New Exhibit to Open at the Sharpsteen Museum

Share Article

Preview the collection from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4.

News Image

The private typewriter collection of Sharpsteen Museum member Jim Flamson, Still QWERTY After All These Years… features machines from 1896 through the 1940s, or from the Gilded Age to the Era of Swing. Typewriter fans can preview the exhibit from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 at the Sharpsteen Museum.

Flamson started collecting typewriters by accident in 1974. He had just moved back to Calistoga to take over his late father’s insurance agency on Lincoln Avenue. His father had an old typewriter sitting in the window sill in the front of the office, and Jim couldn’t help but notice how many people stopped while walking by to look at it. A few months later, someone came in and asked if he would like another typewriter to go with the one in the window. Of course, he said “yes,” and the rest is history.

During the past 42 years, Flamson has accumulated over 50 typewriters, ranging in age from 1896 through the 1940s. The collection includes typewriters such as Chicago, Underwood, Remington, Olivetti and Woodstock. Flamson is currently researching the history of each typewriter, and will have that history available for review when the collection opens Nov. 4 at the Sharpsteen. There are some very interesting stories.

Basic History:    
Around 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. In 1575, Italian printmaker Francesco Rampazetto invented his instrument to impress letters in paper. He called this the “scrittura tattile.” It would take almost another 150 years for a typewriter of sorts to appear.

In 1714, Queen Anne of England granted a patent to Henry Mill, a British subject and engineer, for an “artificial machine for impressing of letters singly or progressively whereby all writings whatsoever may be engrossed in paper.” Despite its strong beginning, the Mill machine proved to be lacking.

In 1808, Italian Pellegrino Turri invented the first typewriter, developed specifically for his close, blind friend the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano.

The year 1867 brought a new “writing machine” developed by Christopher Latham Sholes of Wisconsin. His typewriter is considered the ancestor to all standard typewriters developed thereafter. Realizing the machine’s shortcomings, Sholes partnered with Glidden and introduced the QWERTY keyboard. To further develop the machine, Sholes brought in Remington culminating with the first commercial typewriter being introduced to the United States in 1874.

Sholes was sure his typewriter would be hugely popular and sell strongly in the United States. The standard price was only $100 (as much as $2,100 today). Unfortunately, many believed it to be strange, crass, uncouth and nearly offensive. Longhand was the accepted ritual and should remain so, many thought.

Many inventors in Europe and the United States jumped on board with similar inventions during the 19th century, but successful commercial production with the “writing ball” is given to Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen in 1870.

There were a large number of inventors and strategists throughout these decades. Prior to the accepted name “typewriter,” inventors used the label “typographer machine,” “scribe harpsichord,” “type writing machine,” and in Italy, “tachgrafo” or “tachitipo.”

Whatever the name and whoever the inventor, the typewriter became a must-have for not only businesses small or large, but also for personal use in homes. How many people still use a typewriter? People use the basic idea behind the technology, but the actual machine, not so much.

Come back to the museum and share the revolution of the typewriter. Meet Jim Flamson at the Preview Party and enjoy some appetizers, good music and a glass of wine!

For more information, visit Patsy Hahn is Sharpsteen’s Special Exhibits Chair.

About Sharpsteen Museum:
The Sharpsteen Museum's permanent exhibits are designed to present the history of the upper Napa Valley from its pre-history to post-World War I with an emphasis on people and changes brought by the period of U.S. emigration and development.

In addition to its many historical exhibits, the museum uses unique and extraordinarily extensive dioramas to depict Calistoga during its period as the elegant 1860s Hot Springs resort developed by pioneer, promoter, publisher, entrepreneur, and California's first millionaire, Sam Brannan. Sharpsteen Museum has special exhibits which change twice a year, every six months, and reflect the varied interests of the people of the Valley. They have ranged from antique silverware to model ships to historical musical instruments.

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kathy Bazzoli
Visit website