By Paul Kennedy
Writers and typewriters are like musicians and their instruments, often inseparable. Here’s a selection of famous authors and their favorite writing machines.
Agatha Christie was famously associated with a Remington Home Portable No. 2. After breaking her wrist in a fall in 1952, she wrote via a dictaphone and a secretary. Christie dearly missed the actual writing process, 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.”
Hemingway used a number of typewriters, his favorite being a Royal Quiet Deluxe. The author also used a 1932 Royal Model P that was later discovered to have photo negatives underneath it showing a young Hemingway with his family at their cottage in Walloon Lake, Mich.
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. His wife, Charmian, used a Remington Standard Typewriter No.7 to type his famously messy handwritten work. “If typewriters hadn’t been invented by the time I began to write,” London 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!”
L. FRANK BAUM
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum, used a Smith Premier model. The LC Smith typewriter company merged with the Corona typewriter company in 1926, becoming Smith-Corona.
DR. SEUSS (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
Seuss made the world a better place for children of all ages with Green Eggs and Ham and dozens of other books. His favorite typewriter was a Smith-Corona portable.
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. Christie’s auctioned the typewriter in 2009. It sold for $254,000. Glenn Horowitz, a rare-book dealer who handled the auction for McCarthy, told The New York Times: “When I grasped that some of the most complex, almost otherworldly fiction of the postwar era was composed on such a simple, functional, frail-looking machine, it conferred a sort of talismanic quality to Cormac’s typewriter. It’s as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife.”
McMurtry wrote Lonesome Dove and Dead Man’s Walk on 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.”
MARK TWAIN (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
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. Most historians think his book Life on the Mississippi, published in 1882, was the first manuscript submitted to a publisher in typed form.
Poet and activist Maya Angelou used an electric Adler typewriter; it was purchased by Steve Soboroff, who collects typewriters used by famous people. Soboroff paid $5,000 for the typewriter despite its missing power cord. “I don’t care about the cord,” he told the Winston-Salem Journal Now. “I care that Maya Angelou touched it.”
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). My typewriter’s name is Ollie (an Olympia, a German handmade 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).”
Paul Kennedy is a content editor of Antique Trader.