The New York Times reports today that Martin K. Tytell, typewriter wizard, has died at age 94. For seventy years, until the year 2000, he rented, repaired, rebuilt, reconfigured and restored typewriters in a shop in Lower Manhattan.
I read about Tytell last year, in a collection of essays by Ian Frazier. The essay, Typewriter Man, first appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1997, and is one of many great pieces in Frazier's book Gone to New York: Adventures in the City.
Frazier discovered Tytell's shop when he needed a manual typewriter repaired in 1994. Frazier is a diehard manual typist although even in 1994 it was becoming quite difficult to find parts and supplies for manual typewriters. At the time, Tytell was one of only a handful left in New York City.
Tytell didn't just repair typewriters. He contributed his expertise regularly in court cases, notably in Alger Hiss's appeal after Hiss was convicted of spying for the Soviets.
In 1997 Tytell renewed his lease on the repair shop. The shop went out of business before the ten-year lease expired, though. There wasn't enough business to stay open.
Ian Frazier, in a 2006 interview, said that he still writes on a typewriter.