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3OTR: Famous typewriters at Mississippi State

There are nine typewriters on display at the university that were used by famous writers, personalities.
Typewriters of famous writers and poets from Tennessee Williams to John Lennon are on display...
Typewriters of famous writers and poets from Tennessee Williams to John Lennon are on display in the John Grisham Room at the Mississippi State University Library in Starkville.(Walt Grayson)
Updated: Sep. 7, 2018 at 8:21 PM CDT
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STARKVILLE, MS (WLBT) - It’s the close encounters of the six degrees of separation.

I know the theory of degrees of separation involves people. But you can cut to the chase and declare yourself to have only ONE degree of separation between yourself and some very famous people when you gaze on the same typewriter keyboard upon which they gazed, and often created the works for which they are famous.

Sarah McCullough, the Director of the Southern Literary Trail, explains it succinctly.

“These typewriters belonged to such legends as Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Tom Hanks, Mia Angelou, just a fascinating collection,” said McCullough.

This typewriter is among nine typewriters used by famous writers or personalities on display at...
This typewriter is among nine typewriters used by famous writers or personalities on display at Mississippi State University(Walt Grayson (custom credit) | Walt Grayson)

Now, you’re not allowed to actually place your fingers on the keys of the typewriters in this traveling exhibit. But you can look at them and then gaze off into space and imagine what it was like for Ray Bradbury, for example, to have writers block while creating The Martian Chronicles.

Or what John Lennon may have been Imagining when he was writing Imagine. There are lots of favorite machines and owners in the collection.

Stephen Connetto, the Assistant Dean of Libraries at MSU has a favorite.

“I think probably Tom Hank’s typewriter was one that was particularly intriguing to me,” said Connetto.

Tom left a note for collector Steve Soboroff in the platen of the typewriter he donated to Steve’s collection, from which the nine typewriters at Mississippi State are a part of.

And in addition to Tennessee William’s typewriter, there is a painting Williams created on display, too. As well as an autographed copy of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” next to the typewriter from which flowed the poetry of Maya Angelou.

“Journalists have a particular interest because of the history of these typewriters from some of our greatest writers," added McCullough. "And again students who just want to see a typewriter.”

They held the keys to the kingdom, of words. The fingerprints of greatness are on them. And you can see them for free at Mississippi State University and even try your hand at the demonstration machine set up for practice and leave behind your words for the generations.

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