Keynote - Peter Weil


TYPEWRITERS ALIVE:  Ephemera as Windows into the LIVED Typewriter

All typewriters have biographies and as an example of technology, more general histories. Far more than simply being physical things, they have been created in cultural contexts and individually and as a technology have permeated and changed cultures. The ephemera around and about them, by definition, were not intended to last, and yet, some of it has. And each piece, whether letterhead, photograph, trade catalog, advertisement, and far more forms, can tell us something about those biographies and cultures if we can only learn to see and read them.

For my keynote to the Virtual Herman’s, I have selected some of my favorite ephemera, especially photographs, to illustrate these themes. I have attended all of the fall meetings at Hermans, and I know how important it is for all of us to have fun. I promise to do my best not to bore you. 

Peter Weil

I am a retired anthropology/ethnographic researcher and faculty member from the University of Delaware. My professional career primarily focused on the culture history of art, ritual, and material culture in West Africa. In 1995 I became interested in the culture history of typewriters and, because of the limited availability of primary data on the subject, began creating my own typewriter archive.I also collected over 100 typewriters and in 2018 disposed of nearly all the machines I had collected in 2018. In 2006, at Richard Polt’s invitation, I began writing a quarterly column “Ephemera” for ETCETERA, and have continued that through over 50 columns. Today it includes over 5000 items and will be curated in the future (after I croak) by the Hagley Museum and Libraries in Wilmington, DE. In 2015, Paul Robert and I co-authored a book on typewriter history TYPEWRITER: A CELEBRATION OF THE ULTIMATE WRITING MACHINE. I continue to research and write on the subject. Today I live in Houston with my spouse, Anne Sloan, whom I married a year ago on a ship just south of Greenland after meeting her 61 years ago at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Certain Slideshow Photos from the Brandon Bredsoe Collection.