Monday, April 4, 2011

The Invention of the Typewriter

The idea of a typewriter first began not only as a way to communicate more quickly but also to aid the blind in communication. Yet, in the three articles I selected for this post, no mention of a typewriter adding the blind was mentioned. For my post I'm focusing on the machine as a method of communication for journalists, writers, and work in the office.

The invention of the typewriter didn't receive international acclaim or attention like other inventions of the time such as the automobile or the telephone. One possible reason is that it was designed for work, not socializing.

The first patent for a typewriter like machine was issued in 1714 to Henry Mill of England. Unfortunately, no example of his work survives.

William Burt, of Detroit, Michigan patented his machine, called a typographer in 1829. It was designed with characters on a rotating frame. Burt's machine and others that followed were not successful as they were hard to use, cumbersome, and often took longer to produce a letter than if writing by hand.

Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,  together with Carlos Gidden and Samuel Soule, patented the first useful typewriter. His patent was licensed to a well-known American gun maker and in 1874 the first commercial typewriter, the Remington Model 1, was placed on the market.

Thomas Alva Edison, using the Sholes model, built the first electric typewriter in 1872 but the machine didn't become widely used until the 1950s.

Many different types of typewriters were developed in the 1880s, but the one designed to resemble what we are familiar with today was the Underwood No. 1, invented by F. X. Wagner. It was the first typewriter to strike the front of the planten and users could see what they were typing.

My focus today is on the Remington Model 2 shown in the picture to the right. This is the model my heroine, Dessa Wade, receives as a gift in my newest short time travel, A Marshal of Her Own. It's set in 1890s Prairie, Texas and is a sequel to A Law of Her Own available from The Wild Rose Press and other online book stores.

If you look closely at the picture, you can see there is no shift key and you can only type in capitals. Shole is also famous for the QWERTY layout used today.

Like the Remington Model 1, the Model 2 continues the up-strike tradition. The keys hit the planten at the bottom so you cannot see what you're typing. Still, the Remington Model 2 is the first commercially successful typewriter. It wasn't until 1908 that Remington changed to the front strike planten with the Remington Model 10.

I learned to type on an old Underwood typewriter. Using one required strong fingers and I could pound out about 70 words per minute. Vintage typewriters are in style again, at least for writers who'd like to have one in their office for decoration.


Happy Reading and Writing!



Anna M said...

Very interesting. I took typing my last year in high school. Learned on an Underwood, I think, then my next class was across the hall - business machines where I used an electric model. Funny pounding 1 hour then using that sensitive electric model.
Thanks for the history story.

Tanya Hanson said...

Awesome post, Linda. I remember being sooooo mad at my parents when they made me take typing (electric lOL) the summer after 8th grade. But I have thanked them ever after!

I remember how modern I felt with my own electric typewriter, with the ribbon that had the self-correcting white part. Ah, those were the days! oxoxox

Celia Yeary said...

LINDA--I was interested in this. One of my books is about a young lady in 1901 who wants to be a "typewriter girl." I looked that up--that's what a typist was called. To do so, I looked at and studied old typewriters until I was cross-eyed. You really have the details down...very good. Celia

L M Gonzalez said...

Very interesting.I also learned to type on a manual typewriter where the letters had been "polished off" or something and I remember I really had to hit the keys hard and at the bell at the end of the line, reach up and with the handle manually return. This was my 1st year in high school typing. The 2nd year we got electric typewriters IBM Selectric and that was an experience. It seemed all I had to do was tap on the key and the machine was
Liked your post.