I don’t know anyone who still uses a real, manual typewriter today. Believe it or not, I have a few of them, and just for a lark I’ve banged out letters to friends, who no doubt thought that once again the electricity to the Mansion had been cut off. Well, not always. I just liked the way the letters looked, and especially the different shades and texture of the type on the paper, depending on how hard you struck the keys.
And mistakes? Well, they just added to the vintage charm.
Anyway, like everybody else, one day I was looking through a 1903 issue of the Memphis News-Scimitar — just a typical night at the Lauderdales’ — when I spotted this ad for a gadget that would, as the ad clearly proclaims, “Protect Your Typewriter.” And it must have done its job well, because just look how calmly that man is walking down the street, with not a care in the world for the valuable typewriter at his side.
I don’t expect you to read the whole ad. Heck, for that matter, you may have stopped reading this blog by now. But I thought I’d point out some portions that I found especially amusing. After all, as the illustration shows, this device is just some folding cover that stores beneath the typewriter when it’s in use. But it’s really much more than that. After all, it’s “perfect in design and perfect in construction.” What’s more, it’s the result of “Memphis brains, capital, and enterprise.”
Now, that caught my attention. I hadn’t realized this was a Memphis invention. But yes, “it has been the good fortune of Mr. H.P. Childress, a businessman of Memphis, to hit upon an invention which he has happily and appropriately termed ‘a folding, dust-proof typewriter cover.’”
Now, if you still can’t grasp the concept, the ad announces (and this is my favorite part), “It is a cover that covers.” Oh ... okay, I think I get it now.
The typewriter cover, it turns out, wasn’t just an idea that came to Mr. Childress in a flash. “It is the result of months of careful study on the part of a practical man.” So practical, in fact, that Childress had the good sense to find investors and form the Childress Manufacturing Company, apparently for the sole purpose of producing this one item. Strangely enough, with a lot of prominent Memphis businessmen on board as investors and company officers, they decided “to have the covers manufactured in New York,” though the company offices would be located on Front Street.
The ad noted that “the order list is already very large, with substantial recognition from the great typewriter manufacturers of the United States.” And yet, I can’t recall ever seeing this device attached to any of the old typewriters that I have seen, or even purchased, over the years.
I think I’ll look further into Mr. Childress. I’m curious to see how his typewriter cover fared, and I wonder what other inventions he offered the world.