April 24, 2023
Tom Hanks, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor and cultural icon, recently gifted an autographed 1950s manual typewriter to Philly Typewriter, a preservation and restoration shop in East Passyunk.
Hanks, a collector who uses the analogue devices to make to-do lists and write thank-you notes, sent the South Philly repair store a 1953 East German Rhienmatall Gs typewriter on Friday. The acclaimed actor has previously sent pieces from his expansive personal collection to vintage shops and specialty retailers in order to ensure they are used and appreciated by loving owners.
Visitors can see Hanks' typewriter and try out the machine for themselves at Philly Typewriter during regular business hours. Bill Rhoda, the store's general manager, said that the vintage typewriter has a fascinating history beyond its famous owner that will be shared with guests who explore the "Please Touch Museum of Typewriters" in person.
"Something we're all emphatic about at Philly Typewriter is how these machines encourage human connection," Rhoda said in a press release. "How two people who have never met or spoken a word to one another now have something in common, sent with intention and received with care, whether a letter or a machine."
The "Philadelphia" actor is no stranger to Philly Typewriter, telling the Inquirer in 2018 that the shop is his favorite in the city and saying that it is a "national resource" for fellow collectors. In addition to the Rhienmatall machine he gifted to Philly Typewriter, Hanks owns several 1910s and 1920s machine that still work "perfectly and easily." The actor explained, "The action is crisp; it's like playing an old Steinway (piano)."
Hanks previously expressed his love for manual typewriters in an opinion piece for The New York Times in 2013, detailing the differences in sound he finds in each machine, the "sheer physical pleasure" of typing and the permanence of the words stamped directly into the fibers of the paper.
Hanks revealed in 2017 that he owns about 250 old typewriters, many of them taking up space in his office, home, storage facility and trunk of his car. He traced his collection back to 1978, when a store owner refused to service his mostly plastic typewriter, pointing to a towering collection of refurbished manual devices.
In a letter written to Rhoda and the staff at Philly Typewriter, Hanks explained that he wanted people to use the typewriter for another hundred years.
"On one hand you are taking off my shelves and out in the greater world. On the other hand, you are giving me more space and less clutter," Hanks wrote. "On the third hand (?) you just may be giving this miracle of a machine a fuller, newer life of use. I do hope this typewriter comes into use. It is yours now."
Earlier this month, Hanks sent an autographed Olympia SM4 typewriter from the early 1960s to Cambridge Typewriter in Arlington, Boston.com reported. The letter attached to the typewriter was the same one sent to Rhoda.
In 2017, Hanks published "Uncommon Type," a book of short stories written on some of his typewriters. Each of the 17 stories was typed on a different manual machine. The book explores historical fiction with a kindhearted voice and gentle understanding Hanks is well-known for, NPR wrote in its review.
Guests can visit Hanks' typewriter at the typewriter shop, located at 1735 E. Passyunk Ave. The shop also refurbishes, repairs and sells typewriters by appointment in addition to hosting educational seminars, type-ins and community events. For more information, check out Philly Typewriter's website.