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Sunday 20 January 2013

The Typewriter Reaches America's High Society

'Using Her Own Fair Fingers'
Did she type with her gloves on?: Bertha Matilde Honoré Palmer
in all her finery, but sans typewriter.
She was a Chicago "cultural leader and tastemaker".
Could Typewriter Topics have possibly been exaggerating a little when, in its June 1907 issue, it reported that typewriters were only just then reaching the "fair" and "bejewelled' fingers of America's high society ladies?
From Typewriter Topics, June 1907. More importantly: What were their typewriters of choice? An Oliver? A Blick? A Remington?
Bertha Matilde Honoré Potter ("one of America's most elegant and energetic women") had certainly shown a great deal of interest in typewriters way before 1907. 
This single keyboard Bar Lock
featured in the official report of the 1893 World's Fair.
Bertha was president of the Board of Lady Managers for the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, a World's Fair that enjoyed a Remington investment and included an extensive typewriter pavilion (where the Blickensderfer was launched on an unsuspecting world). As such, Mrs Potter Palmer had gone to lengths to ensure notables touring the fair had seen the typewriter exhibits.
From Ishbel Ross's Silhouette in Diamonds: 
The Life of Mrs Potter Palmer (1960)
Mrs Potter Palmer was born on May 22, 1849, in Louisville, Kentucky, the silver-spooned daughter of businessman Henry Hamilton Honoré. Known within the family as "Cissie", she became a skilled musician, proficient linguist and brilliant writer. 
She married Chicago millionaire Potter Palmer, 23 years her senior, in 1870 (she was 21, he was a filthy rich 44).
          'Clicking in Elegant Mansions'
The modest castellated Chicago abode of Mrs Potter Palmer.
There's apparently a  typewriter somewhere in there!
Heavily bejewelled Bertha was "beautiful, dashing, quick, and smart; and more than that, she was sure of herself".  She was an early member of the Chicago Woman's Club, part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs; this group of working women met to discuss social problems and develop solutions.  Bertha was, meanwhile, spending and amassing a vast fortune with her French Impressionist art collection: 29 Monets and 11 Renoirs.
In 1893 Bertha sat (umm ... stood?) in her finery
for fashionable Swedish painter Anders Zorn.
Bertha's jewelry was "legendary". According to the author Aline B. Saarinen, "so fabulous were her jewels that a newspaper declared that when she appeared on the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse with a tiara of diamonds as large as lima beans, a corsage panned with diamonds, a sunburst as big as a baseball, a stomacher of diamonds and all the pearls around her neck, Alois Burgskeller of the Metropolitan Opera, who was singing at the ship's concert, was stopped right in the middle of a high note."
Potter Palmer died in 1902 and Bertha on May 5, 1918. Her typewriter is believed to be still alive, somewhere, though no longer in an elegant mansion, no longer provoking business, nor any longer with bejewelled or even fair fingers dancing over its keys.
 'Slipping Bejewelled Fingers
     Over the Keys of the Little Business
                    Provoking Machine'
Meanwhile, over in France, but also from the
June 1907 edition of Typewriter Topics:

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