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
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
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
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!"