New Yorker Displays Antique Typewriters on Internet Site
By Lynn Audy
Visit Anthony Casillo's antique typewriter Web site and you'll see beautiful photographs along with colorful descriptions of early typewriter history. You may be left wondering where he found all of this information.
"It's years of acquired knowledge from reading on the subject and years of collecting experience," Casillo says.
This New Yorker has been in the typewriter business for 23 years. At the young age of 22 while employed as a repairman for a typewriter company in New York City, Casillo stumbled across an old typewriter in the "inactive/ignored" section of the shop.
"It was an old, dusty Oliver No. 5 typewriter sitting on a shelf, just waiting for me to claim it," Casillo remembers. "I was so amazed. This was certainly the strangest typewriter I had ever seen." That evening, as always, Casillo boarded the crowded New York City subway at rush hour (a daring feat), only this time he was carrying his first antique typewriter. Little did he know that he would soon discover a Blickensderfer and become hooked.
"I knew they were interesting, I knew they were bizarre, and I was attracted to them," Casillo says. "I didn't know if they were rare; I didn't know anything."
Price was no indication of their value, either. Casillo said he'd spend $20 or $30 on a typewriter. He'd clean them and fix them, but he only picked them up here and there for the next 10 years.
During that time, Casillo realized his enthusiasm for typewriters, both as a career and a hobby, would be with him for a lifetime. So in March of 1979 he decided the next logical step would be to go into business for himself. He opened TTS Business Products in Garden City South, 25 miles east of New York City. Today Casillo sells and services computers and printers and also repairs a lot of equipment. He still repairs typewriters, but he doesn't sell many these days. The business employs five people, including Casillo.
Casillo's antique collection consists of more than 250 typewriters, which he keeps in storage and at his home. "I have a room in my basement dedicated to them," he says. He has shown the typewriters to collectors and even friends, but he explains that not everyone is interested in such a collection.
"It's got to bring back some type of memory for it to mean something," he says. "It has to strike a chord with you."
After restoring a typewriter, Casillo says "you can enjoy demonstrating it to visitors who always express a lot of surprise that an object as ordinary as a typewriter can be so extraordinary." Does he feel this way about other office equipment?
"I'm biased to typewriters because collecting them takes me back to my beginnings in this industry," he says. "I've always been fascinated with them." Casillo admits that he does have a soft spot for adding machines, of which he also has a small collection.
In the spring of 1996, Casillo created an Internet site to display part of his collection and his love for them. Casillo displays about 50 or 60 typewriters on his Web site -- the ones he's gotten around to photographing.
"I don't really have a method to it," he explains, "whatever I think people would enjoy seeing. I try to keep a good mix of things."
The Web site features Casillo's Typewriter Memory Lane, a pictorial gallery of early typewriters (all from his personal collection); Books About Old Typewriters for those looking for more information; and Typewriter Time Line, which dates typewriters from 1873-1939. Casillo also tells the history of the typewriter along with photos.
Typewriter Memory Lane is Casillo's virtual museum, he says.
One might wonder why this family man puts his energy into keeping up an antique Web site. Casillo has a wife, 4-year-old daughter and 1 1/2-year-old son to keep him busy when his business doesn't.
"I do it for the love of it," Casillo explains. "It comes from the heart."
These days antique collecting sometimes takes a back seat to Casillo's new lifestyle.
"Right now I have two young children, and although I am seeking new additions to my collection, I'm not pursuing them as aggressively as I'd like," he says. "Some days I just go to work, go home and watch Sesame Street."
Web site address: http://members.aol.com/typebar/collectible/typewriter.htm
Editor's note: Casillo says he has a broad knowledge of typewriters and would be happy to help people figure out what type of machine they have or find more information about it. "I'll talk typewriters with anyone," he says.
To reach Casillo by mail, write to TTS Business Products, 325 Nassau Blvd., Garden City South, NY 11530, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax him at (516) 489-6501. If you prefer, you may call him during the day at (516) 489-8300 or in the evening at (516) 742-4919.