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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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family
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In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.

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