Who stole Jennifer Rowland's almost-century-old Underwood typewriter after it was inadvertently left outside last Sunday night, in front of her Art.i.fact consignment clothing store on Baca Street?

In the unsuspecting town of Santa Fe, and in the mysterious world of theft, just about everybody's a suspect now.

She'd spotted the old black typewriter at a flea market in Las Vegas, just up the road, about a month before she opened her dream retail shop a little over a year ago, about a stone's throw from Counter Culture Café. She fell in love with the old thing immediately, and had no problem paying $20 for it.

It was built in the early 1920s, before the Great Depression. It suited the confines of her store perfectly, eventually becoming a sort of mascot when she placed it outside every day on top of a vintage food cart, "a way of saying, 'Look, we're open.'"

"It was emblematic of what we were all about," Rowland tells SFR earlier this week, after tweeting about the theft on Twitter, hoping someone might know something and that, miracles of miracles, somebody might find it and return it.

It's not that it's worth anything. Actually, Rowland has no clue what it's worth. She never thought to price it. But to her, well, it's priceless. It inspired her. Her store's very sign resembles the typewriter's famous font. Her business cards, too. In a day and age of computers and texts and iPhones, the lettering screams out “manual.” 

Greats like Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald used some version of the Underwood as they banged their way to immortality. Senator Frank of the same last name used it in the House of Cards. And the great beatnik poet and short-story writer, Charles Bukowski, in one famous photo, clutches it to his chest, close to his heart, that trademark thin and brown cigarette dangling from his mouth, smoked to the butt.

Mess with Bukowski's typewriter, and he'd hunt you down to the ends of the earth.

Not Rowland so much. She says if the typewriter should mysteriously reappear in front of her store, no questions will be asked, because the reality is all she's got now is a plastic, miniature duplicate, which sits high on a shelf and is not exactly emblematic of what the store stands for: a funky, eclectic place where both men and women can drop off their old or vintage clothes and get some money in return as soon as they're sold.

Rowland and her Underwood duplicateThomas Ragan
Rowland and her Underwood duplicateThomas Ragan

Very few antiques inside her store, after all, are older than that solid little Underwood, a hunk of metal that was one of the very first modern typewriters; millions of them were sold in the 1920s and 1930s, one manufactured per minute in its heyday.

Just to look at it makes you think of that bygone era, of Model T Fords, silent movies, or that one famous photograph in which a bunch of construction workers nonchalantly sit on a beam high in the air, in "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper" as they take a break from working on Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Which is why Rowland's customers would always marvel at it; many asked her if it was for sale, to which she would always say, "No, it's sentimental."

One day, a 12-year-old girl, who professed to be mechanically inclined, offered to fix the keys on it, but Rowland politely declined.

"That would just be like more bait, and more people would keep asking me if I was selling it," she said.

Now it's gone, somewhat of a sad solution to putting a stop to all the inquiries, like some stuck key.

Of course, if she could press backspace key, she'd probably make a note of reminding her helper to bring the machine inside, but it's nobody's fault, and she didn't want to make anyone feel bad.

"It's just one of those things," she says, her voice trailing off.

She and her husband moved here from Los Angeles three years ago, lured in part by the small town charm that convinces you that you don't really have to lock your doors or keep an eye on your bike.

"We fell in love with this place, and we both agreed that we would change our lives here, and really mean it," she says. "We'd become a part of the community. We would give back."

She was the director of marketing at a school in Los Angeles, and he's a fine artist and carpenter, who reclaimed the wood on the insides of the shop, in its shelves and racks. Since then, they've been true to their word; in fact, they were in the midst of a sock drive for the homeless this past month when the typewriter went missing sometime between late Sunday night and early Monday morning.

So far, they've collected more than their goal of 500 pairs and are now stretching the limit to 1,000. Bring them your own wool pair, either new or gently worn, and save 10 percent on any item in the store; the socks will go straight to St. Elizabeth Shelter's Casa Familia Urgent Transition Center.

The poster advertising the sock drive on the front of the door has a photo of the old Underwood. It might as well be a Wanted Poster, in the literal sense of the word.

It's all that remains, like in that old Simon and Garfunkle song:

"Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph, preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."