R.I.P. Manson Whitlock, Titan Of Typewriter Repair

While the hardwaiting staff continues to monitor the Boston Herald for a Seamus Heaney obituary, we came across this excellent Washington Post obit of the redoubtable Manson Whitlock (via Monday’s Boston Globe):

Manson Whitlock; kept typewriters clacking


WASHINGTON — Manson H. Whitlock, one of the country’s longest-serving repairmen of the clattering keyboard contraptions known as typewriters, died Aug. 28 at his home in Bethany, Conn. He was 96.

The New Haven Register first reported his death. The cause was not disclosed, but Mr. Whitlock closed his shop in June, when he was hospitalized with a kidney ailment.

Once ubiquitous in offices and on the dorm-room desks of college students, typewriters have all but fallen silent in recent years, as they have been replaced by computers. But Mr. Whitlock kept plugging along, as a dwindling number of customers hunted the streets of New Haven and knocked on the door of his second-floor shop near the campus of Yale University.

He had been on the job since 1930, when he began working at his father’s bookstore. Before long, he took charge of the typewriter department. He sold thousands over the years, and customers returned to him for replacement parts and for repairs when the keys became stuck or the carriages wouldn’t return on their Royals, Remingtons, Smith Coronas, and Underwoods.

Money quote:

He drew the line at computers, which he never learned to use. As he told the Christian Science Monitor in 2007, ‘‘You work a typewriter, a computer works you.’’

Think about it:

A typewriter is physical – a dance you engage in with the keys . . . the carriage return . . . the bing.

A typewriter is personal – the typed page reveals your writing process: strong keystrokes show conviction, weak keystrokes show tentativeness.

A typewriter is page-by-page – the typed page reveals your writing progress.

(For a much smarter take, check out The Typing Life in The New Yorker and Iron Whim in the New York Times.)

Don’t forget: cut & paste used to be something you did with scissors and tape.

Typewriting made your work more considered, more concise, more concrete.

Long live the Olivetti Lettera 22!

Stop by the hardtyping staff’s office anytime to get at look at ours.


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5 Responses to R.I.P. Manson Whitlock, Titan Of Typewriter Repair

  1. We’re living in the “cut and paste” era of music production, I can tell you that. It’s perfect for an ADHD audience; nothing connects or develops — it’s just collections of hooks cut and pasted together.

    But can we blame the tools for the workman’s use of them?

    And, are you interested in my mom’s Royal? She’s been trying to sell it for decades, convinced it’s valuable.

  2. Pingback: NYT Slowbituary Of Manson Whitlock (Typewriter Repair Division) | Campaign Outsider

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