Copyright © 2010 David Silver. All rights reserved.*
[Hello, and thanks for dropping in! You've found the web page for the sale of Harlan Ellison's first typewriter! Now the typewriter actually sold some time ago, back in December of 2010, for "oodles and oodles" of money after several months of haggling and offers from bidders all over the world, to a successful young author who considers Harlan an important influence and motivation in his own career. I'm not saying who, but I understand the fellow isn't keeping it a mystery anymore, and you can go search out his blog where he tells the tale himself. Meanwhile, for purposes of historical interest and to quench the thirst of simple public curiosity, I've been asked to keep this page up and running for as long as I see fit. Okay, so any questions? No? Well, if there are, you can always contact me, David Silver, the guy who choreographed all this madness for Harlan, and I'll do my best to answer them. But now, without further comment, I give you...]
Harlan Ellison's first typewriter!
Copyright © 2010 David Silver. All rights reserved.
Harlan Jay Ellison was born in 1934. His first typewriter was a used Remington Rand "noiseless" portable (we're sure it has another specific Remington model name, but Harlan always refers to it as a "noiseless"), dating from around 1936 to 1940, and it was on that original old machine that Harlan honed his craft. While the resultant history of Ellison's fabulous storied career is well known, the story of that first typewriter was not. Until now...
In 1949, when Harlan was only fifteen, his father died suddenly. Without financial support and needing to find a job, Harlan's mother, Serita Ellison, was forced to move their home from Painesville, Ohio, to Cleveland. Harlan's mother eventually found low-paying yet regular work at the B'nai B'rith second-hand thrift shop, and Harlan took on three small jobs of his own, since the Ellisons were essentially broke and they were struggling to make ends meet. Now this isn't intended to be a sob story; it's no different than the stories that many of you who lived through that post-war period could also tell. But the stark reality of Harlan's life at that time is relevant background history, and a more poignant indicator of the significance of what followed.
Despite the challenges facing them, Serita Ellison encouraged her son's enthusiasm for writing and his love of science fiction, and sometime during 1949 and 1950 she saved enough money to buy that old used Remington typewriter. There at the thrift shop, where she put in her hours and earned her wages, Serita Ellison saved her meager money by dimes and nickels and pennies, until she could make the final payment and bring the typewriter home to Harlan. Well, you know the rest. No gift was ever more appreciated! Harlan made good use of the Remington, as he fully devoted his time and energy, and started a career that would eventually establish him as one of the premier fantasists, essayists, screen writers, and literary giants of the 20th century. But it was a short few years after receiving that first typewriter that Harlan would leave Cleveland behind, travel the country, spend time in New York and other big cities, until arriving in Los Angeles in the early 1960's to permanently stay and make his mark in film and television as well. Today he can be credited with dozens of landmark books and anthologies, thousands of stories and essays and critiques, incredible screenplays, and more awards and literary recognition than any living writer. However, it all began with Serita Ellison's loving gift of an old Remington typewriter.
Look, after all these years, it still types a good clean line...
Now it's true that Harlan switched to a newer Olympia model typewriter, which would become his favorite, around 1954, and the old Remington in its protective case was eventually retired into storage. However, Harlan wrote his earliest stories on the Remington, as well as producing his fanzine, DIMENSIONS, and a comparison of the typefaces from this Remington and an original DIMENSIONS issue #15 (August-October 1954) authenticate that they are indeed the same. Harlan Ellison did not see or even think about his first typewriter again until late in 2003, when Harlan's niece, Lisa Rubin (daughter of Harlan's recently-deceased sister, Beverly) found the storage bin in which Harlan's mother had packed away items no longer needed. Probably never realizing the unique value of the item she was handling, Lisa shipped the typewriter to Harlan in Los Angeles, remarkably a half century after Harlan last used it.
...and to think, we used to celebrate if we got a penny a word!
Early in 2004, Harlan was solicited by the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle for "historic or pivotal" items bearing on his career, so he could be included in their exhibitions in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (a part of Paul Allen's Experience Museum). In April of 2004 five items were provided on loan from the Ellison household to be displayed in the museum, and one of the items Harlan chose was that very same old Remington portable typewriter, still in its battered case. The period of exhibition ended with the Museum in 2009. The typewriter was returned to Harlan earlier this year, packed and ready for storage...or perhaps shipment to yet another location.
I'll miss you, little buddy, but it's time to move on.
Harlan Ellison would now like to sell his first typewriter, and he has asked his friend, David Silver, noted collector and historian, to act on his behalf as broker. Harlan completely understands the value this item represents, both monetary and historical, and at 76 years old and hoping to remain vital enough to appreciate it, he rightly wishes to capitalize on that value. The past year has seen the sale of some other extraordinary writing machines, from Cormac McCarthy's little Olivetti typewriter that sold for $254,000 at Christie's last December, down to a Hermes 3000 typewriter that Jack Kerouac pecked on with limited success in the last three years of his life that brought $22,500 in July. Not only is Harlan Ellison's place in both popular and academic literature easily as secure as these two, but no other writer was ever as influential and accessible to following generations of writers, no other writer ever succeeded throughout such a breadth and depth of different creative outlets, and this is Ellison's first machine, representing the start and foundation of a career unlike any we have seen before or since. Therefore based on prior comparable sales and weighing the unique nature of this extraordinary artifact of literary history, we are asking...
Harlan Ellison's little Remington "noiseless" typewriter, his genuine first typewriter upon which he began his stellar career, is available for sale right now. Included with the machine, Harlan will provide corroborative proof of its authenticity so there will be no future issues of provenance for the eventual owner. What's more, if the buyer wishes, Harlan will scroll a final piece of paper into the machine, type a final half page of something for posterity, and leave it there just so. The buyer may request to have the typewriter shipped, or arrangements can be made to pick it up.
As Harlan wishes to retain some control over the sale, as much in regards to the nature of the potential buyer as the final sale price, we will definitely entertain counter offers against the $40,000 asking price. However, Harlan does not want to be contacted directly, aside from his close and regular friends, as today he values his privacy and his time most of all. Instead, he requests that offers be tendered through his friend and broker, David Silver, and only through his friend and broker. For those seriously interested in making an offer to buy, or for further honest inquiries, please contact David Silver at:
or 1 (415) 681-4356
Anonymous e-mail offers and inquiries will be ignored and deleted, and calls from "private" numbers will be handled with skepticism, so we recommend providing complete name and contact information when sending a message or unblocking your telephone number if calling. David Silver monitors his e-mail frequently during the day, every day of the week, so he will get back to you as soon as possible, and he is usually close to the telephone in his home office during regular working hours in California. Further details will be made available to interested parties only. Harlan thanks you all in advance for your time and consideration, and he looks forward to an exciting sale.
The beginnings of so many remarkable "dreams with sharp teeth"!
Not the last word, but nearly so, until the next owner.
*All photographs copyright © 2010 Steve Barber. All rights reserved. Absolutely no reproduction allowed without the express permission of the photographer.