'Tools of the Trade': Typewriter Exhibit Opens At The American Writers Museum

Over 12 typewriters used by some of America's iconic authors will be on display.

Keith Johnson
June 21, 2019 - 2:26 pm
Tools of the Trade exhibit at the American Writers Museum

Photo courtesy of the American Writers Museum


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Lovers of the written word are in for a treat.

More than a dozen typewriters and other writing instruments used by some of America's iconic authors and playwrites will be on display starting this weekend at the American Writers Museum.

The exhibit "Tools of the Trade" will feature a diverse collection of typewriters and other writing instruments used by Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, Maya Angelou, Fredrick Douglas, Sandra Cisneros and others.

Carey Cranston, President of the American Writers Museum, said the exhibit began to take shape when Christie Hefner, from the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation, reached out after she had sold her father's typewriter to a collector, a gentleman named Steve Soboroff.

"By fortune, Mr. Soboroff reached out to me about potentially doing an exhibit of some of his collection here in Chicago," Cranston said. "He loaned us a good number of typewriters for this exhibit. And then we reached out to a number of organizations and people that we were familiar with to try and supplement some of that with even more interesting pieces."  

Other pieces include Helen Keller's braille writer and one of Gwendolyn Brooks' typewriters. 

"The beginning of the exhibit kind of starts out on the notion of moving from the pen to the typewriter and the writer's transition and we really focus on the typewriters themselves and how important they were to changing the course of American writing," Cranston said. 

"You can get on a computer and do a lot of different things and it's a great distraction. And you can always draw pictures and do other things with a pen, but a typewriter is that only piece of technology that was really focused on the writer."

The "Tools of the Trade" exhibit will be on display for a year. It opens to the public on Saturday.