, he saw the hotel begin to glow with the monstrous face of Moloch, the Phoenician god that was described in the Old Testament as a child-eating demon.”


Perhaps Mr Ginsberg should have stuck to “inoffensive Sir Walter Raleigh Smoking Tobacco”?




From the Californian Digital Newspaper Collection, Madera Tribune No. 58, 11 January 1933:


SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 11. (UP) —Two wealthy San Francisco families were under police guard today following receipt of threatening notes. Police disclosed that a continuous guard was being maintained over J. A. Newcomb, 60, secretary/treasurer of the Huckins-Newcomb company, his wife and their three small children. The family remained in seclusion at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, which is owned by Newcomb’s company. Newcomb received a note, composed of printed letters pasted on wrapping paper, which read in part; “Do you want your babies because I want them. We need a new overcoat, shoes, hat, coat. We wish someone would leave us about $lOO,OOO. I am coming to you.”

The letter was addressed to “S, J. Newcomb,” which led police to believe the author was acquainted with the Newcomb family. S. J. Newcomb is Newcomb’s brother, living at Little Rock, Arkansas. Sheriff Waller B. Sellmer arrested Michael, A. Perez. 37, a gardener, in San Rafael as a suspect in connection with an alleged $3OOO extortion plot against Mrs. Margaret Dollar, widow of Captain Robert Dollar, shipping magnate. The Dollar mansion in San Rafael has been under heavy guard several days as the result of threats to bomb it. The arrest of Perez followed his inability to explain why he rented a typewriter several weeks ago, despite the fact he already owned one. Sheriff Sellmer said the printing in the typewritten note sent to Mrs. Dollar bore striking similarity to that of the rented machine.


Sir Francis Drake, born around 1540-1544 in Devonshire, England, was involved in piracy and illicit slave trading before being chosen in 1577 as the leader of an expedition intended to pass around South America, through the Strait of Magellan, and explore the coast that lay beyond. Drake successfully completed the journey and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I upon his triumphant return. In 1588 he saw action in the English defeat of the Spanish Armada, though he died in 1596 from dysentery after undertaking an unsuccessful raiding mission.

 Sir Walter Raleigh (circa 1554 – 29 October 1618) was an English landed gentleman, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy, and explorer. He rose rapidly in the favour of Queen Elizabeth I and was knighted in 1585. Raleigh was instrumental in the English colonisation of North America and was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, which paved the way for future English settlements. He is  well known for popularising tobacco in England.


Cartoon by Marianne Gingher