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The humble typewriter gets star treatment at QWERTYFEST MKE

Alicia Krupsky

Wisconsin’s contributions to societal progress are substantial, from the National Weather Service to jockey shorts. It can be argued that only one is actively used by the vast majority of Americans every single day: the keyboard.

The QWERTY layout we know and love is the same one found on the first typewriter invented in Milwaukee by Christopher Latham Sholes way back in 1868. Seems like something worth celebrating, doesn’t it? Later this month, we’ll have the chance to do exactly that during QWERTYFEST MKE — a shindig to shine a light on the typewriter, words, publications, art and a clickety-clack sound so iconic we still hear a digitized version of it every time we peck out a message on our phones.

The inaugural event (NOT the first annual because that is not a thing, as I’m sure the organizers would tell you) will take place Friday to Sunday, June 23-25, with the first day coinciding with National Typewriter Day. As a way of properly recognizing the occasion, there will be an opening-night party at Dandy with a very event-appropriate entertainment lineup:

  • Music from the cello-drum duo Nineteen Thirteen
  • A “Clackathon” competition and performance
  • A crossword challenge and typing stations
  • A cash bar and raffle
  • A display featuring two typewriters director John Hughes used to write his classic 1980s movies

And that’s just day one! The rest of the weekend features typing workshops at the Bindery in Bay View, a literary-themed tour and QWERTY market at Forest Home Cemetery, Victrola-fueled DJ sets, typewriter buskers, a Typewriter Open Jam Brunch at Company Brewing featuring free paper making and music from Johanna Rose, and plenty more.

“This is the city’s newest festival celebrating Milwaukee innovation,” said OnMilwaukee’s Molly Snyder, one of the organizers behind this three-day typewriter testimonial. “People know Milwaukee as the home of motorcycles and beer, and it’s time to get typewriters on that shortlist. The exact same keyboard invented in Milwaukee 150 years ago by a Milwaukee guy is the same one on our phones and computers today. It’s time to raise a drink to that.”

You can find a full lineup of events (some of which are ticketed, so it’s a good idea to check beforehand), a vendor list for the QWERTY market and more information on the QWERTY MKE website.