Still hoping to find a photo of Samuel Clemens at work on a typewriter.
But until then, this one will have to do:
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.
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.
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.
- Twain aboard ship – 1896 photo, 1897 etching (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Birthday of Twain and Churchill: Happy Whiskey and Cigar Day 2012! (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Typewriters: an illustrated guide and a debt of thanks | James Robinson (guardian.co.uk)
- Typewriter of the moment: An old one, manual or electric (yours?) (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Review: “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain (slclteens.wordpress.com)
- 177 years of Mark Twain (neatorama.com)
- “The Big Metal Albatross, and Me” (Threshhold Girl)
- UK’s last typewriter produced (UKMade)