Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more,
My favorite types of objects in the CHS collection are the objects that organize and hold smaller objects, like tools, vials or other accoutrements. There’s something about how these objects—like the numerous doctor’s kits in This Won’t Hurt a Bit! A History of Pain Relief—are displayed that always attract my eye and piqué my interest.
Typewriters were typically put together on an assembly line, though sometimes occasional repair was needed for the ones that weren’t perfect. This typewriter repair kit was owned by Arthur Louis Hansen, a service mechanic for the Royal Typewriter Company. He started with Royal in 1929—at the height of typewriter manufacturing— and moved to its Miami headquarters in 1955.
The typewriter was the most complex mechanism mass produced by American industry in the 1800s. Its manufacturing used new materials like rubber, sheet iron, glass and steel and sparked new techniques like, vulcanizing, grinding rubber, making and soldering type, sheet metal wok, and gauging ball bearings. So there was a lot of tinkering that went into perfecting these machines.
There are many questions you can ask when examining the kit. There are dozens of greasy tools compacted into tiny grungy compartments and matchboxes are also littered throughout. Some tools are more heavily used than others. What are the purposes of all of these tools? What’s the difference between them all? Did Arthur Hansen smoke a lot or was using matches important for repairing a typewriter’s numerous ribbons?
Kits like this are usually worn-out, dirty, and broken. They are not squeaky clean or restored to hide the inevitable age of time. That’s okay with me because these types of objects feel real. They connect so personally to their owners.
Mike Messina is the Interpretive Projects Associate at the Connecticut Historical Society.