Writer + typewriter = a classic look for the 20th century


Very much like this one.

Somewhere in the back of my large garage, I have the Smith-Corona typewriter my parents gave me for Christmas in the 1970s. It was a close companion in Ann Arbor during my university years.

I have fantasies of life in a post-earthquake, post-Armageddon world without electricity or the worldwide web, where we have been reduced to gnawing on turnips pulled from the ground – but I will still be able to pump out copy on my old Smith Corona. I know, I know, every joint in the old machine has grown stiff and needs cleaning and oiling, and the typewriter ribbon has long since dried out – where would I get a new one? (You young ‘uns under forty don’t even know what I’m talking about, do you?)


Dress not included.

I don’t indulge this fantasy often – as someone who would have great organizational difficulties writing without a searchable backlog of all my files at my fingertips, and since I nowadays have to write with a protective mitt on each hand, it’s hard to see how I would pound on manual typewriter without destroying both my wrists within the first few hours. It’s hard for me to get sentimental about the olden days.

However, it looks like one website I just found panders precisely to that nostalgia – Oz Typewriter here (it even won a Qwerty award – that’s a word that will mean nothing to Millennials, either). It’s home page even features a typewriter crime. On a page for writers and their typewriters, it has combox with comments like these: “Taylor Caldwell is working on a Remington – you can tell by the downturned carriage return lever. That’s a Hermes 9 that Marcuse is typing on. Amazing that Barthelme (with a wonderful ironic smile) is using such an old typewriter, with return lever on the right (LC Smith?). The margin stop on Schlesinger‘s machine looks like a Smith-Corona product to me. Huxley‘s typewriter is a Remington – you can tell from the folding tip of the return lever. My guess is a Streamliner.”

I have to say, these writers look terrific by their computers, Arthur Miller, Marguerite Duras, Salman Rushdie, and Stanford’s René Girard. We include Brendan Gill, too – the longtime New Yorker writer will be familiar to those who attended the now-defunct Stanford Publishing Course. There’s lots more on the website here – although Aldous Huxley looks a little confused and unhappy about the whole affair. Maybe his typewriter ribbon dried out.

Arthur Miller 1955

That’s Arthur Miller on a Royal in 1955.

Rushdie 001

A pre-fatwa Salman Rushdie on an … electric Corona? … in 1981.

Brendan Gill 1970

The New Yorker’s Brendan Gill on an Olivetti in 1970.

Susan Sontag 1972

Susan Sontag in 1972 – but can you identify that typewriter?

Rene Girard 1979

René Girard on an Olivetti DL, in Paris, 1979.

Alberto Moravia 1950

Alberto Moravia on a Remington, 1950.

Marguerite Duras 1955

Marguerite Duras, pounding it out on her Olivetti ICO MP1, in 1955.

Aldous Huxley 1946

Aldous Huxley hammering away on a … Royal? … in 1946.

3 Responses to “Writer + typewriter = a classic look for the 20th century”

  1. Marshal Says:

    Aldous Huxley is typing on a Remington Streamliner, similar to the Remington Rand De Luxe Model 5, from approximatley 1941.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    I’ll have to take your word for it.

  3. Marshal Says:

    You can tell from the carriage return lever.