Good Old Days Newsletter
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What does the "57" on a bottle of Heinz 57® Sauce stand for?
I sit here at my desk on a sunny morning tip-tapping away at my laptop computer. I watch the letters form words and the words form sentences right before my eyes. When I make a mistake (which is often), I simply hit the backspace key, correct my error and keep clicking away. I am old enough to recall what it was like to type on an old Underwood typewriter, so I am still amazed at how the screen in front of me forgives my mistakes so easily and allows me to churn out a (nearly) error-free document in record time.
Did you know the Underwood typewriter was the most successful typewriter design in history? The first few commercially made manual typewriters were introduced around 1867, but typewriters were standardized and much more available after 1900. When the Underwood No. 5 launched in 1900, it was described as "the first truly modern typewriter" and a stereotype was born. The company sold two million by the early 1920s, and its sales led all the competition. When it was in its heyday as the world's largest typewriter manufacturer, the Underwood factory at Hartford, Conn., was turning out typewriters at the rate of one each minute. William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac all used Underwoods. And so did my dad.
My dad's Underwood resided in a green metal desk in a corner of our "TV room," hidden behind a door and resting on a slide-out, pop-up shelf. When it came time for him to send bills from his gasoline-route business or meeting-reminder postcards to the local fish-and-game club membership, Dad would swing open the door, grab the shelf and pull. The weight of that old typewriter often made it a challenge to get the tray to slide out and pop up into the locked position. But once it was set, he would pull up a chair and start in on the rhythmic clickety-clack, buzz-bing process.
In the early 1950s, when he was a sergeant in the Army and National Guard, Dad had worked as a supply clerk for a time, so he was fairly good at typing. But when he grew tired or bored with the typing responsibilities at home, he would let me take a stab at it. It was love at first type for me. Not much could keep my attention in those days, but I could sit at that machine for hours on end, watching words come to life. My hands were small, so I had to work extra hard to push down some of the sticky keys; I was forever untangling the little type hammers and the uncooperative ribbon. And woe to me when I made a mistake -- there was no easy way to correct one then. But the time spent at that magic machine was well worth the occasional trouble.
I'm not about to give up my laptop computer for a vintage Underwood, yet I can't help but think those early days at the metal desk typing away on my dad's typewriter had a little something to do with what I do today -- read, write and edit for a living. Thanks, Dad, for the early typecasting experience. It makes me smile and think, That was no mistake!
Did you ever use an Underwood typewriter? Send a brief response to me at Editor@GoodOldDaysMagazine.com and it could appear in a future newsletter or in Good Old Days magazine!
'Til next time,
Mary Beth Weisenburger,
Good Old DaysŪ magazine
Mary Beth Weisenburger has been with Annie's since April 2011. She has 25 years of experience in the marketing, advertising and publishing fields. In addition to her job as editor of Good Old Days, she has been writing a family humor column for over a decade. She and her husband, two college-age kids, two dogs and various other critters, live on five acres in the country, where she enjoys reading on the back porch, refinishing furniture, feeding the birds and digging in the dirt of her perennial gardens.
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The number "57" on the bottle of steak sauce represents the number of varieties of products the Heinz Co. once had. H.J. Heinz, the founder of the company, thought up the slogan in 1892, after seeing a sign advertising "21 styles of shoes" on a storefront in New York City. Heinz 57 Sauce celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2011.
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