Martin K. Tytell, Typewriter Wizard, Dies at 94

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Beyond an average repairman, Tytell was an artisan of the typewriter. He built a hieroglyphics typewriter for a curator, musical note machines for musicians and recreated Alger Hiss' typewriter, flaws and all, thus killing the legal argument that each machine had a unique fingerprint.



From the New York Times:

When he retired in 2000, Mr. Tytell had practiced his recently vanishing craft for 70 years. For most of that time, he rented, repaired, rebuilt, reconfigured and restored typewriters in a second-floor shop at 116 Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan, where a sign advertised “Psychoanalysis for Your Typewriter.”

There, at the Tytell Typewriter Company, he often worked seven days a week wearing a white lab coat and a bow tie, catering to customers like the writers Dorothy Parker and Richard Condon, the newsmen David Brinkley and Harrison Salisbury, and the political opponents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai E. Stevenson. Letters addressed only to “Mr. Typewriter, New York” arrived there, too.


From a 1997 Atlantic Monthly article by Ian Frazier:

At about that time he added a new service to his business -- converting American-made typewriters to foreign alphabets for the stationery department at Macy's department store. He did these jobs on short notice and fast. Macy's would tell a customer that they could provide a typewriter in the customer's language before he left town; then Martin would remove the type from an American typewriter, solder on new type for the alphabet desired, and put new lettering on the keyboard. Usually he converted to Spanish or French, not difficult jobs, but he did Russian, Greek, and German, too. He found that by adding an idle gear he bought for forty-five cents on Canal Street, he could make a typewriter go from right to left. That enabled him to do Arabic and other right-left languages such as Hebrew and Farsi.


I hope the Smithsonian is calling the Tytell family right now.

New York Times Obit - Martin K. Tytell (Thanks, Ron!)
Typewriter Man from The Atlantic Monthly
Photo Credit: Patrick Burns/The New York Times

(Mister Jalopy is a guest blogger!)

6

  1. “He found that by adding an idle gear he bought for forty-five cents on Canal Street, he could make a typewriter go from right to left.”
    Pure genius. The old school kind.

  2. There, at the Tytell Typewriter Company, he often worked seven days a week wearing a white lab coat and a bow tie

    Commerce is our goal here at Tytell. “More typewriter than typewriter” is our motto.

  3. This is great. And hits me on another level. Because I remember when the Canal Street in Manhattan used to be filled with repair/parts shops. Nowadays it’s all bootleg bags, glasses and jewelry.

    End of an era.

  4. He perfectly typifies a social relationship that’s often ignored and undervalued: the deep cultural value of one lone nut with an obsessive skill.

    Too many people do not follow their passion(s) because of what other people think or a fear of being a weirdo or whatever — you only live once and you better goddamn enjoy and be good at what you spend your time at!

    I wonder if he had ‘kids’ (whatever age) hanging around his shop? What pleasant wierdities spawned off his shop? Or was he a lone curmudgeon? ANyone know?

  5. At first I thought the headline said that “Tyrell” had died. I assumed that meant that Batty had arrived and was in need of his incept date.

    ;)

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