Typewriter of the moment: White House, Rosemary Woods

Rosmary Woods shows how she might have erased Nixon tapes

President Richard Nixon’s secretary, Rosemary Woods, demonstrates how she thought she might have accidentally erased 18-1/2 minutes of tape, when she reached to answer her phone and her foot extended to the “erase” footpedal, in 1974.

Ms. Woods’s typewriter is an electric, as best I can make out, an IBM. (Update, May 21, 2008: Ben Batchelor of etypewriters.com dropped by in comments to say it’s an IBM Model D Executive. Thanks, Ben!)

Good resource discovered in getting this image: The Watergate Files, presented by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library (at the University of Texas site). Image from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Pamela Bumsted.

15 Responses to Typewriter of the moment: White House, Rosemary Woods

  1. Charles Bridgham says:

    The typewriter that Rose Mary Woods used was an IBM executive typewriter. My technician that would go to key Biscayne to make repairs was from Japan. He was the son of my father’s interpreter when my father was in Japan during 1951 to instruct the Japanese as to how to modify their floor coverings to sell in the United States. Mlketo “my technician” was the son of a trained Japanese kamikaze pilot who obviously never flew is mission.


  2. Nepal Travel says:

    Typewriter is useless now days


  3. Ms. Woods’ typewriters were IBM Executive Model D machines, with the proportional type font known as “Proportional Modern.” The font used the
    abbreviation “PM.” During her time in the West Wing, she occupied the
    room known as “The President’s Dining Room” as her private office. She took
    shorthand – using Gregg Simplified — I use a combination of Gregg Diamond Jubilee and Gregg Simplified which is fast and efficient.

    # # #


  4. mpb says:


    “Moore Library Special Collections”


  5. That is an IBM Model D Executive. I was with IBM when the typewriter was announced . It was manufactured from 1967 through 1979. The cost in 1979 was $995.00. Check my website: http://www.etypewriters.com/history.htm

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Clare says:

    That typewriter is definitely old school.


  7. mpb says:

    And the answer is– squeak the duckie, rev up the jacuzzi — [yet another reason to hire the over-qualified ( please hurry)]

    Mr John Dean himself was asked this very question today. You can listen to his answer here, about 25 minutes in.

    He thinks it might have been an IBM Selectric. However, when it was mentioned that the machine opening in the photo above is different, he clarified that it could have been a Remington– The color was *not* the usual IBM color but was “bluish”.


  8. mpb says:

    [but nifty “typewriter” pictures http://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/%5D

    “The Watergate Tapes: How Nixon Did It”

    [well, that was fun…]


  9. mpb says:

    Martin H. Weik
    Department of the Army Project No. 5803-06-002
    Ordnance Management Structure Code No. 5010.11.812

    BTW– the Tensor lamp is in the picture above


  10. mpb says:

    More White House typewriters, but not this one [EdD, the back of the top cover looks different, doesn’t it?)

    Title: Gannon/Rove/Stone TANG Forgeries Timeline (must-read!)
    Source: daily kos
    URL Source: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/3/4/122247/7113

    Tubs but not this typewriter 1850s The 1850s saw many improvements and expansions to the mansion’s existing conveniences. By this time many Americans who had gaslight wondered how they had ever lived without it. President Zachary Taylor ordered an enlargement of the gas system into the White House’s offices, family quarters, and basement. Millard Fillmore determined that the house should be comfortable in any season and had the heating system improved. The White House of Franklin Pierce came to represent the best domestic technology of its time (1853). The heating plant was modified again with the addition of a hot-water furnace that was more efficient and healthful because the air was warmed directly by coils rather than “cooked” from outside the air chamber. Pierce also made significant improvements to the plumbing and toilet facilities, including the installation of a bathroom on the second floor with the first permanent bathing facilities. The new bathroom was luxurious in having both hot and cold water piped in. Before 1853 bathing on the second floor required portable bathtubs, and kettles of hot water had to be hauled up from the existing east wing bathing room. Source: William Seale, The President’s House, 283, 291, 315-16; and William Seale, The White House: The History of an American Idea, 90.

    Whatever kind of typerwriter, it was the lamp, Jay Monroe, 80, Engineer Who Invented Tensor Lamp, Dies By DOUGLAS MARTIN Published: July 2, 2007

    Six fully armed U.S. marshals escorted it on a train. It will be examined at the laboratories of the Federal Scientific Corp. in West Harlem. Also transported were the Uher tape recorder and Miss Woods’ Tensor lamp and electric typewriter.


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Rachel! Very interesting bunch on this thread.

    I can all but absolutely guarantee that typewriter in the photo is not a Selectric. There is a “Y” shaped opening on the top, where the Selectrics had just a wide, rectangular opening to accommodate the ball (or “element”) in its motions back and forth across the platen. It does bear a strong

    And now I’m obsessively curious: Where could we learn for certain? It bears a strong resemblance to some Remingtons I’ve seen, but at the time, IBM was still producing a non-element typewriter, I believe. The Selectric was available, if my memory serves, by 1971 (when I graduated from high school). I bought a Correcting Selectric II ($700!), when it was just out, in 1974, if memory serves — after I’d spent the Watergate summer in Washington and New York.

    I wonder if the Watergate hearings would indicate what type of machine it was? I think they were more concerned about the taping device than the typewriter . . . a playwright’s query to the White House history office might get more attention than a blogger’s query.

    Update: I’d wager it’s an IBM Model D. Go to this site and click on the Model D brochure:


  12. Rachel says:


    I’m the composer of STRETCH. The typewriter I play is an IBM Correcting Selectric III. I’m not sure if it’s the same model Rose used back in the day, but it was the closest we could get after two other typewriters (the first was my mother’s IBM Selectric II) died during rehearsals. I needed a certain vocabulary of sounds, and that’s what I got.

    Come see the show. We’ve gotten fantastic reviews thus far!



  13. naomidagenbloom says:

    the remarkable thing is that susan bernfield, the playwright, was too young to be political during watergate happenings but was inspired to write the play by the rose mary woods obit she read.

    i think it is an IBM selectric and will try to find out definitely next week. for all of us old enough to recall these antique objects.


  14. mpb says:

    Naomi Dagen Bloom is encouraging folks lucky enough to live in NYC to see the play (and the play’s poster which features a typewriter).

    “STRETCH (a fantasia),” must-see play, hurry…


  15. Pam says:

    How about an Olympia typewriter? It doesn’t look quite right for Selectrics (IBM) at least.


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