Close-up of Hemingway's Underwood typewriter platen

Typewriter Tuesday: Ernest Hemingway

Welcome to Typewriter Tuesday, a series from the American Writers Museum that aims to shed light on the typewriters and other tools behind some of your favorite works of literature. Check back every Tuesday to learn more about these trusty machines and the writers who used them. Our newest special exhibit Tools of the Trade opened June 22 and features more than a dozen typewriters, as well as other writing implements and instruments used by American writers. Many of the typewriters are on loan from the impressive collection of Steve Soboroff.

Today, we take a look at one of those typewriters, Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 Underwood Standard Portable.

Ernest Hemingway's typewriter is on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago as part of their Tools of the Trade exhibit.
Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 Underwood Standard Portable is on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago.

“Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now.”

This Sunday, July 21 marks the 120th anniversary of Ernest Hemingway’s birthday, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with the parts of Hemingway’s life that influenced his unique literary style, such as the tools that allowed him to put his words on paper and important aspects of his childhood, which are featured in throughout the the AWM, but especially in our Tools of the Trade exhibit, where the above typewriter is on display.

Hemingway often used his typewriters to the point that they were completely worn out, leading to him collecting quite a number them. The 1926 Underwood Standard Portable on display – which he likely used to write A Moveable Feast – is no exception. If you look closely, you can see that the machine bears the mark of his concise and impactful words in the form of the outlines of letters in the typewriter’s platen, the cylindrical part of the typewriter on which the paper rolls. He hit the keys so frequently – and forcefully – they left an impression on the platen!

Ernest Hemingway's 1926 Underwood Standard Portable is on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago.
Look closely at the platen to see marks left by the type keys, a result of Hemingway’s forceful typing.

Above the typewriter in the Tools of the Trade exhibit, there is also a photo from 1902, featuring a young Hemingway and his father. The picture was developed from a film strip found underneath this very typewriter when it was removed from its base during cleaning and is one of the oldest photos of Hemingway on record. Seeing Hemingway – who was around four years old at the time – enjoying a boating trip at his family’s summer home gives insight into the childhood that laid the foundation for Hemingway’s love of nature and adventure.

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

There were many things in this fine place that Hemingway took the time to love in his lifetime. He held an interest in several sports and also had an affinity for six-toed cats, having one of his own named Snow White. And of course, Hemingway also had a passion for writing, having set down an impressive literary legacy. At the American Writers Museum, we celebrate that legacy, and you can do so too! Join us this July 21st, and every other day as well, to see this iconic typewriter used by one of this country’s most revered writers.

Ernest Hemingway's 1926 Underwood Standard Portable is on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago.
Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 Underwood Standard Portable is on display at the American Writers Museum in Chicago.

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