Breaking: the 9-5-52 Project Artichoke report wasn’t typed on St. Clair Switzer’s typewriter*

*but that doesn’t mean Switzer didn’t write it

Sigh. It would have been so unbelievably cool, wouldn’t it? To be able to say that a CIA Project Artichoke report was typed up on Doc Switzer’s typewriter—a 1947 Smith Crappola, I’m guessing—with its wayward y’s and c’s and capital R’s, would have been too, too cool. A smoking typewriter could have saved this girl a lot of additional sweat and heartache and saved you all from having to read any more 3,000-word blog posts. (Oh, relax. This one’s shorter.) It would have been time for the party planning to begin because we would have attained our goal. Because, you guys, we’ll probably never know for sure what happened to Ron Tammen. The only thing we can probably hope to know is whether St. Clair Switzer indeed had CIA ties. And if the CIA was anywhere near Tammen during the second semester of 1952-53, then they made Tammen disappear. Plain and Simple. 

But the report that had been written for the Psychological Strategy Board on September 5, 1952, wasn’t written on St. Clair Switzer’s typewriter. We know this because a forensic document examiner compared the three surviving pages of that report to a job application and letters that Switzer had typed up in 1951. She’s certain that they came from different typewriters, and now, so am I.

In the world of forensic document examination, a questioned document (Q) is compared to a known document (K) to see if they came from the same source. In our case, the Q is the 1952 Project Artichoke report and the K is Switzer’s job application and letters. Our examiner, Karen Nobles, concentrated on the typefaces of the two documents to arrive at her conclusion, and the evidence is compelling. 

Here’s what she found:

  • the uppercase M: the center does not extend to the baseline on the questioned (Q) text, but does extend to the baseline in the known (K) text
  • the number 2 has a flat base on the Q, but a curvy base in the K
  • the bottom of the number 3 extends downward in the Q, but curves up in the K; the top of the 3 in the Q is rounded and in the K it is flat
  • the number 4 in the Q has an open top, but in the K it is closed
  • the number 5 in the Q has a flag on the top that extends upward and the bottom bowl extends downward; in the K the number 5 is flat on top and curves upward in the bottom bowl
  • the top of the number 6 extends upward in the Q, but in the K it curves downward and has a ball ending
  • the number seven may or may not have a downward extension on the top left in the Q but in the K, the 7 has a significant downward extension
  • the number 8 is much narrower in the Q than in the K
  • the number 9 extends downward in the Q, but curves upward and has a ball ending in the K

She also created this chart that shows the above differences in the numbers and letters:

So the report wasn’t typed on Switzer’s typewriter after all—OK, fine. That doesn’t mean that Switzer wasn’t on the RDB’s ad hoc committee or even that he didn’t write the report. It only means that our job isn’t over and we need to keep searching for clues.

14 thoughts on “Breaking: the 9-5-52 Project Artichoke report wasn’t typed on St. Clair Switzer’s typewriter*

  1. In hindsight, I suppose the government wouldn’t be too thrilled with secret reports being typed out at a public university, even in a private office and supposing they were delivered to a superior’s hands afterward, so more likely it was typed elsewhere.

    1. Agree…I still think he wrote it, just not on his home typewriter. These were highly classified topics they were discussing, so I’m sure they were using strict precautionary measures to maintain secrecy.

      1. IIRC, you could sometimes lift what was previously typed from the ribbon just because of the pressure of the letters striking it, kind of like getting info from a piece of paper that was under the one that was written on, so that wouldn’t have been great for an organization knowingly breaking the Geneva Convention, either.

      2. So true! Incidentally, I watched the movie Jagged Edge with Jeff Bridges and Glenn Close last night (Hulu) and a wonky 1940s Corona (no Smith then, I guess?) factors heavily in the plot. That’s all I’ll say, in case anyone decides to watch….

  2. I don’t want to give this one up. Can you ask the expert if it’s possible the “psy chology” issue might be related to the typist, and not the typerwriter? I mean, okay, the numbers are clearly different, but could it be the same person using two different typewriters?

    1. I asked the forensic document examiner about the spacing issue, particularly with the ‘y’ and ‘c’ in Psychology. Here’s her response:

      “The spacing issue is most likely caused by the typestyle. Typewriters in the 1950s had monospacing. This means that each letter, number, or character was allotted the same amount of space. In more modern typewriters, the characters are proportionally spaced, meaning they are allotted more or less space to make the body of text ‘look’ evenly spaced. For example, an uppercase I was given less space than an uppercase S. Typewriters, through use and abuse, can also develop both vertical and horizontal alignment problems, but I think monospacing is the cause in this case. I typed the word Psychological on both a 1942 Smith-Corona (top two) and a 1945 Underwood (bottom) to give you an idea of how it looks on different typewriters with different typestyles.”

  3. A little disappointing. But I’m glad your expert gave a little warning beforehand to soften the blow. Ahh well, keep plugging.

    1. Yeah, it would have been awesome, and the details you noticed were dead on. I’ll be honest–I didn’t know (or I may have forgotten) that typewriters had such different typefaces. It was an educational exercise, to be sure. Thank you for your always excellent input, Stevie J.

  4. I so admire your efforts and diligence Jennifer. I sure hope you find that lucky break that explains everything! I’m behind you 1,000 percent!!!

  5. Good morning dear Jennifer.
    I looked back in time at the interview Marcia gave for Chris.
    I haven’t heard her voice since the day before she passed, August 30th. in the emergency room.
    As I held her hand on 8.31 and gave her to Jesus, my words of finding out about her brother Ron is printed in my heart.
    On that Sunday morning in the emergency room, she told me, “I want to go home!”
    “You will,” I said.
    Did Ron Tammen, Jr. say or want the same thing?
    Did he, like Marcia, have a choice?
    As the tears roll down my face, my, our apartment is now packed and ready for my new apartment on Saturday.
    It is hard, very hard.
    I know where Marcia is now.
    As for Ron, Jr.
    A type writer could hold the key.
    Did the professor or the secretary use their own personal typewriters? Or did someone furnish them one and dispose of it.
    Jule E. Miller

    1. Hi Jule — Thank you so much for posting these thoughts and for reminding us how personal this story had been for Marcia and for you as well. I continue to think Switzer wrote the report–just maybe on a government-issue typewriter instead of the one he used to type his ARDC job application on. It’s OK — these sorts of setbacks are all part of the search. Best of luck in your move!

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