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Saturday 20 December 2014

Twain's Typewriters

This image of Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter appeared in American newspapers in early November 1938 as part of the widely syndicated Believe It Or Not --- By Ripley panel. The drawing is of the Hammond which I believe is now in the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Is it a Hammond 1 Universal or a Hammond No 2? I can't tell.
There are also claims that the Hammond below (also a model No 2, though a later version) was used by Twain, and I guess it's possible (though unlikely) he may have had more than one Hammond.
The Hammond 1 Universal with straight keyboard is dated to June 1890 by Paul Robert in The Typewriter Sketchbook. I gather from Paul Lippman's American Typewriters that the model 2 was launched in 1893. But I remain confused on the different Hammond models and the year they emerged.
Thirteen years before the Ripley's panel appeared, in August 1925, Alex Miller wrote a Washington County column in The Davenport Democrat and Leader (Iowa) in which he described being taken on a tour of Hannibal by its then mayor, Maurice Anderson. Miller visited Twain's boyhood home:
Twain with Cable
The next year, 1926, Albert Bigelow Paine, claimed to have used the very same typewriter to write Twain's biography:
Albert Bigelow Paine
As well as being Twain's authorised biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine was also his literary executor and the first editor of his papers. Paine (July 10, 1861-April 9, 1937) published the biography in 1912, two years after Twain's death, and Twain's letters in 1917. Paine was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, relocating to Bentonsport, Iowa, when he was one. He later moved to St Louis, where he trained as a photographer, eventually setting up as a dealer in photographic supplies in Fort Scott, Kansas. Paine sold out in 1895 to become a full-time writer, moving to New York. He wrote in several genres, including fiction, humour and verse, and among his works are several children's books, including The Hollow Tree and The Arkansas Bear (both 1898); a novel, The Great White Way (1901); and a biography of Thomas Nast (1904). Paine's Hollow Tree series consists of short stories about animals, reminiscent of Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus tales. He spent most of his life in Europe, including France,  where he wrote two books about Joan of Arc. This work was so well received in France that he was awarded the title of Chevalier in the L├ęgion d'Honneur by the French Government. Paine was a member of the Pulitzer Prize Committee. 
 Paine and Twain together
Paine first met Twain at a club dinner in New York City in 1901. They began a correspondence, which led to Paine approaching Twain about being his biographer. Twain enthusiastically agreed to the proposal. By January 1906, Paine was living in the Clemens home, and was Twain's companion for the remainder of his life. Paine conducted extensive research about the life of Twain, sifting through unpublished manuscripts and visiting places where Twain spent periods of his life. 
Mark Twain in New Zealand in 1895
Of all the earliest writers to employ a typewriter (machine and human), Twain's use is perhaps the best documented. We do know he was one of the first 400 people to buy a typewriter, a Sholes & Glidden, sometime between July 1 and late November or very early December 1874. He wrote two letters on it, both on December 9 that year, one to his brother Orion Clemens and the other to William Dean Howells:
Orion Clemens
And yet there is still much conjecture. Paine may well be responsible for some of this, by relying too heavily on Twain's unreliable memory.
Looks like Twain needed a typewriter!
For example, there is the question of the first typescript offered to a publisher - that is, the first book typeset from typewritten rather than handwritten pages. Twain thought it was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and by later publishing what Twain incorrectly recalled, Paine compounded the claim. Twain had actually first set the record askew with a story called "The First Writing-Machines" in the $30,000 Bequest and Other Stories in 1906:
In the 1912 biography, Paine wrote: 
Rather than adding his doubts as a footnote, Paine might have been better advised to stress the unlikelihood of Twain's claim. If it had been Tom Sawyer, it could only have written on a Sholes & Glidden, any Sholes & Glidden. But it turned out to be Life on the Mississippi, which came out seven years later, in 1883. Even then the Hammond had still not made its debut (1884 New Orleans Centennial Exposition). So what type of typewriter was actually to type the Life on the Mississippi typescript, and who exactly used it to type the typescript, remains anyone's guess.
The observant reader may have picked up another inconsistency here. While the confusion about Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi has by now been well and truly sorted out, it remains very much a part of Twain typewriter lore that he was with David Ross Locke (aka Petroleum V. Nasby) when he first saw the Sholes & Glidden in Boston in late 1874. This notion seems to be confirmed by the fact that Locke soon after joined John Hale Bates and George Washington Newton Yost in the first advertising agency for the Sholes & Glidden.
However, in his biographies and later writings and statements about Twain and his typewriters, Paine is adamant it was not Locke with Twain in Boston that fateful day, but the Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell. As with Tom Sawyer, Twain's unreliable memories  - in this case about being with Nasby - have gained widespread, undisputed currency. The record should now be set straight.
Twichell (November 30, 1838-December 20, 1918) was a writer and pastor and was Twain's closest friend for more than 40 years (he appears in A Tramp Abroad as "Harris"). They met at a church social after the Civil War, when Hopkins was pastor of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, Connecticut, his only pastorate for almost 50 years. Reverend Twichell performed Twain's wedding and christened his children, and counselled him on literary as well as personal matters for the rest of Twain's life. A profound scholar and devout Christian, he was described as "a man with an exuberant sense of humour, and a profound understanding of the frailties of mankind."
A younger Twichell

1 comment:

Richard P said...

The typewriter in the first couple of photos you present is a no. 2, recognizable by the curved tab used to push down the ribbon to see what you just wrote. The no. 1 had no such option, and models after the no. 2 had a ribbon vibrator.