My father taught me how to type. It was on a manual typewriter, standard government issue. He cut a rectangular piece out of a paper bag, fastened it to a strip of cardboard, and placed it over the top row of the keys. The paper bag covered my hands and the keys, so that I would have to type by memory.
It seemed a silly exercise at the time. But I did learn to touch type, and with that my fascination with both writing and the machines began. Little did I know that that simple exercise would lead to a Master’s Degree in Journalism, and a large collection of vintage typewriters.
Although considered unremarkable devices by many, typewriters have an important place in modern culture. John Steinbeck used a Hermes Baby and Mark Twain a Remington Model 1. Ernest Hemingway typed his famous works on a number of machines, including a Corona, Hermes Baby, Halda and a Remington.
Not every typewriter was used to write famous stories, but every typewriter tells its own story: who bought it and why, was it manufactured before or after WWII, was it carried across borders as a portable to write to beloved friends?
Here are just a few of the typewriters I own and enjoy, as well as some interesting vintage literature. Most of these have German keyboards. I also have one with Italian & French diacritical marks, a typewriter with a math keyboard from the 1950s, and one with braille bumps!