On 21 July 1900, US Consul in Singapore R. A. Morseley wrote a letter to Assistant Secretary of State David J. Hill in which he asked for financial support ($60 Mexican) to cover the costs of repairing the consulate’s typewriter.

Morseley explained in his letter that “the late Chinese Clerk’s ignorance of its mechanism, combined with the effect of the very moist condition of this climate, necessitated the repairs in question to the machine.”

Chinese clerk

Not long after this, Morseley left Singapore for Japan, as he was ill and hoped that the cooler climate in Japan would help him recover, but he ended up dying in Yokohama.

As such, when the Department of State finally approved the funds to repair the typewriter, it was Deputy Consul J. M. Campbell who responded. On 11 October 1900, he wrote a letter to the Department of State in which he stated that,

“The Department may rest assured that every care will be taken of the machine: the present operator, having been instructed in its mechanism by the Agents of the manufacturers, is better qualified to maintain it in good working order.”


It’s not clear who the “present operator” was. What is interesting is that the “Chinese-ness” of the “late clerk” seems to be what prevented that man from understanding how to use a typewriter, while instruction “in its mechanism by the Agents of the manufacturers” appears to be what made the “present operator” more capable.

So why exactly did the typewriter break??