University of Oregon

Peg Lynch’s Typewriter

A window into the birth of sitcoms

Sitcom pioneering Peg Lynch with typewriter and huge pile of scripts
Peg Lynch's first typewriter

Some of the first sitcoms were typed on these keys.

This typewriter belonged to Peg Lynch, creator of the TV and radio sitcom Ethel and Albert. Premiering on ABC radio in 1944 and on NBC television in 1950, Ethel and Albert was the first “show about nothing”; it followed a suburban couple through storylines as mundane as trying to open a pickle jar, dropping Lynch’s quiet but intelligent humor into them.

Ethel and Albert’s first episode was written on this L.C. Smith & Corona typewriter, which is now in stored at University of Oregon’s Special Collections and University Archives.

When Peg Lynch was writing, you didn’t interrupt, according to Lynch’s daughter Astrid King.

“All my life, the most important thing happening at the house was she was writing,” King said. “I used to love the sound of her door opening because that meant she’d finished the script.”

Lynch got her start in radio at age 14 in Kasson, Minnesota. Hired as a copywriter and often writing ads for a small station, she found it was easier to sell products using a husband and wife duo. Ethel and Albert Arbuckle were born out of this construction.

It would have been soon after starting work at KROC that Lynch bought this typewriter. Every day for hours, she’d sit in her room sucking on peppermint or wintergreen lifesavers and smoking cigarettes. She went through two packs a day, but would take a drag or two, hit on an idea, and put the cigarette in the ashtray, where it would burn out as she typed.

“Once she got an idea in her head, it was full steam ahead,” King said.

Lynch used this typewriter from 1931 to around 1940, King believes, after which she got one from Royal Typewriter Company that went ‘ding’ at the end of every line.

Lynch was also a dedicated actor: Though three different actors played Albert during the 20 years the show ran, Lynch always played Ethel. Lynch never sold the rights to her show, despite pressure, and retained them until her death. That’s a significant thing in pop culture history, according to Dr. Lauren Bratslavsky, assistant professor at Illnois State University’s School of Communication.

“She’s one of the few people who created the characters, wrote all the scripts, and starred in it,” said Bratslavsky.

Peg Lynch passed away last summer. The University of Oregon’s Special Collections and University Archives has many of her scripts for radio and television, audio tapes of her productions, and photographs like the ones here.

This typewriter is part of that collection.

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