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Celia Thaxter Sells Typewriters

Edison Index Typewriter from

A recent eBay auction reminds us that Portsmouth, NH "island poet" Celia Thaxter was a modern woman using state-of-the-art equipment. By 1886 she was writing on a high-tech typewriter and endorsed it in Harper’s Weekly.




Celia Thaxter’s Typewriter

VISIT our Celia Thaxter section and our POETRY Section  

Celia Thaxter, who does all her literary work on this writer, says of it:
Isles of Shoals, June 12, 1886.

"I have used the Caligraph and other type-writer, and do not hesitate to pronounce the HALL TYPE-WRITER greatly superior in all respects to any I have seen.
-- Celia Thaxter."






Those of us who spend hours a day chained to computers are in many ways not greatly advanced from our Victorian ancestors. The rise of business machines began in the second half of the 19th century. Adding machines, mimeographs, the stenograph shorthand machines and typewriters sold in the hundreds of thousands. The sound of pen scratching on paper was soon replaced by clacking machines, both in the office and in homes.

New England writer Celia Laighton Thaxter was among the pioneers of these new labor saving devices. Her endorsement (above) of the latest Hall Type-Writer appeared in this November 19, 1887 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Considered a "a favorite with clergymen and literary men," this machine, manufactured in nearby Salem, MA, sold for $40 (under $800 in modern money), fully half to one-third of competing machines. An even cheaper version, the Edison Mimeograph Typewriter, sold for half the price, under $25.

Celia Thaxter on cigar box label (c) Collection


Despite Celia’s glowing review, she backed the wrong horse. Her model was technically an "index" machine that used adjustable rotating wheels that combined to locate letters of the alphabet, much like an early calculator. When the letter was set, the operator struck the hammer to print a single letter, then reset the machine. The index machine offered interchangeable fonts at just one dollar each. But it was slow and soon faded as the familiar typewriter, with a key representing each letter of the alphabet, dominated the marketplace. 

Celia’s typed manuscript for the poem "The Maiden" recently appeared for sale on eBay. The typed poem, was later revised and published as "Because of Thee." The poem was edited by her fellow Seacoast poet Sarah Orne Jewett and re-published in 1896, four years after Celia’s early death. Celia's typed poem is reproduced on the next page. -- JDR 

Celia Thaxter Typewriter ad in Harpers Weekly

CONTINUE to read and see the poem

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News about Portsmouth from

Saturday, February 17, 2018 
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