Artistic Typewriter Licence

What I like about this 1985 postal cover is the use of artistic licence: smoke billowing out of the author’s pen and the fact that the typewriter keys are non-contemporaneous with the author.

Harry Sinclair Lewis died in Rome in 1951, aged 65. These look suspiciously like late 1960s-early 1970s Olivetti keys to me.


In 1920, Lewis wrote his first novel Main Street. This was followed by Babitt, Elmer Gantry and Arrowsmith, for which he was awarded but refused the Pulitzer Prize.  In 1930, he became the first American writer to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature.


The publication of Elmer Gantry – a scathing satire on Evangelical religious fundamentalism – caused a furore when it was published in 1927. The book was banned in several American cities. Lewis (described by one radio evangelist as Satan’s Cohort) was threatened with physical violence and there were calls for his imprisonment.

Some things never change, but it seems Lewis changed typewriters frequently during the course of his writing career.

A variety of postal covers were issued in 1985 to commemorate the centenary of the author’s birth.


Here, Lewis is depicted as a younger man, together with a Corona 3 – a portable typewriter he is known to have used.


Interestingly, a different model of Corona portable typewriter can be found at the Sinclair Lewis Museum in Sauk Centre, Minnesota …


Which makes me wonder about its provenance. Artistic licence on the part of the museum’s curator? Or a typewriter that Lewis actually owned and used?

3 thoughts on “Artistic Typewriter Licence

  1. It kind of smacks of ‘Closet typewriter available to photograph’. Oh and Robert – that couldn’t be a Dora keyboard, as it has a tabulator key.


  2. That’s the keyboard from a Dora-Valentine. Lewis was photographed with many, many different typewriters, including a 3 and a flattop, but never with this Speedline model.


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