Celia Thaxter Sells Typewriters
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Written by Celia's Circle

Edison Index Typewriter from OfficeMuseum.com

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) SeacoastNH.com 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


Early typed manusciprt

By Celia Thaxter

MY life has grown so dear to me
    Because of thee!
My maiden with the eyes demure,
And quiet mouth, and forehead pure,
Joy makes a summer in my heart
    Because thou art!

The very winds melodious be
    Because of thee!
The rose is sweeter for thy sake,
The waves in softer music break,
On brighter wings the swallows dart,
    Because thou art!

My sky is swept of shadows free
    Because of thee!
Sorrow and care have lost their sting,
The blossoms glow, the linnets sing,
All things in my delight have part,
    Because thou art!   


  (1) More on the History of the Typewriter  
  (2) More on business machines from Harper’s Weekly 

Original content copyright (c) SeacoastNH.com.