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19 Authors and Their Typewriters

In the more than 100 years between the widespread introduction of the typewriter and the rise of the word processor, a great many masterpieces have been produced on the handy office machines. Some of those machines are still around, and some are still in use.

1. L. FRANK BAUM

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author used a Smith Premier model typewriter. The LC Smith typewriter company would merge with the Corona typewriter company in 1926, and is now known as Smith-Corona.

2. ERNEST HEMINGWAY

The Farewell to Arms writer used a number of typewriter models in his career, including a Corona #3, a Corona #4, an Underwood Noiseless Portable, and a 1932 Royal Model P that was later discovered to have photo negatives underneath it (when restored, they showed a young Hemingway with his family at their cottage in Walloon Lake, Michigan). His favorite, though, was a Royal Quiet Deluxe.

3. ORSON WELLES

The screenwriter and director wrote Citizen Kane on his portable manual Underwood typewriter, which had his name and Paris address painted on the case. It now belongs to typewriter collector Steve Soboroff.

4. JACK LONDON

Jack London, author of The Call of the Wild, had a Columbia Bar-Lock 10 typewriter that featured separate keyboards with different characters, which he used during his time as a war correspondent—but it was his second wife, Charmian, who used a Remington Standard Typewriter No.7 to type his (very messy) handwritten prose. "If typewriters hadn't been invented by the time I began to write," London reportedly once said, "I doubt if the world would ever have heard of Jack London. No one would have had the patience to read more than a page of my longhand!"

5. DR. SEUSS

The Green Eggs and Ham author's favorite typewriter was a Smith-Corona portable.

6. MARK TWAIN

Remington Typewriter Company via the University of Virginia Library // Public Domain

Twain purchased his first typewriter—most likely a Sholes & Glidden treadle model—in 1874, then upgraded to a Remington No. 2 typewriter, which was introduced in 1878. He claimed in his 1904 autobiography to have written the manuscript for Tom Sawyer on a typewriter, the first ever manuscript to be typed. But most historians think that his book Life on the Mississippi, published in 1882, was actually the first manuscript submitted to a publisher in typed form. It is generally believed that Twain gave up typing years earlier and had his books typed by an assistant.

7. CORMAC MCCARTHY

Cormac McCarthy bought a light blue Lettera 32 Olivetti manual typewriter in 1963 for $50. On it, he wrote The Road, No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, and seven other novels. When Christie's put the typewriter up for auction—a friend had given McCarthy another of the same model typewriter—in 2009, the auction house expected it to fetch around $20,000; instead, it sold for $254,500.

8. MAYA ANGELOU

Poet and activist Maya Angelou used an electric Adler typewriter; it was purchased by Soboroff at Angelou’s estate sale last year for $5000. The device was missing its power cord, but Soboroff doesn't mind. “I don’t care about the cord,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal Now. “I care that Maya Angelou touched it.” (Angelou did have a laptop, but according to her grandson, “The only thing she did on the laptop was play Boggle, then, Oprah got her an iPad, and she played Boggle on that.”)

9. TENNESSEE WILLIAMS

The man behind plays like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire used a variety of machines, including a Remington Portable #5, a Smith-Corona, and several models of Olivetti typewriters. You can see pictures of them here.

10. HELEN KELLER

In her 1903 autobiography The Story of My Life, Keller wrote that she used a Hammond typewriter. "I have tried many machines, and I find the Hammond is the best adapted to the peculiar needs of my work," she wrote. "With this machine movable type shuttles can be used, and one can have several shuttles, each with a different set of characters—Greek, French, or mathematical, according to the kind of writing one wishes to do on the typewriter. Without it, I doubt if I could go to college." Later, she used an LC Smith #5.

11. P.G. WODEHOUSE

Wodehouse—who penned around 100 novels, plus many short stories, articles, and even song lyrics over the course of his career—used a Monarch typewriter (which he supposedly hooked up to a roll of paper so he’d never need to interrupt his typing) in the 1920s, then graduated to a manual Royal desktop model in the 1940s. He upgraded to newer Royal models as he continued to write into his 90s, almost until his death in 1975.

12. DOUGLAS ADAMS

Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on a Hermes Standard 8 typewriter. It went up for sale in 2008, complete with Adams’s autograph on the front plate.

13. LARRY MCMURTRY

The author of Lonesome Dove and Dead Man's Walk uses a Hermes 3000 typewriter. "I love 'em," McMurtry told the Chicago Tribune. "I just find that I like the touch. I've never turned on or used a computer."

14. HARLAN ELLISON

Science fiction writer Harlan Ellison started typing between 1949 and 1951 on a Remington portable typewriter his mother bought at a thrift store. He upgraded to an Olympia in 1952, and was known best to type on an Olympia SG3.

15. AGATHA CHRISTIE

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Agatha Christie got her start writing on her sister’s Empire typewriter, and after a failed experiment in dictation, she became most famously associated with a Remington Home Portable No. 2. But after breaking her wrist in a fall in 1952, she again was writing via dictaphone and a secretary. But Agatha missed the actual writing process, later saying, “There is no doubt that the effort involved in typing or writing does help me in keeping to the point. Economy of wording, I think, is particularly necessary in detective stories. You don’t want to hear the same thing rehashed three or four times over. But it is tempting when one is speaking into a dictaphone to say the same thing over and over again in slightly different words. Of course, one can cut it out later, but that is irritating, and destroys the smooth flow which one gets otherwise.”

16., 17., AND 18. P.J. O'ROURKE, ISAAC ASIMOV, AND HUNTER S. THOMPSON

Humorist P.J. O'Rourke eschews a computer for an IBM Selectric, though he stressed to Radio Free Europe that he is not a technophobe. "I own a computer. I don't use the Internet very much ... It just doesn't help me very much," continuing,

[T]he ease and speed that one can put words into some sort of permanent state—screen, paper, whatever—does not improve the words that are put there. The real work goes on behind the eyes. And I find, I've used a typewriter for 40 years and so using a typewriter, [it's] simply automatic, it doesn't get in the way. I think [and] it goes straight to the page. I don't have to think about what I'm doing. ... When I try and use the computer I have to think about what I'm doing because I keep hitting the control key instead of the shift [key] and so on and so forth.

Isaac Asimov and Hunter S. Thompson also preferred the IBM Selectric. Asimov kept several in his different apartments so he wouldn’t have to carry one.   

19. DANIELLE STEEL

Danielle Steel uses a 1946 Olympia manual typewriter, which she named Ollie. "I paid $20 for it a million years ago, at the beginning of my career, in a second hand typewriter store. And I love it. I can’t write on anything else, and wouldn’t try," she wrote in a 2011 blog post bemoaning her problems with modern technology:

"I could never even write on an electric typewriter that takes off at the merest touch. And I can’t write on a computer. It just doesn’t work for me (except for email) ... And the thought that a computer would EAT 3 chapters of a book, or all of it, is horrifying to me. So I’m definitely sticking to my ancient typewriter, still going strong (best investment I ever made, 116 books later), which very politely only eats what I feed it. My typewriter’s name is Ollie (an Olympia, a German hand made table top manual typewriter, which weighs as much as I do. It is an incredibly fine machine. And I’m happy to say it’s older than I am)."

In January 2015, Steel was still using Ollie. She told The New York Times that “My favorite place to write is my office, because it’s small and cozy, in any of my homes. I always write in a small room, on my 1946 Olympia Typewriter, but I can write anywhere if I have to—even longhand on a yellow pad. It is a passion and a burning drive.” By November, Steel tweeted that "the typing paper i've used since i was 19, & wrote 146 books on, has been discontinued." It was, she said, like "losing an old friend ... my old typewriter and i are very sad!"

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History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
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It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
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Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
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With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


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Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

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Miss Cellania
10 Famous Birthdays in May
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some of our favorite historical figures were born in May. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a few of the notable people we'll be celebrating.

1. SIGMUND FREUD: MAY 6, 1856


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Sigmund Freud is known as the Father of Psychoanalysis. The Vienna psychiatrist developed a theory of the unconscious mind, where the id, ego, and superego struggle to balance each other out in the human psyche. Freud attributed his patients' neuroses to childhood trauma, often cloaked in a sexual conflict. His work was at first deemed perverted, but his ideas started to spread after a series of lectures in the U.S. in 1909. After Freud's death in 1939, Freudian theory was hailed as genius in mainstream culture. But beginning in the 1960s, Freud's theories started to fall out of favor in academia and are largely discredited today. However, his attempts to map the psyche gave us the language we still use to discuss personality and mental health.

2. FRED ASTAIRE: MAY 10, 1899


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Fred Astaire began dancing when he was just four years old. Soon he and his sister Adele were in a performing arts school and started dancing professionally. First came vaudeville, then Broadway, and when Adele married, Fred headed to Hollywood. Producers were at first reluctant to cast Astaire as a leading man because of his looks, but his dancing soon won them over. Astaire appeared in dozens of films between 1933 and 1981, 10 of them with with dance partner Ginger Rogers. Although his later films did not revolve around dance numbers, Astaire was seen dancing in an episode of Battlestar Galactica as late as 1979, when he was 80 years old.

3. MARTHA GRAHAM: MAY 11, 1894


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Martha Graham wanted to dance from an early age, but her parents disapproved, so she didn't study dance until college. Her wildly emotional dancing led her to performances in New York, and in 1926 she established the Martha Graham Dance Company. Through the company, Graham promoted modern dance as a spiritual and emotional outlet. Over time, she came to be seen as a genius of the genre. Graham danced until she was in her '70s, and continued to choreograph dances until her death at age 91.

4. KATHARINE HEPBURN: MAY 12, 1907


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Katharine Hepburn caught the acting bug in college and headed to the stages of New York upon graduation. She was spotted in a Broadway production and was offered the lead in RKO's 1932 film A Bill of Divorcement. That kicked off a movie career of more than 60 years, in which she was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four. Hepburn was a certified box office draw, but off screen she refused to behave like a Hollywood star. She spoke her mind, wore pants, and even appeared in public without makeup occasionally. Hepburn was also known for her devotion to the love of her life, actor Spencer Tracy, who was separated from his wife but refused to divorce her. The last of nine films they made together was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in 1967, just before Tracy died. Hepburn continued making movies through 1994, when she was 87 years old.

5. PIERRE CURIE: MAY 15, 1859


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French physicist Pierre Curie is often overlooked in favor of Marie Curie, his brilliant student and later wife. Together they discovered radium and polonium, and did extensive research into radioactivity. Pierre, Marie, and Henri Becquerel jointly won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for their research. Curie might have gone onto many further discoveries, but he was killed in 1906 when a horse-drawn cart ran over him in Paris. If he had lived longer, Curie might have also succumbed to illness caused by radiation, as did his wife, daughter, and son-in-law—all Nobel Prize winners.

6. MARY CASSATT: MAY 22, 1844


Mary Cassatt via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Renowned American painter Mary Cassatt wanted to become an artist, but her parents objected and her Philadelphia art school didn't take women students seriously. So she went to Paris and studied privately under teachers from Ecole des Beaux-Arts, as the school did not admit women. Gradually, Cassatt's works sold and her reputation grew. She drew the attention of Impressionist Edgar Degas, and worked with him for years. By 1886, she left the Impressionist movement behind, and afterward refused to be defined by any art genre. Cassatt's body of work often featured women and children in their everyday lives. Her most memorable painting, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, broke with tradition by portraying a child in a naturalistic, casual pose instead of a formal portrait.

7. SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE: MAY 22, 1859


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Arthur Conan Doyle is best remembered for his many short stories and novels featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. But Conan Doyle worked full time as a medical doctor until an illness convinced him he had to choose between writing and medicine. Years later, Conan Doyle volunteered with the British army to fight in the Second Boer War, but because of his age (40), he was only allowed to serve as a medical doctor. Upon his return from South Africa, he entered politics in Scotland, but he lost his only race. In 1907, Conan Doyle became involved in a real criminal case in which he helped George Edalji, a solicitor of Indian heritage, beat an animal cruelty conviction by employing the observational technique that Sherlock Holmes used. The fallout from that case led to the establishment of the appeals system in Britain. Conan Doyle also wrote a science fiction novel The Lost World, published in 1912. It was so successful that he wrote four sequels.

8. MARGARET FULLER: MAY 23, 1810


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Born in Massachusetts in 1810, Margaret Fuller was a precocious child who learned several languages but was not welcome at college because of her sex. She became friends with both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who admired her philosophical thinking. Fuller became a literary critic for the New-York Tribune and a well-known intellectual.

In 1845, Fuller made history with Woman in the Nineteenth Century, often considered the first major feminist work published in the United States. This groundbreaking book began as an essay in Emerson's transcendentalist journal The Dial called "The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women," in which Fuller argued that men and women must see each other as equals before they can transcend to divine love. Fuller reasoned that ignoring our commonality was the base of much of America's sins, from the slaughter of Native Americans to the slavery of African Americans.

Fuller went on to become a foreign correspondent and the first American female war correspondent, covering the Italian revolution. She also fell in love with an Italian man and had a child with him. On their return trip to the U.S. in 1850 aboard a merchant ship, a hurricane struck the ship near Fire Island, killing all three. Only Fuller's 20-month-old son was found.

9. SALLY RIDE: MAY 26, 1951

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space, aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Ride was a nationally ranked tennis player when she was a teenager. Billie Jean King urged her to turn pro, but Ride went to Stanford University instead. She earned both a bachelor of arts in English and a bachelor of science in physics in 1973, and a PhD in physics in 1978. Ride then immediately applied for NASA's astronaut program. She flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and '84, and was scheduled for a third, but that mission was canceled after the Challenger explosion in 1986. After leaving NASA in 1987, Ride devoted her life to encouraging students to study science—especially girls. She founded the organization Sally Ride Science for just that purpose, and wrote five children's books encouraging interest in science. Ride died of cancer at age 61 in 2012.

10. "WILD BILL" HICKOK: MAY 27, 1837


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James Butler Hickok was a farmer, soldier, stagecoach driver, spy, lawman, scout, sharpshooter, gambler, and Wild West showman. Many of those occupations came after "Wild Bill" Hickok gained publicity for killing three men in an 1861 shootout. The newspapers followed his exploits from that time on, often embellishing the details until Hickok was more of a legend than the adventurer he was. His various occupations took him to different parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Hickok was playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota, when Jack McCall shot him in the back of the head and killed him in 1876. The hand Hickok was holding at the time—a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights—became known as the "dead man's hand."

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