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Hartford Was the Typewriter Capital of the Country

Credit Chris Kelly
This photo was taken at either the Royal or Underwood factories in Hartford in the early 20th century. Chris Kelly's grandfather and grand-uncle worked at both the Royal and Underwood factories.

In the second season of the Netflix series, House of Cards, the protagonist Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, pulls out an old family typewriter, an Underwood of course, to write a pseudo-heartfelt letter to the President.

Frank's father gave him the typewriter saying this Underwood built an empire. Now you go build another.

That first Underwood empire was based in Hartford. So was the Royal typewriter empire. These were the machines on which the business prose of America was written, but also much of its poetry. These were the machines used by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Falkner, Kerouac. Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels on a Royal and one reason Frank Underwood digs out the old typewriter I think, is the implied personal nature of the machine. Every typewriter had its own signature.

We're live today from a typewriter exhibit in New Britain.  Click! Clack! Ding! The American Typewriter runs from  March 8 through June 1 at the New Britain Museum of American Art. The opening reception is Thursday, March 13, 5:30 pm-7:30 pm.


Colin McEnroe is a radio host, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, author, playwright, lecturer, moderator, college instructor and occasional singer. Colin can be reached at colin@ctpublic.org.
Chion Wolf is the host of Audacious with Chion Wolf on Connecticut Public, featuring conversations with people who have uncommon or misunderstood experiences, conditions, or professions.
Betsy started as an intern at WNPR in 2011 after earning a Master's Degree in American and Museum Studies from Trinity College. She served as the Senior Producer for 'The Colin McEnroe Show' for several years before stepping down in 2021 and returning to her previous career as a registered nurse. She still produces shows with Colin and the team when her schedule allows.

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