“The speed with brains behind it” –Royal Typewriter Ad, 1920

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 9.09.57 AMFrom The Outlook, vol. 126 (1920)

When I was reading through The Outlook the other day, this ad caught my eye. As ad copy, it hits the features as well as the benefits (thank you, Don Draper, for teaching us the difference) but it’s also fascinating for where it positions the women who did the typing.

It’s 5 o’clock. The woman in the picture is between the office boy (I’m guessing, due to his wearing knickerbockers, which a businessman wouldn’t have worn) and the desk where she’s putting down the built-in cover over her typewriter. She’s at the center of things, not the typewriter; although it’s displayed prominently below, it’s not actually shown in the narrative part of the picture, instead being linked by the gray background.

The machine is fast, certainly–the ad mentions “speed” eight times in this short amount of copy–but “the speed that counts” is “errorless speed.”

The typist herself makes this errorless speed happen, with her “sensitive fingers.” She creates “the speed with brains behind it.” It’s her brains and sensitive fingers as she operates the typewriter that create “the big steady pulse of modern business.”

There’s a delicate balance here as the ad elevates her from being just part of the machine of modern business to being a vital part of the brains (and, to judge by “big steady pulse,” its heart) that make the giant beast work.

I’ve been working recently on this rhetoric of connections between women and machines, and this is an ad that constructs the relationship in a sophisticated way. Don Draper would be proud.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s