King Tut’s Golden Typewriter

The Canadian journalist Hector Charlesworth included the following story in the second volume of his memoirs (More Candid Chronicles) published in 1928:

A man designed by providence to add to the gaiety of nations was Charles Langdon Clarke, the cable editor [at Toronto's The Mail and Empire], a position he still holds as I write. Clarke, the son of an English rector, was the best educated of all the staff and had been a school mate of Lord Curzon. He had come to Canada originally as one of the engineering staff of the old Grand Trunk Railroad, but he could find no real content outside an editorial room…

A few years ago, when The Mail and Empire was publishing The Sunday World as a week-end publication, and the discoveries in the tomb of King Tut-Ankh-Amen were a newspaper sensation, I chanced upon an article on its front page relating to "King Tut's Golden Typewriter", with revelations as to the fresh sheet of papyrus which had been found inserted in the machine, an alabaster cuspidor near the desk, and the other details of sumptuous office equipment prophetic of our own times. When I glanced at the author's name "Charles Langdon Clarke, Special Correspondent of The Sunday World", I realized that my old friend's hand had not lost its cunning.

There was an amusing sequel. The newspaper came out on a Saturday evening, and bright and early on Monday morning the city editor of an evening newspaper despatched a reporter to see Dr. C.T. Currelly, Curator of the Royal Ontario Museum, and a renowned Egyptologist who had worked under Sir Flinders Petrie, and ask his opinion of the new discoveries. What passed between Professor Currelly and the reporter remains a secret but the retort of the savant is believed to have been vitriolic.

Curtis MacDougall repeated the story in his 1940 book Hoaxes, crediting it to Charlesworth, and after that it began appearing in quite a few collections of stories about hoaxes, such as here and here. Although no one ever added any more details, and typically no one credited it back to Charlesworth either. It become one of those classic stories of hoaxes, frequently repeated but short on details and totally unresearched.

So I decided to see if I could find out more about King Tut's golden typewriter, but unfortunately I've come up empty since I don't have access to back issues of the Toronto Sunday World (which ceased publication in 1924). The Toronto public library has it on microfilm, but I ain't in Toronto. Often librarians are willing to look up old newspaper articles upon request, but since Charlesworth didn't provide a specific date, I wouldn't be able to narrow the search down enough for a librarian to look it up.

Back then, stories would often get reprinted by other papers. So I searched through digital archives of papers from the early 1920s to try to find any references to King Tut's typewriter, but found nothing.

Which makes me wonder whether the story ever did appear in print. Or is it just one of those urban legends of journalism? For now, I'm willing to take the word of Charlesworth that it did appear, at some point, in the Toronto Sunday World. But if I'm ever in Toronto, I'd like to spend a few hours in the public library there and see if I can track down the original story myself.


Posted on Fri Aug 16, 2013


I live in Toronto. If there was a date for the article, I would go look.
Posted by Emily  on  Sun Aug 25, 2013  at  08:03 PM
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