Thursday, January 16, 2014

Typewriter shops of America: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California

I was inspired by Tony Mindling's account of his visit to Kehlet Business Machines to do something I've been idly wondering about: tour the typewriter repair shops of America.

No, I can't take a year off and visit them all in person, wonderful though that would be. (Can you imagine the typecast travelogues, interviews, and photos?)

The next best thing is to use our modern panopticon, Google Street View.

This will be a series of posts. Our first installment takes us to four states. I used the list of typewriter repair shops I've compiled over the years (based purely on information sent in by visitors to my website), and tried entering known street addresses into Google Maps. Sometimes I couldn't find the shop, it appeared to be closed, or the picture was too fuzzy to be sure. In many cases, it was a private residence; many older repairmen are doing odd jobs from their homes. I'm not showing any of those.

What we can see here is a collection of modest, independently-owned businesses that are persisting in keeping the typewriting world alive. Some, I know, are reaping deserved profits from having held out this long. Others, in places where the typewriter insurgency is in its infancy, are probably just scraping by. I encourage everyone to patronize your local typewriter repair shop, if you have one. You are bound to learn a lot and hear some wonderful stories.

The date of these images is usually provided in the lower left corner (often 2011). They are snapshots of an aspect of mechanographical Americana that I hope will survive for years to come.

You can enlarge each of these photos by clicking on them; the name of the image is the name of the shop, and you can get more information about the shop on my list.






  1. I find it ironic that in the first picture (Alabama Typewriter Shop) that it appears that a PC with Monitor has been left on the curb for trash.

    1. Ha! You have a good eye, I'd missed that.

  2. Thanks for the nice work Richard. I recognize a few of those from past posts on some of the blogs. It would be nice to visit some of them, but I have yet to visit any here in Florida.

  3. I'll send you a photo of Keystone Typewriter in Johnstown!


  4. The shop in Los Altos, Calif., is a pleasure to visit. Bought a Royal there a year ago. Owner offers good conversation too.

  5. I have dealt with Mr. Billy Hagood, the owner of Alabama Typewriter Company in Birmingham AL. He is a wonderful gentleman and very knowledgable about our old machines, having learned his trade as an Air Force technician during the Korean War. Alas, he is of a certain age, and certainly can't keep going forever. I'm not sure he has any plans to turn over the operation to anyone else. But as long as he keeps the shop open, we typewriter enthusiasts in central Alabama will benefit from his experience.

  6. Panopticon indeed!. It is surprising how good some of the images are, given they are random shots from the roof of a passing vehicle. Some (California Typewriter) could hardly have been better composed had a "real" photographer taken them. In the future I may need to keep our leaves blown and cars washed. So far our little fortress here in the golden, rollin' hills of California has barred entry to that roving eye. But I'm sure Google has its eye on the drone concept. Better oil up my shotgun.

    Thanks for the great tour. I had no idea there were so many shops in California. The one in Stockton would make a great day trip destination for us.

    -- Tony

  7. I have visited two of the repair shops here in Arizona (and practically live at Bill's these days, as much as I visit him) and have looked in vain for two others in a casual manner, including the one that you show in the second Arizona photo - I think it's extinct. I couldn't find it at least, but it's in a confusing strip-mallish industrial park with very abstract and unhelpful signage.

    I'm hoping to at some point visit every remaining typewriter shop in the state in a more organized and documented manner, at least to confirm that they are still running or not.

  8. Interesting visual project. I love the curiosity shop jumble that comes along with these shops.