Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest Blogger, Diane Gilbert Madsen

Diane & a Corona #3 similar to Hemingway's
Today I’d like to welcome author Diane Gilbert Madsen as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress.

Diane’s will soon be launching her latest release HUNTING FOR HEMINGWAY. She’s here to talk about how ‘research can be fun.’

Ernest Hemingway  -1899-1961
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois
Typewriter: Corona No. 3 (1921-1922)


According to Hemingway friend and biographer A. E. Hotchner, Ava Gardner once asked Ernest Hemingway  if he’d ever had an analyst.  Hemingway replied, “Sure I have.  Portable Corona number three.  That’s been my analyst.”
In December 1922, when Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley Richardson traveled from Paris to meet him in Switzerland, a valise containing several years of Hemingway’s earliest unpublished writings was stolen from her compartment at the train station. These manuscripts, missing nearly 90 years, would now have incalculable literary and monetary value. My newly released mystery novel, HUNTING FOR HEMINGWAY, the second in the DD McGil Literati Mystery series, (Midnight Ink, Fall, 2010), poses the question what would happen if Ernest Hemingway’s long lost manuscripts were found?

The story is based on this true incident in Hemingway’s life. Ernest was only 23 years old and newly married at the time Hadley lost the manuscripts. Hemingway boarded the next train back to Paris and sat up all night in the dining car. When he got back to their apartment, he found that what Hadley had told him was true. Everything was gone. “I felt almost as though I could not breathe when I saw that there really were no folders with originals, nor folders with typed copies, nor folders with carbons… ,” he wrote. 

Hemingway posted a small reward, but nothing was ever returned. Hadley felt very guilty over the incident. She told Ernest’s sister, Marcelline that Ernest was “absolutely sick. It nearly killed him.” Hemingway took to calling the lost material his “completed works,” and he wrote about the incident in most of the major works published after his death, including “A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, The Garden of Eden, and True at First Light. His friends and critics say he never forgave Hadley because she had packed not only the original manuscripts but also the carbon copies. 

The incident haunted me. I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to the valise and the manuscripts. Who had stolen the valise at the train station? What did they think when it was opened and found to contain only typed papers, something they apparently did not consider “valuable?”

I researched which stories and poems went missing in that famous valise. According to Hemingway himself, eleven stories,
an unfinished novel and some poems and sketches had been packed into it. The novel, according to what Hadley said to Carlos Baker, was about Nick Adams, full of action and set in northern Michigan.

I had fun doing research on what typewriter Hemingway would have used during this time in his life. Much is known about his later typewriters - his Underwood Portable, his various Royal typewriters (one of which is still in his office at the Key West Home and Museum), and his famous Swedish Halda typewriter (sold at auction in 2008) on which he typed The Dangerous Summer -  but not much about what typewriter he used for his early work.  

I found that Ernest had been given a typewriter on his 22nd birthday, July 21, 1921, by his then fiancĂ©, Hadley Richardson. She gave him a model Corona number 3. Hemingway and Hadley were married in Horton Bay, Michigan on September 3, 1921. He took the Corona number 3 along when he and Hadley sailed for Europe in December of 1921. 

This was the perfect typewriter for Hemingway the reporter. In the Corona number 3 model, the carriage folded down, and it fit neatly into its case. It was durable, compact, and perfect for a roving, traveling reporter. With it, he could easily send dispatches to his paper from the field.

The Corona No. 3 was an instant success when it debuted in 1912. The Corona 3 replaced the Standard Folding model of 1906 and was even lighter and more compact, made mostly from aluminum. It was one of the most successful machines in typewriter history, with more than 650,000 machines built and sold over a period of almost 30 years.

The folding Corona 3 (the model number follows the Standard Folding models 1 and 2) originally appeared as a machine with pivot bearing type bars with shift keys only on the left. Later, the machine was built with a regular segment to hold the typebars, shift keys on the left and right and other improvements. The No. 3 has three banks of keys and a double carriage shift: one for capitals and the other for figures. Another unique feature in the typewriters design is the machine's ability to "fold" in order to fit into the case -- that is, the carriage was hinged and could tuck forward over the keyboard and become more compact for storage. This machine was so practical that it was chosen by British Army in WWI.

In the late 1920s Corona introduced a range of Corona Specials, in different bright colors, like red, green and blue. The main design however, with the forward folding carriage remained the same through the decades. Unchanged also remained the way the serial number of each machine was clumsily scratched into the underside of the carriage, although it was also neatly printed on the inside of the rear panel. In 1926 the Corona factory merged with the L.C. Smith Typewriter Company to form the Smith-Corona company.

Here are a few stories about Ernest Hemingway's Corona #3 Typewriter from 1921 - 1922  - Reference: Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, 1969, New York, Charles Scribner's Sons.

(1) Page 80
"...(Hadley Richardson) gave him a Corona typewriter for his twenty-second birthday..."  This would have been July 21, 1921. They were married later that year 9/3/21 and left for Europe in Dec. 1921.

(2) Page 90
He sent this poem he wrote about his new Corona to Harriet Monroe in Chicago in February, 1922:

"The mills of the gods grind slowly;
But this mill
Chatters in mechanical staccato,
Ugly short infantry of the mind,
Advancing over difficult terrain,
Make this Corona
Their mitrailleuse."

(3) Page 97
On Sept. 25, 1922, Hemingway left for Constantinople to cover the war between Greece and Turkey.
"The taxi to the Gare de Lyon on the night of September 25th was driven by a drunken chauffeur who hurled Ernest's suitcase out of the cab with such exuberance that the Corona typewriter inside was useless to him all through the long trip south. "

Hope you will enjoy reading “Hunting for Hemingway” to find out what happened to the manuscripts. My book launch will be October 1st at the Hemingway Museum in Oak Park, IL, Hemingway’s birthplace.

Also thanks to information in:
Papa Hemingway, A. E. Hotchner
Hadley, Gioia Diliberto
Hemingway A Biography, Jeffrey Meyers
Trauma theory and Hemingway’s lost Paris manuscripts, Hemingway Review, Spring 2005, by Marc Seals
My thanks also to the Typewriter Museum on line and My authors for the above information on the Corona no. 3.

Diane, thanks for guest blogging here today. You definitely bring up an intriguing thought about Hemingway’s manuscripts. You also make me miss my old typewriter.

For more on Diane visit her website at www.dianegilbertmadsen and her book can be found at and


  1. What fascinating bits of history around Hemingway's therapy *tool*.

    I enjoyed the article immensely, thank you, Diane and Mason!

  2. I love researching. You learn so much. Hemingway was a very interesting person.

    Good job, to you both Diane and Mason.

    PS Diane, I love your photo.

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Diane.

    Diane - Historical research is fascinating to me, so when I saw the title of your book, I was immediately intrigued. Thanks for sharing your search for the Hemmingway manuscript. It sounds as though you had a really interesting experience!

  4. Diane, thanks for guest blogging here today. Researching for a book is always interesting to learn about.

    Sia, Teresa and Margot, thanks so much for dropping by. Research can take us on interesting adventures.

  5. Very interesting. Another book to add to my now HUGE list. Wouldn't it be fun if writers now could sit down with Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and whoever else for a chat. I wonder what we would learn from them. And what they would learn from us.

  6. Thanks, Mason, for having Diane guest blog today. I found this post fascinating. What an interesting premise for a book. I once left a notebook/journal behind in a bathroom, and when I realized it and went back, it was gone. It depressed me that someone had my notebook, and made no efforts to return it (this was at the scene of the tragedy of Flight 800, where I spent 8 weeks, and someone could have returned it within that time period). Poor Ernest and Hadley. You have to wonder what the thief did with it, and if he/she ever realized the value of their larceny.

  7. What a neat post! What an interesting little piece of his life to take off on and write a story. It looks great.

  8. What an interesting blend! Sounds intriguing :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.