Read Rita Savard’s fine article about typewriters in our culture and, specifically, Jack Kerouac’s typewriter at the National Park’s Mogan Cultural Center museum exhibit about the immigrant history of Lowell. Filmmakers were in the city yesterday documenting the old Underwood typewriter on display with one of Kerouac’s backpacks on the first floor of the Mogan Center. See the article here, and get the Sun if you want more.
The typewriter at the Mogan Center was donated by Kerouac’s first wife, Edith Parker, now deceased. From her we learned that Kerouac used the typewriter when he was living with her and her family in Michigan after they were married in 1944. He was there only a short time. The machine is an Underwood portable, but not the Underwood referenced in the title of the book of early writings that I edited, “Atop an Underwood.” That machine was a rented typewriter that he used in an apartment that he rented in Hartford, Conn., when he was there in the fall of 1941. That’s the source of the “Atop an Underwood” title—he blasted out stories, poems, prose sketches, and other compositions in his room after coming home from a part-time job at a gas station. He writes about that episode in his life in “Vanity of Duluoz,” the novel he wrote most of on Sanders Avenue in the Highlands, when he lived in Lowell in 1967-68 with his wife of the time Stella Sampas Kerouac. Stella donated the green canvas backpack and camping materials that are on display with the typewriter at the Mogan Center. The actual backpack and its contents are described in Kerouac’s novel “Big Sur.” The Kerouac display case was included in the “Immigrants” exhibit when the Mogan Center opened in 1989, not only because they are Kerouac actifacts but also because they fit in with the other images and objects representing the social history of people from the many different ethnic groups who made Lowell their home.