One weekend last month, I attended an amazing gathering so ultra-nerdy that, according to someone living with me who will remain anonymous, “it makes the World Fantasy Convention look cool.” Hmm . . . Well, I’m talking, of course, about the Annual International Gathering of Typewriter Collectors. I don’t think anyone really knows what the proper name of it is. It’s commonly referred to simply as “Herman’s” — “Are you going to Herman’s this year?” — because Herman is our gracious host, the owner of the museum where it’s held each fall, where something like nine hundred (900) rare, vintage, and antique typewriters and related paraphernalia are on display. Nearly a hundred of us gathered this time — my first time, in fact — some from as far away as Italy, South America, Toronto, and the West Coast, as well as from points all across the U.S. And it is a GATHERING!

I am pictured here with a working Sholes & Glidden Type Writer, first manufactured by the Remington Arms Company and sold commercially beginning in 1874.

In the above photo, to the left of the Sholes & Glidden is a replica of the Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, patented in 1870, a machine famously used by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Here’s a better look at the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer. Christopher Latham Sholes — or perhaps a close relative of his — created the QWERTY keyboard; it appears on this machine and is still the keyboard layout most common today.

It was a weekend filled with activity: lots of buying, selling, and trading . . . presentations on typewriter history . . . typewriter repairs and consultations . . . lively discussions . . . speed-typing contests . . . merry eating and drinking . . . a typewriter beauty contest . . . two screenings of the fantastic new documentary¬†California Typewriter, starring typewriter enthusiast Tom Hanks . . . and best of all, the conversations, from early till quite late — the kindling and rekindling of friendships.

The Sholes & Glidden was mounted on the Remington sewing machine table; the foot treadle operated the carriage-return mechanism. With the Civil War over and the demand for firearms greatly decreased, Remington had to find something else to produce — and they found typewriters!

It was great to meet many friends I’d previously known only through correspondence.

One event was a silent auction, with typewriters to bid on lined up here. (No, I didn’t buy any . . . of these.)

Here’s a Hammond, the kind of typewriter that J. R. R. Tolkien particularly favored, perhaps because it doesn’t matter how hard or softly you tap the keys — you get a nice, uniform print:

Hammond: with its type shuttle (as opposed to typebars), it was a kind of forerunner of the much later IBM Selectric.

The museum goes on and on . . .

The Wall of Blickensderfers

And on and on . . .

Shelves and shelves of history

Some from Japan . . .

Azuma Type

Some pretty silly . . .

Fur-lined Smith-Corona portable

Some sillier still . . .

Is that ten-point type?

Some silver-plated . . .

When writers need to reflect

‘Twas a wonderful time had by all.

Anyway — I had to prove to my friend Mr. Brown Snowflake that typewriters don’t hinder blogging at all. Sometimes they provide grist. We had fun taking some into my wife’s classrooms, too, for students to use in creative writing assignments:

Typewriters in the college classroom — students loved them!

Then there were the poems-on-demand I typed for customers on the spot at the recent local BookFest:

Royal Model O, 1930s

I may not manage to post as often as in the old days, but I’m still here. The lights are on, and there’s coffee.

4 Responses to Gathering

  1. I am Mister Brown Snowflake says:

    From the Cake-and-Eat-It files: I want my blog name and avatar back! waaahhh!

    I rejoice (I’d do a little dance, but dare not cause structural damage to this fragile building) in seeing our host post!

    I told our gracious host he need not post with anything like the frequency of the halcyon days of yore, but once a month or so, just to let us have a jumping off point … I am confident there are enough old school ABCDEFers (A Blog Community of Durbin Entry Followers) still around to carry the weight for awhile, and I am sure Fred will be checking in from time to time.

    The museum is impressive, as is the fact that good Dr. Durbin (whose patience, methinks, is becoming legendary LOL) had students actually admit to enjoying typewriting. Assign them a 3,000 word paper and let us see how they feel … LOL.

    OK gang, our host has done his part! Now let us do ours!

  2. fsdthreshold says:

    About the classes using typewriters (we took in 15 of mine so that every student could use one!), Julie said it was the first time that students weren’t watching the clock at the end of the hour — the end of class actually surprised them! Several stayed a little after to talk with me about typewriters, and a few asked about how they might find typewriters of their own. Of course I pointed them in the right directions. The funniest moment was when we noticed that the tech guys in the computer lab next door to this classroom had their noses up against the plate glass window, staring at our classroom full of typewriter use in amused wonder.

  3. I am Mister Brown Snowflake says:

    That is great! At a recent Iowa State football game I covered I ran into a student I knew and noted she was happily texting away. Who was she contacting? A friend not four of five rows away, someone she could have reached in one minute. Sigh.

  4. Jhagman says:

    Fred has a doppleganger! I was covering a break at cashwrap, looking at our bargain books when I noticed this dapper fellow who was the spitting image of Fred, I asked if he needed help, “no thank you”, he said. He was wearing a light dressy coat, like a European would, even though it was over a 100 degrees outside. He carried a fancy satchel shoulder bag. His haircut was pure Fred, it was very freaky. This is one time I wish I had a smart phone, the photo would freak Fred out! I hope everyone is having a good Summer, I am reading Claudio Magris and David Lindsay. Cheers!

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