Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack – DING!
That onomatopoeic sound could easily serve as the anthem of TypOsphere StL, a glorious new Cherokee Street attraction devoted to vintage typewriters.
Just last month, owner/proprietor and artist L.A. (Louise Anne) Marler opened TypOsphere StL, described on her website as a “pop-up typewriter antiques and contemporary art gallery.”
Marler, it bears noting, has been enjoying an autumn as fast-paced as the whirling of an IBM Selectric 3’s silver-and-black element. On Oct. 1, slightly more than a week before the Cherokee Street endeavor’s debut, “Digital Americana,” a solo exhibition of her artwork, launched at the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum at Southeast Missouri State University, Marler’s alma mater, in Cape Girardeau. That exhibition runs through Nov. 14.
Once banished to the bins and tables of thrift stores, typewriters lately have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity (à la turntables) for both aesthetic and utilitarian reasons. The sheer size of TypOsphere StL’s collection testifies to that fact.
“We have 75 on display in the gallery on Cherokee Street, including one gifted by [über-actor and typewriter aficionado] Tom Hanks, and over 30 more in the work cellar that need lots of attention,” Marler relates. “Four typewriters are in the current Crisp museum exhibit in Cape Girardeau.”
From the TypOsphere StL collection, Marler cites as the rarest machine a Blickensderfer No. 5 dating from 1893 to 1896, which was made in Connecticut till 1896 to compete with more expensive typewriters from other companies.
“The Model No. 5, introduced in 1893 at the Columbian Exposition [a world’s fair in Chicago], was manufactured for many years and sold primarily to price-conscious buyers,” she states. “The Blickensderfer No. 5 was one of the first portable typewriters with a full keyboard – it has the DHIATENSOR keyboard, but was available with a QWERTY keyboard also, upon request.”
Beyond her work with TypOsphere StL, Marler belongs to the St. Louis Typers Union, self-characterized as a 19-member Fenton-based “group of folks devoted to the physical pleasure of typing.” Her capsule bio with the group states that Marler herself owns hundreds of typewriters.
From those hundreds, if she had to choose a single favorite, she responds: “Oh, that is tricky – like a parent asked which child is your favorite,” Marler replies. “But I do really love my light-green Olympia with script type-style and a blue ribbon!”
Harking back to the days when typing teachers hammered home the acronym wpm (words per minute) Marler next responds to a question involving her own speed as a typist: “Oh, I never type fast. Even in high school class, my best was 50 wpm – and now I use only my pointer fingers.
“It is a rhythmic flow of thoughts in a slow pace while accurately striking the keys simultaneously. Improvisationally, sometimes a wrong letter gives me a reason to change the originally intended wording.”
Finally, Marler grows reflective when asked to describe the felicities of a typewriter to “kids these days,” who likely have never used, say, a Smith-Corona manual portable with a rayon ribbon.
“The act of typewriting is a singular thought and activity, a whole head, feeling and activity,” she says. “One must be present and undistracted. It is wonderfully like meditation in that way. And the consequence of not having the ability of deleting or cutting and pasting requires a much more intentional approach.
“The mindfulness that typing requires is a virtuous practice, especially these days, when distractions and anxiety plague us all. Also, the tactile result of scribing a note on a ‘personal printing press’ is gratifying. Even the mistakes are honest – even can be charming. A typed note, letter, or quote are nostalgic and the kind of simple little thing you save.”
TypOsphere StL, LA Marler Gallery, 2308 Cherokee St., St. Louis, lamarler.com