Saturday, June 16, 2012

Typewriter Ephemera

When I think about a typewriter, I think of a permanent device. Typewriters can last for decades. Some have been around for more than a century. It is a device with longevity.

As rich as the experience of using a typewriter can be, the ephemera that belongs to the experience of using a typewriter can add an appreciative level of verisimilitude. Typing on real onionskin is a joy. Using carbon paper is so much fun. Using the original instruction manual makes you smile.  These bits and pieces do not last forever. They are ephemeral.

I find myself collecting these typewriter adjacent pieces almost accidentally. I see something at an antique store and I pick it up. Usually, I don't spend more than a few bucks. Over time it's easy to amass a large collection of this stuff.

Typewriter ribbon tins are popular and I have enjoyed looking for those, but when I came across this on Ebay, I had to bid.

I won it for a paltry $1.99 bid. It's a mending kit sent out as a promotional item. In this case Hi-Brand Office Equipment of North Hollywood wanted to give their customers something special. Sure, a book of matches was useful, but this little mending kit (mostly designed for women who wear stockings) would be the perfect thing to hand out to secretaries who were responsible for ordering supplies or had some pull over what typewriter brand the boss would buy.

I like it because of the nice Olympia SG-1 on the back.

Looks familiar.

So, enough show-and-tell. What are your favorite bits of typewriter ephemera?


  1. These things are interesting. I find I like looking at what others have rather than collecting it myself. What I have has come unexpectedly with or in typewriters I purchased.

    The one thing I did buy was a neat old Hermes cleaning kit.

    As a child I used to love Onion Skin paper. Onion skin and typing paper are about the only items I really look for, but I do end up with other things like ribbon tins.

  2. Olympia put out a series of nice postcard images of their typewriters in the '50s. I don't collect the postcards but have saved digital images of them when they turn up on eBay.

    I'm going to put in a plug here for Peter Weil's "Ephemera" column, which appears in every issue of ETCetera. He has brought his anthropologist's eye to bear on all sorts of typewriter ephemera: photos of users and factories, blotters, envelopes, and so on.

  3. Well,
    When I bought my Smith-Corona Classic 12, it came with the instruction manual and a few other things. Will post about those.
    I also have a bit of typewriter paper and some carbon paper too; that's always fun.


  4. That's a very smart marketing campaign!

  5. My favorites are the Oliver ephemera and there's a large variety of them from letterheads, envelopes, advertising booklets, cards, postcards, boxes, typing tables, candles ... well the latter aren't quite ephemera but they are great accessories!

    1. I love all those examples! Oliver candles would, obviously, add a measurable level of romance to typing.