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“Not in the habit of writeing letters”

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In the early 1900s, people found work in an entirely new industry: the typewriter, one of many technologies that signaled the dawn of a new era. During this time, typewritten correspondence was becoming a thing, and demand for machines was ever-increasing.

J.S. Wade was one of the many finding employment in this new field, landing a job at Remington in Denver, Colorado. Apart from a single letter in my collection, I have no other information about J.S. Wade, but his letter speaks volumes.

“My Dear Aunt,” he wrote in 1903, “I sent you a letter a short time ago and will try to send you another… I am still working at the Remingtin [sic] Typewriter Co. and like it very much.”

The letter, generally uncorrected, continues: “We are all well and happy.” He notes that Mamma intends to watch a show with Mrs. Sutton, and Papa intends to go fishing and hunting for the summer. Delightfully, J.S. employs a mere two periods in the letter, preferring commas where else periods should be employed. At the end of the letter, he even “corrects” his punctuation, converting a much-needed period into a comma.

His letter is brief and self-deprecating: “You must not laugh at me because I skip around so with my letter for I am not in the habit of writeing [sic] letters.” He ends affectionately saying, “You must write soon and let us know about the folkes [sic] down where you are, well so long for this time and be happy.”

It is interesting to note that instead of a lower-case L for the number 1, he employes the capital “I” — the early standard Remington’s did not have 1’s — which is evident in the date. How many people preferred the Roman numeral I, not knowing that the lower-case L was intended for that use? Seems even Remington employees did not know this.

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© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Richard P March 6, 2018, 2:39 am

    That’s neat. I wonder what his job at Remington was? Probably pretty low down in the hierarchy, I imagine — but did an ordinary worker have access to official stationery?

  • Patrick March 6, 2018, 3:57 pm

    I’m intrigued by the purple ink, reminiscent of elementary school mimeograph duplication. Could this be an ink-based “carbon” copy?

    I had no idea Remington had a Denver location. When I looked up the street address on Google Maps, there is only one building suggestive of the time period. Still in the business district, though.

    This was clearly from a young man in a job not requiring a lot of education. All kinds of clues, in there. Surely, anyone with much schooling would know how to use commas and periods. On the other hand, I see no corrections or strike-overs. So, we will not critique him on misspelling his employer’s name, as the I and the O are next to each other on a QWERTY keyboard.

    • Mark Adams March 6, 2018, 11:13 pm

      I was wondering about the color of the ink, too. Carbon would leave a bit of a “glow” around the text. Perhaps that color ink was used in the office for a particular task?

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