Typewriter of the moment: Mark Twain’s Hammond


Still hoping to find a photo of Samuel Clemens at work on a typewriter.

But until then, this one will have to do:

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter, Jerry J. Davis photo

A Hammond typewriter that once belonged to Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain. Photographed by Jerry J. Davis, in an unstated location, probably Hannibal, Missouri

A Hammond typewriter, from oobject.com; perhaps not the typewriter that WAS pictured above; but Twain used this one, and the link to the photo above has died but good.

A Hammond typewriter, from oobject.com; perhaps not the typewriter that WAS pictured above; but Twain used this one, and the link to the photo above has died but good.

Other photos of Twain’s typewriter must exist; and since we know of at least two such machines, there must be some photos of each of them, no?  I wish museums and historians would consider the value of images of some of these objects, and make high quality photos of some of these famous machines.

Twain’s fascination with technology shines clearly in his work.  From his earliest writings we get lyrical and accurate descriptions of the mechanical workings of Mississippi riverboats, for one example.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court paints a long paean to technology of the late 19th century, transplanted in the tale several centuries earlier.

Some accounts claim The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be the first manuscript completed by typewriter — this one, perhaps? TwainQuotes.com features what may be a description of this history:

…I will now claim — until dispossessed — that I was the first person in the world to apply the typewriter to literature…The early machine was full of caprices, full of defects — devilish ones. It had as many immoralities as the machine of today has virtues. After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character, so I thought I would give it to Howells…He took it home to Boston, and my morals began to improve, but his have never recovered.

– “The First Writing Machines”

As a publisher and investor, Twain pushed the development of automated typesetting machines to quickly publish the memoirs of former President Ulysses S Grant.  Though the books were set quickly, and the best-selling memoirs provided an income for Grant’s widow, the technology was still balky and cost Twain his own fortune.

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter - TwainQuotes.com

Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from TwainQuotes.com. Is this the same machine pictured above? There are similarities, but differences more than just the angle.

We shouldn’t be surprised with his acerbic comments on the machines; Twain’s caustic humor targeted everything in modern life.  TwainQuotes.com notes a fraction of a letter to his longtime friend:  Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from TwainQuotes.com

The machine is at Bliss’s, grimly pursuing its appointed mission, slowly & implacably rotting away at another man’s chances for salvation.

I have sent Bliss word not to donate it to a charity (though it is a pity to fool away a chance to do a charity an ill turn), but to let me know when he has got his dose, because I’ve got another candidate for damnation. You just wait a couple of weeks & if you don’t see the TypeWriter coming tilting along toward Cambridge with the raging hell of an unsatisfied appetite in its eye, I lose my guess.

– Letter to William Dean Howells, 25 June 1875

Were things really so bad?

I regret to note that in our visit to Hannibal last June I did not encounter any typewriters.  Clearly, I’ll have to go back.

Tip of the old scrub brush to OObjects.

More:

One Response to Typewriter of the moment: Mark Twain’s Hammond

Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: