Carl P. Dietz, a beloved stage juggler and one-time alderman in Milwaukee, began collecting typewriters in 1934. He bought his first machine because it was the same model he had used as a boy, and it gave him an idea: “[I] recollected that Milwaukee is the birthplace of the modern typewriter, and it occurred to me that someone ought to make a collection for the museum,” Dietz recounted years later. “Then I decided to do it myself … in the belief that 10 or 15 machines would cover the field. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
In the next 20 years, Dietz donated more than 400 typing machines to the Milwaukee Public Museum. (He died in 1957.) Until recently, his collection gathered dust behind glass. In 2009, the museum won a grant to conserve and clean the machines. The images in the gallery are primarily from that collection.