Library Fun Finds 1.28.22

by Lauren VanDenBerg on

Library News

Welcome to Library Fun Finds! An ongoing series where we share some of the fun and unique items we come across in the library and archives collections.

After officially joining the war, first declaring war on Japan and then on Germany, in December 1941 the United States turned its attention to the war effort. We’ve heard about people enlisting or being drafted, war bonds, Rosie the Riveter image of women in the factories, victory gardens, and rationing, but let's talk about typewriters!

'Honor badge' - sign with soldier and typewriter presented to Museum to show their part in the war effort, c. 1942
From Central Archives: 'Honor badge' - sign showing soldier and typewriter presented to Museum to show their part in the war effort, c. 1942 
L. VanDenBerg/© AMNH

In 1942, the War Production Board assessed that the armed forces needed 500,000 typewriters for war work. Businesses and institutions (such as the American Museum of Natural History) were approached with this proposition, will you trade in some of your typewriters for the war effort?

1942 letter from Wayne Faunce to William Barton inquiring about the distribution of typewriters for war effort.
From Central Archives: 1942 letter from Museum Vice-Director Wayne Faunce to William Barton, Hayden Planetarium curator, inquiring about the distribution of typewriters for the war effort.
L. VanDenBerg/© AMNH

As part of this process, every department in the museum was given the above survey and asked to list the make and model of every typewriter purchased on or after January 1, 1935. The War Production Board needed to purchase a lot of typewriters but had committed to only purchasing one third of them new, due to cost restrictions and limitations on production supplies for the typewriter manufacturers. The above form covers the Planetarium’s machines and, if you look closely, there is a red dash to the right of four machines. Those typewriters were identified as ones the department could potentially do without (ultimately three were surrendered).

1942 letter from Museum Vice-director Wayne Faunce to A. O. MacKay of the War Production Board confirming the availability of 32 typewriters.
From Central Archives: 1942 letter from Museum Vice-director Wayne Faunce to A. O. MacKay of the War Production Board confirming the availability of 32 typewriters for the war drive.
L. VanDenBerg/© AMNH
1942 list of typewriters to be turned over to the government.
From Central Archives: 1942 list of typewriters to be turned over to the government.
L. VanDenBerg/© AMNH

In total, 32 of the museum's typewriters were turned over to the War Production Board through the program. This honor badge, as a letter from the War Production Board describes it, was meant to be displayed as a sign that the museum was doing its part for the war effort. The back does have an adhesive film, like an envelope, but it was never used.

'Honor badge' - sign with soldier and typewriter presented to Museum to show their part in the war effort, c. 1942
From Central Archives: 'Honor badge' - sign showing soldier and typewriter presented to Museum to show their part in the war effort, c. 1942 
L. VanDenBerg/© AMNH

This entry was written by Lauren VanDenBerg, Shelby White & Leon Levy Project Archivist.