Typewriters and St Valentine's Day by Robert Messenger



By Robert Messenger

For reasons which still aren’t entirely clear, typewriters and attractive young women have been linked in images dating back to the very beginning of typing, when a 15-year-old Lillian Sholes was photographed using her father’s machine in Milwaukee on St Valentine’s Day in 1872.

By an odd coincidence, Christopher Latham Sholes, inventor of the first typewriter, was born on Valentine’s Day, in 1819.

In the late 1920s, a plethora of colourful Valentine’s Day postcards appeared depicting girls at typewriters, usually with lines such as “I like your type” or “You suit me to a ‘T’”. These today are valuable collectors’ items.

One of the 20th Century’s most iconic typewriters, the pop art bright red Olivetti Valentine portable designed by Ettore Sottsass, was launched from its factory in Barcelona on February 14, 1969. Today there could be no better Valentine’s Day gift for a loved one that one of these sleek, beautiful machines.

But there’s another, less happy association between typewriters and Valentine’s Day. The 1929 gun battle between Chicago mobsters led by Al Capone and Bugs Moran has come to be known as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. The weapons of choice were Thompson submachine guns, known euphemistically as “Chicago typewriters”. (There was such a thing as a Chicago typewriter, but it was completely harmless).