Pat Costigan repairs and restores old writing machines.
By Virginia M. Wright Photographed by Mark Fleming
You might think one of the only typewriter repairmen north of Boston would be the loneliest guy in town, but Pat Costigan has plenty of work — and customers who love to talk with him about their machines.
Since 1976, when he began servicing typewriters at his dad’s Olivetti shop in Augusta, Costigan has seen demand for the writing machines soar and plummet, but never die. Today, typewriters make up 20 percent of Costigan’s business-machine repair work. His longtime clients include a few individuals who never switched to PCs, as well as law firms and probate courts that prefer typewriters for pre-printed, fill-in-the-blank forms.
There’s also a relatively new breed of customer: people who are enamored with clickety-clacks and dings of vintage typewriters. “For older people, it’s about nostalgia,” says Costigan, who is 63. “Young people are curious. They like hitting a letter and seeing it print on paper instead of having to run to the printer. Often, they’re interested in becoming a writer or a journalist.”
Some customers, like the state official who exchanges typewritten letters with a friend overseas, appreciate the tool’s personal nature. “You probably get 100 emails a day, but a typewritten letter stands out,” Costigan says. “It won’t be reproduced anywhere.”
He and his wife, Tammy, have a dozen or so restored typewriters displayed in their home-based shop, Cosco Technologies, in Winthrop. Among them: a 1930s Royal, as black and shiny as patent leather; a snazzy Smith Corona Clipper, black with a red line drawing of a tilted Boeing B-314 on the ribbon cover; a bulky, gray Royal Standard, the workhorse of offices in the 1950s. Costigan has a soft spot for a stylish, pale-sage electric Olivetti Editor 2. “Olivetti was very advanced — design-wise, they were ahead of the crowd,” he says. “This is the model I trained on. It’s beautiful.”
Some Fun Typewriter Trivia
Portland children’s author and illustrator Melissa Sweet drew a typewriter diagram to open Some Writer, her bestselling 2016 biography of E. B. White. She also incorporated typewritten quotes into her illustrations.
Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick holds frequent type-ins, when patrons are invited to tap on the library’s dozen or so manual and electric typewriters, which date to the 1930s.
Typewriters are décor at the Press Hotel and LFK pub, both in Portland. Artist Erin Hutton created the two-story swirl of typewriters in the lobby of the hotel, originally home to the Portland Press Herald. Single typewriter keys embedded into a curved bar spell out the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem at LFK, a former bookstore.
Louise Dickinson Rich’s black Royal typewriter is at the Maine State Museum in Augusta, where it was most recently displayed in February. Rich used the Royal to write We Took to the Woods, her 1942 memoir of life in Middle Dam, near Rangeley.