Writers, Typewriters, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

What’s still a potent symbol for writers, even years (make that decades) after falling out of use?

L.C. Smith Typewriter - keyboard detail

Typewriters of course. And to carry it one step further, typewriter keys carry the symbols that make up our language. This is the vintage 1940s L.C. Smith typewriter my mother learned to type with.

Placing it on the newspaper for a photo op felt symbolic too…

1940s L.C. Smith Typewriter

Note that this typewriter is “super speed” — I don’t know how the space-bar got broken. Maybe someone was typing too fast…?

Here’s Jr-High me with the typewriter, supervised by Pete the Parakeet. Hipsters take note; my glasses might be back in style soon.  And, that space bar was just fine back then — I swear.

I learn to type on the L.C. Smith

This picture surfaced a couple of weeks ago, and deftly illustrates one of the dangers of finding old photos — they expose the dorkiness factor.

Another find when unpacking boxes, an antique green Oliver No. 9 Standard “Printype” —

Olivetti typewriter, Standard No. 9

From this angle it resembles a butterfly.

The keys are loops that come down toward the center from either side. I’m fascinated by the FIG key. I’m not sure, but I think it’s like a CAP key for the top row. I like the slightly offset  G* key too. It’s from 1912, folks, at 103 years old it’s OK to be a little out of line.

The Oliver was one of my first ever thrift store finds, and yes, I should have known better. At the time, I thought I’d have it cleaned and restored, but then computers came along and I never looked back.

Just one more  — this view of my father’s old Remington portable looks like it’s smiling despite its decrepit ribbon.  I never saw him use it. I was in love with its pop-up keys (they fold down so it can fit in its case). I thought I was rescuing it from the dust of his service station, but I didn’t get around to restoring it either.

Vintage Remington portable typewriter - detail

Now, what shall I do with my typewriter collection?

For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

38 thoughts on “Writers, Typewriters, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol

  1. Ah, typewriters! You look like a journalist with those glasses on, plodding away at writing an article 😀 Very cool. I remember as a kid, my uncle’s factory had a typewriter that he used to type letters on. I had a go at it a few times myself, and if there ever was a typo made, he would use paper whitening to whipe it out and retype the word again. Then, like in your case, computers came along and we never touched the typewriter again 😀

    • Ah yes, “White-Out” — there was also a liquid kind that could be painted on. Every once in a while I find a little bottle of it that has long ago dried up. There were also typewriter ribbons that had both a red and a black track, so that some words or letters could be red. I’ve forgotten quite how that worked, didn’t think of it until just now. Maybe typewriters will make a come-back, like vinyl records.

      • Yes, the liquid kind was the one that I was particularly fond of. It smelled, but it did the job. I’ve never pulled a typewriter apart before, never got a feeling for its insides. Perhaps we might see more and more typewriters in museums at some point.

      • I like that thought — typewriters in museums would be great fun. There are so many different designs of them, different keyboard layouts and different capabilities. Oh, and I just remembered “typewriter tables”, little tables made especially to hold a typewriter at the right height, with a fold-out wing on each side for papers (a place for the left handed and a place for the right handed).

  2. I kept my mom’s and my old typewriters for a long while. I think they are beautiful machines! There is an artist near me who makes jewelry out of the old keys; they are fascinating pieces – bracelets and pendants, etc.

    • Typewriters are just old enough now to have a kind of steam-punk aura, don’t you think? Jewelry from typewriter keys would be great — sort of like using scrabble letters in art pieces. (I keep wanting to do that)

  3. I love looking at typewriters, and what a fab photo of you with one… love the glasses! I have my grandma’s old typewriter on a glass table in my living room, I don’t use it often as it’s a job to type with when you’re used to a slimline keyboard, but it’s beautiful to look at and nice to have a piece of her in my home. 🙂

  4. Didn’t you sit behind me in English class? You look like someone I knew then. And my typewriters (saved because I couldn’t part with them) are the right vintage to fit your collection. I just won’t say “which” vintage.

  5. I think I miss typewriters; then I remember how often I had to retype whole pages and maybe … I miss the sound though, and that wonderful arm-flinging carriage return.

  6. DON’T give them away. They have value! I once interviewed author Terry Kay at his home near Athens and he has an extensive collection of old typewriters. At the time, he still preferred writing his books on his favorite instead of on a computer! (He liked the cadence of the keys — said the sound gave him inspiration!)

  7. I wish I had any old pictures of me or my gram at her antique typewriter. My mom still has it so I think I’ll go take a picture of it. She’s a hoarder as well, thank heavens!

  8. Wow, this is beautiful! My dad’s got his old typewriter stored away somewhere and I really want to find and use it someday. Hope it still works though… 🙂

  9. Pingback: birth |100 Emotions (a sketching challenge) | Ramisa the Authoress

  10. Pingback: birth |100 Emotions (a sketching challenge) | Ramisa the Authoress

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