Self-professed typewriter enthusiast Tom Hanks gifted a Wellesley family a typewriter from his collection after they sent him a letter requesting one — with some promises attached.
Over the summer, the de Peyster family watched the documentary California Typewriter, which features celebrities who use typewriters, including Hanks.
“My real interest was the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, (which) was playing that night,” Julia de Peyster told Boston.com.
The orchestra, which is featured in the film using typewriters as instruments, was also performing at the West Newton Cinema after that showing. De Peyster decided to bring two of her sons and her husband along because, even if they didn’t like the documentary, she thought they would enjoy the orchestra.
“It turns out the movie was great. And so I totally credit Nick for everything else,” de Peyster said of her husband. “He got inspired by Hanks talking about how meaningful notes from typewriters were. He was thinking about how to inspire our kids to stay in touch with all the amazing people you meet.”
In the documentary, Hanks says he estimates 90 percent of his approximately 250 typewriters are in working order. Nick de Peyster sent a letter to Hanks asking the actor for one of his functioning typewriters.
“In the three remaining years before my son Rowan matriculates to college, I’d like to demonstrate to him the importance of gratitude, persistence and patience,” Nick de Peyster wrote.
“Your typewriter will help me to persuade him. If Tom Hanks can ‘pay it forward’ with the gift typewriter, then surely Rowan can ‘pay it back’ with the gift of a typed thank you note to someone else,” he continued.
In his letter, Nick de Peyster made three promises to Hanks: that he would maintain the gifted typewriter, that he would return the typewriter if it was not used by a family member to write at least one letter per week, and that he would give another functioning typewriter to someone who would make the same promises.
Months passed with no reply.
Then last Saturday, a box showed up on the family’s doorstep, almost three months after Nick de Peyster sent the letter on September 24. The package, from Hanks’s production company, Playtone, held a portable Olympia Red De Luxe typewriter, signed by the actor.
Hanks also included a typed and signed version of his “Eleven Reasons To Use A Typewriter” list, which he wrote for the forward of the book Typewriters. The reasons range from “Your penmanship is illegible,” to “You really want to bother the other customers at the coffee place,” to simply “Typewriter = Chick Magnet.”
Every member of the de Peyster family has used the typewriter at some point already. They’ve sent thank you notes to Hanks, letters to other people in the Wellesley community, and one to a family friend in Florence, Italy, who saw Julia de Peyster’s Facebook post asking for interested recipients.
“I think the kids are intrigued by the mechanics,” Julia de Peyster said. “There’s a steampunk novelty.”
Since the typewriter has arrived, Julia de Peyster said she has become more aware of “how technology drives a sense of perfection.”
“When you make errors on a typewriter, you just keep going. It gives you a very different sense of what is perfect,” she said. “The kids were like, ‘Oh you made a mistake, we can’t send this.’ And I said, ‘No, you just backspace and x it out.’ Nobody is expecting these things to be perfect.”
“We’re mesmerized by something looking perfect,” Julia de Peyster continued. “And maybe we’re substituting them looking perfect with actually substantively being meaningful.”
The family hopes to spread this thoughtfulness, as in accordance with Nick de Peyster’s third promise to Tom Hanks.
“Now the goal is to find another family to send typewritten notes, as well as get our family to send notes. We have a logbook,” Julia de Peyster said. “The goal is to every day have somebody send a note.”