"I THINK IT'S BEHOLDEN UPON US AND OTHERS IN THE FIELD TO DO EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO MOTIVATE NEW PEOPLE TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE."
-Hugh M. Hefner
The American Writers Museum in Chicago presented this special exhibit in 2020, and it can still be viewed online. "Tools of the Trade" examines the tools that have made writing possible through the years, including typewriters, inkwells, braille writers, and more. Featuring the actual writing implements used by renowned writers such as Hugh Hefner, Sandra Cisneros, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ray Bradbury, and more, this exhibit allows visitors to see the very instruments used by writers to write some of America’s most revered literature.
The exhibit features more than a dozen typewriters on loan from the impressive collection of Steve Soboroff. These trusty machines represent a broad range of styles, from Hef's 1963 Royal Empress to Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 portable Underwood to Maya Angelou’s electric Adler Meteor from 1980. In addition to typewriters, other writing instruments include Helen Keller’s braille writer, Frederick Douglass’s inkwell, and others.
For more information on Hef's Royal Empress, visit the American Writers Museum blog.
WRITERS AND THEIR TOOLS
Hef's Underwood Standard Portable typewriter was the centerpiece of a Rare Book and Manuscript Library exhibit of writers’ tools – “Writers & Their Tools: Parchment - Paper - Processor” – at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The exhibit also included typewriters used by movie critic Roger Ebert, writer Carl Sandburg and novelist James Jones.
“We wanted to do an exhibit where the emphasis was the objects. We have more than books and papers in the collection,” said Ruthann Miller, the exhibit’s curator.
The tools the authors used to produce their writing are works of art in themselves. Of the six typewriters in the exhibit, all but one are mechanical.
HEF'S UNDERWOOD STANDARD PORTABLE IS THE MAIN TYPEWRITER ON DISPLAY AT HIS ALMA MATER, THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN
The library owns the typewriters that belonged to Sandburg and Jones, and those that belonged to Hefner and Ebert were on loan to the library. Hefner’s typewriter was sold at auction in December, along with other personal items, and the purchaser of the typewriter, Mark Pepitone, agreed to loan it to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library for the exhibit.
While the exhibit focused on typewriters, it also included the technologies that preceded their use and replaced them. The displays included parchment paper, quill pens and an inkpot; printing plates and metal type from a printing press; and a computer hard drive.