Jack London's typewriter on display at the American Writers Museum

Typewriter Tuesday: Jack London

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, Jack London’s 1902 Bar Lock #10, the oldest typewriter in the exhibit.

Jack London’s 1902 Bar Lock #10 now on display in our Tools of the Trade exhibit.

“If typewriters hadn’t been invented by the time I began to write, I doubt if the world would ever have heard of Jack London. No one would have had the patience to read more than a page of my longhand!”

-Jack London

Jack London seems to have fully understood the benefits that typing provides for those of us with less-than-neat handwriting. In fact, this machine was so integral to his work, London would give up his coat, suit, and bicycle before he missed rent payments on his typewriter. You can now see the typewriter that allowed him to get his name out into the world in the new Tools of the Trade exhibit.

Jack London's typewriter on display at the American Writers Museum
Aerial view of Jack London’s 1902 Bar Lock #10, on display at the American Writers Museum.

Jack London’s 1902 Bar Lock #10 is the oldest typewriter in the exhibit, as you may be able to tell from its design. There are separate keys for lower and upper case letters and there is also a lack of an exclamation point – London would have had to first type a period and then added a capital “I” above it. Another notable difference between this typewriter and newer models is that it does not have the QWERTY keyboard that we are so familiar with today.

Jack London’s typewriter from 1902, before the QWERTY keyboard became standard.

The typewriter in this exhibit has withstood not only the test of time but also lots of wear and tear from the author himself. London used to type a thousand words six days of the week, and if he ever fell short of his goal one day, he’d make up for it the next. However, he didn’t cut himself slack if he ever went over the goal, either, and still went for the one thousand the next day. Talk about dedication to your craft!

Speaking of dedicated, Jack London was an incredibly prolific author, having written over fifty novels along with dozens of poems and short stories. London wrote so much that he even began to run out of plot ideas! When the author found himself at a loss for what to write, he would purchase plot ideas from Sinclair Lewis. Jack London refused to let any obstacles get in the way of his writing, and his passion for his work can even be seen in the fading of the letters on his typewriter keys.

Jack London's typewriter on display at the American Writers Museum

Tools of the Trade will remain open through June 2020, but don’t wait too long to see this typewriter and more up close. Plan your visit today!

Want to learn more about Jack London? Head to our Affiliate, the Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen, California.

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