The Early Typewriter Art of Flora Fanny Stacey | The Surprisingly Revolutionary Medium of Typewriter Art

The Early Typewriter Art of Flora Fanny Stacey | The Surprisingly Revolutionary Medium of Typewriter Art

The Surprisingly Revolutionary Medium of Typewriter Art

Many overlook typewriters as a medium of art but this machine can offer a new way of self-expression to those who have previously faced obstacles to this.

Artists, and even non-artists, have been using typewriters to create art since the late 1800s and in my research across time, I have found that this art form has proven to be quite revolutionary and empowering those who traditionally found artistic expression inaccessible.

Graphic design scholar Barrie Tullett calls the typewriter a ‘revolution’ in Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology . In this series, we will explore how the new technology of the typewriter has helped emancipate and empower women, especially as a medium for art. We also discuss how this artform has allowed creative expression for those with physical hinderences.


This article is part of a series titled 'The Surprisingly Revolutionary Medium of Typewriter Art'. Make sure to check out our other articles in this series linked below!

Contemporary Feminist Typewriter Art by Leslie Nichols

Paul Smith - Overcoming Disability with a Typewriter

The Early Typewriter Art of Flora Fanny Stacey

Some of the earliest surviving pieces of typewriter art are works by Flora F.F. Stacey, whose famous butterfly published in 1898 is considered the earliest surviving piece of typewriter art. Her artistic and proefessional work is a testament to the machine’s role in revolutionising the world for women.

Image of a peacock printed using characters found on a typewriter.

Stacey was an English stenographer, taking administrative notes using shorthand, who taught typewriting and shorthand on the outskirts of London. The jobs and skills associated with this were one of the few professional fields domianted by women at the time. The typewriter therefore generated income and job security for women who had largely lacked this before. This machine and nearly completely female skillset also created a new, faster way for women to communicate with each other, and spread literature out from under those who wished to limit their autonomy and independence.

Stacey’s work as a stenographer and teacher demonstrates how she used the machine to her economic advantage and her artwork shows us how this bit of technology allowed her to express herself and exhibit her skills.

Black and white photograph of a group of working women in the late 19th Century

In terms of her art, Stacey would use all the characters commonly found on any typical typewriter as well as the letters, ‘O’ in particular (capital or lowercase). She however rarely used numbers, if ever. Stacey also, like modern and contemporary typewriter artists, made use of blending in her work.

Letters and symbols printed by a typewriter in such a way that they are blended. The phrase 'I love you' is visible

An close-up image to demonstrate blending. Note: this is not from one of F.F. Stacey's works.

Stacey’s earliest known, and likely most famous, work was a piece of a butterfly she submitted to a competition held by The Phonetic Journal in 1898 and she was even propelled into international fame in 1904 when over 50 American papers wrote on her and her work.

Image of a butterfly on a couple of flowers, surrounded by a border. The image was produced using characters found on a typewriter. At the top of the image it states: The Phonetic Journal 15 October 1898.

F.F. Stacey’s Famous Butterfly

Image of a typewriter printed using characters from a typewriter

F.F. Stacey’s Famous Butterfly

F.F. Stacey’s life and artwork demonstrates how typewriters, from their invention, were a liberating and uplifting force for women. They provided a means of social mobility through economic and democratic emancipation by creating a whole new sphere of jobs for women whilst also creating a means of communication outside the patriarchal regime’s circle of censorship. Stacey was not only able to make money and a name for herself using the typewriter but her pioneering artwork paved the way for many other typewriter artists.



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 If you want to read more about F.F. Stacey or typewriter art in general:

check out ozTypewriter’s profile on her

or The Marginalian’s A Visual History of Typewriter Art from 1893 to Today


If you would like the chance to give typewriter art a go yourself, we have typewriters available to use in our store. Don't hesitate to contact us on social media (@typesetspace) or through email ( to try one. Alternatively, pop in-store any time we're open and give it a go!