Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Skinny: Remington's Brilliant Plan

We love typewriters, regardless of the manufacturer, but I recently came across a cute story about Remington that made them just a little more special. The machine was invented in the mid-1800s, and Remington, who manufactured guns and sewing machines, was asked to put it into production. The first typewriter was debuted at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where a man named Sam Clemens fell in love with it. It wasn't long before he dropped a chunk of change--$125--for his very own machine, a Remington No.2. By today's standards, that's a $2400 typewriter, and it didn't even have lowercase. (It did, however, have the QWERTY layout that we  know and love today.)

Remington No. 2; www.mytypewriter.com

That man, known to most of us as Mark Twain, spent his first blissful weeks with his typewriter writing letters about how much he hated it. And yet he submitted the first-ever typewritten manuscript, Life on the Mississippi, and continued to use (and verbally abuse) his typewriter afterwards. When Remington found out that he owned one of their machines, they asked him to be a spokesperson. He responded with the following letter:

Gentlemen--Please do not use my name in any way. Please do not even divulge the fact that I own a machine. I have entirely stopped using the Typewriter, for the reason that I could never write  a letter with it to anybody without receiving a request by return mail that I would not only describe the machine, but state what progress I had made in the use of it, etc. I don't like to write letters, and so I don't want people to know I own this curiosity-breeding little  joker. Yours truly, Saml. L. Clemens

Mark Twain

Remington turned around and printed the letter in its entirety, effectively allowing Mark Twain to out himself. When people read that the famous author, by his own hesitant admission, owned a typewriter, it was  just as good as any other ad campaign that Remington could have planned. If you knew that the great Mark Twain was clattering away on those keys, wouldn't you want one, too? Of course you would.

And, Remington got him again, decades later, when a portion of his autobiography was released containing the delightful confession that he not only used, but fondly remembered, his Remington typewriter. So, in 1905, they ran this ad:

From twain.lib.virginia.edu

Even though they later sold the typewriter branch of their business, the new machines still bore their name and are probably being used today by hipster writers in loft apartments across the world. We Blackbird girls just think they're cool to look at. Check out these beauties from NeOld on Etsy:

1930s red Remington

Turquoise cursive Remington
*Information obtained from The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean and twain.lib.virginia.edu