Benjamin Harrison: The Earliest Known Example of a Typewritten Presidential Letter

April 4, 1889

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Benjamin Harrison: The Earliest Known Example of a Typewritten Presidential Letter
Typed Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 1818

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      Background

      On February 12, 1880, a wooden crate arrived at the White House containing a new contrivance which would, soon enough, revolutionize presidential letter writing: a Fairbanks and Company Improved Number Two Typewriter. Neither Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Arthur or Cleveland used the “type-writing” machine for correspondence, but by the time Benjamin Harrison arrived at the White House, the typewriter was important enough to have its own two small rooms – shared with the telephone and telegraph – and its own operator, Miss Alice Sanger, the first female White House staffer. This letter to a book bindery owner in Philadelphia, thanking him for the gift of an olive wood box which he had made especially for the new President, is the earliest known example of a presidential typewritten letter. As such, it is both alpha and omega, for the advent of the typewritten missive would make the presidential autograph letter rarer and rarer – driving it, almost, to the point of extinction.


      Typed Letter Signed, as president, 1 page, quarto, Executive Mansion, Washington, April 4, 1889. To Charles F. Heller in Philadelphia.
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      EXECUTIVE MANSION
      WASHINGTON.

      April 4th. 1889.

      Charles F. Heller, Esq.,
      Philadelphia, Penna.

      My Dear Sir : -

      I take pleasure in acknowledging the receipt of your favor of the 2nd inst. and also of the box made of olive wood.  I beg to express my appreciation of this finely executed specimen of your workmanship, and of the friendly spirit which prompted you to make and send it to me.

      Very truly yours,
       
      BENJAMIN HARRISON