The 100 Year Old Letter

Robert Mills

Last week I received a Christmas card from my pal Martyn Kelly. The card was nice, the note inside was lovely but my absolute favourite bit was a letter that Martyn has enclosed.

I had tweeted about this letter some time before, having spied it on eBay. It’s a letter written by the Bar-Lock Typewriter company to one of their customers. Even though I publicly shared this letter, I never actually got around to making a bid and it fell into the hands of someone else. Little did I know those hands belonged to Martyn who had seen my tweet and decided to buy it so he could send me a festive surprise months later (thanks Martyn!).

I love the letter because it’s typewriter related, of course, but there’s more to it than that. I love old letters in general, the stories they tell and the stories they make me imagine about the sender and the recipient. That’s part of why Letters of Note was my favourite book of 2013.

Here’s an anatomy of the letter to explain why I wanted it:

Date and Location


The Bar-Lock Typewriter Company had several offices as you can see from the above image. This particular letter was sent from the Cardiff office at 24 West Bute Street. I currently work around the corner from there. If a typewriter shop still existed there they might as well have my wages paid direct to them every month.

The date the letter was written is October 24th 1914. I first spotted it in October too so it was almost 100 years to the day when it popped up on eBay. I love little coincidences like that. The writer of that letter could never imagine that 100 years after he wrote it, some guy would be sat around the corner on a shiny Mac computer looking at an auction site for typewriter memorabilia.

A Royal Approval

Typewriter makers to H.M. The King. How exciting, and a lovely crest type graphic too. Again, this alludes to a very different world but makes the letter all the more special.

The Language of  the Past

So to the actual letter itself. What a gem. I love the language they have used, I suppose it is what would be described in 2014 as oldly-worldly. It’s things like the word ‘herewith’ and ‘desiring to serve you better.’ It also gives more context to the sign off, yours faithfully. It makes a lot of sense when written as per this letter. It may only be a short letter but it’s a joy to read.

The Sum of All Parts

To round off, here is the letter in its entirety.

It has survived 100 hundred years and now it’s in my care to ensure it gets passed on again, one day in the future.