NYT Slowbituary Of Manson Whitlock (Typewriter Repair Division)

Last week the hardworking staff noted the passing of Manson Whitlock, typewriter repairman extraordinaire.

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and on the dorm-room desks of college students, typewriters have all but fallen silent in recent years, as they have been replaced by computers.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.’’

Sunday’s New York Times finally caught up thanks to this Margalit Fox slowbituary (print headline):

Manson Whitlock, 96; Repaired Typewriters


For eight decades, Manson Whitlock kept the 20th century’s ambient music going: the ffft of the roller, the ding of the bell, the decisive zhoop … bang of the carriage return, the companionable clack of the keys.

From the early 1930s until shortly before his death last month at 96, Mr. Whitlock, at his shop in New Haven, cared for the instruments, acoustic and electric, on which that music was played.

Mr. Whitlock was often described as America’s oldest typewriter repairman. He was inarguably one of the country’s longest-serving.

Over time he fixed more than 300,000 machines, tending manuals lovingly, electrics grudgingly and computers never.

That’s some nice writing. Just a little bit late.


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