Typewriters highlight museum exhibit

Photo of several people using some of the eight typewriters available for visitors to try out at the American Writers Museum in Chicago.
Test driving typewriters is a big attraction at Chicago’s American Writers Museum, which just opened its “Tools of the Trade” exhibit.

Oops! Never mind my comment below about the birthyear of Gwendolyn Brooks’ Hermes Rocket. I totally misread that as “1954.” It actually is from 1964 — and I wish I were of a similar vintage!

This photo of a typewritten page shows the following. Saturday, June 22, 2019, Chicago, USA. Smith-Corona Silent—Super; 1954; Pica. Museum exhibit is just my type. Thanks to my ex-boss Laura Strom, I got to accompany her to the preview of a new exhibit at Chicago's American Writers Museum called Tools of the Trade. It’s about typewriters mostly. In addition, visitors can test drive the actual models that  are featured in most of the displays. I especially enjoyed trying out an Olympia SG—1 and appreciated its snappy, powerful operation. Another outstanding model on view for testing was a Smith—Corona Super Sterling whose incredible response surprised me. As for the behind—glass typewriters once owned  by famous folks, the most amazing one was a 1902 Bar-Lock owned by Jack London. The thing looks like an Enigma machine — there are separate keys for upper- and lower-case letters. There's a 1926 Underwood 4-Bank once owned by Orson Welles that I found particularly interesting since its keys are so tiny that I can’t possibly imagine Orson managing to have plunged his sausage snappers onto them with any degree of accuracy. Other celebrity machines on view once were the prized possessions of Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Ray Bradbury, and Mae West. My favorite celebrity typewriter was the Hermes Rocket owned by Gwendolyn Brooks — made in 1954  just like me! There’s also a 1939 Royal Portable DeLuxe owned by Jerry Siegel, co—creator of Superman. This exhibit is definitely worth seeing.

Museum display shows Gwendolyn Brooks' Hermes Rocket typewriter. The typewriter is streamlined and graceful, just like Brooks' writing.

Museum display shows Jack London's 1902 Bar-Lock typewriter. This machine bears little resemblence to later typewriters and has separate keys for uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as keys for numbers seemingly scattered at random. It could pass for a spy coding and decoding device.

4 thoughts on “Typewriters highlight museum exhibit

  1. Glad to see the SG1 there. I feel bad for Brooks’ typewriter. It looks like it has some more poems waiting to come out of it.

    In other news, London used that Bar Locke as a dogsled.


    • According to the museum, it is. What I can’t figure out is which spelling is correct. It’s “Bar Locke” on the exhibit’s display board but “Bar-Lock” on the machine itself.


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