Fun Fact: Typewriter Turns 150 This Year & Its Hometown Is Celebrating!

TRUMBO, Bryan Cranston, as Dalton Trumbo, 2015. ph: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/©Samuel Goldwyn
©Bleecker Street Media/courtesy Everett Collection

Milwaukee is known for an eclectic variety of things — The Fonz, Jeffrey Dahmer, beer, cheese (and, my personal favorite, beer cheese) — but did you know it is also where the typewriter was invented?

Yes, 150 years ago, on June 23, the typewriter was invented in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by inventor Christopher Latham Sholes, and the city will be celebrating with a weekend of typewriter-inspired events. Starting on National Typewriter Day, June 23, the weekend festivities will include live performances, a class on typewriting basics, a writing workshop, and a guided tour of memorable locations.

“QWERTYFEST not only celebrates the invention of the typewriter and Milwaukee history, but the goal is to also showcase talented writers, musicians, artists and performers,” says QWERTYFEST co-organizer Tea Krulos. “This is a new opportunity for people to check out the creative power this city has.” You can read all about QWERTYFEST here.

Sholes was also the inventor of the QWERTY-style keyboard we still use to this day. The odd arrangement of letters, based on letter usage and not arranged alphabetically, was intended to reduce the jamming of the type bars as the ink hit the paper. Now we are just too used to it to change!

CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER, Tom Hanks, 2016. Interestingly, people still use typewriters to this day. Danielle Steel has written all 190 of her books on a typewriter, and No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy also uses a typewriter to write his fiction. The most famous typewriter enthusiast, however, is probably Hollywood actor Tom Hanks. Recently, he sent Rick Skibba, one of the last typewriter repairmen in the state of Wisconsin, a signed typewriter: a 1949 Royal Quiet Deluxe. (QWERTYFEST organizers are really hoping Hanks will make an appearance.)

So get out there and type! Just don’t go all Kathy Bates on anyone and kidnap your favorite typewriting author and force them to write another book. (Also, maybe don’t use them as a weapon against your rabid kidnapper either? Always good advice.)

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