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Fascinating facts about Christopher Sholes
inventor of the Typewriter in 1867.
Christopher Sholes
AT A GLANCE:
The evolution of the typewriter is part of the ongoing history of the human need to communicate. Gradually a machine emerged that revolutionized the work of the writer. In 1867, Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule invented the first practical mechanical typewriter machine.
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
BOOKS
WEB SITES
DID YOU KNOW?
Inventor: Christopher Latham Sholes
Christopher Sholes image courtesy National Inventors Hall of Fame
Criteria; First practical.
Birth: February 14, 1819 in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania
Death: February 17, 1890 in  Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Nationality: American
Invention: typewriter
Early typewriter image courtesy Smithsonian Institute
Function: noun / type·writ·er
Definition: A mechanical or electromechanical machine for writing in characters similar to those produced by printer's type by means of keyboard-operated types striking a ribbon to transfer ink or carbon impressions onto the paper.
Patent: 79,265 (US) issued June 23, 1868
Milestones:
1714 The first patent for a 'writing machine' was given to Henry Mill of England
1829 William Burt of the US patented his typographer machine
1868 Christopher Sholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule patent type writing machine
1872 Thomas Alva Edison builds first electric typewriter
1873 Remington & Sons mass produces the Sholes & Glidden typewriter
1978 Olivetti Company and the Casio Company develope electronic typewriter
The Story:
The idea behind the typewriter was to apply the concept of movable type developed by Johann Gutenberg in the invention of the printing press century to a machine for individual use. Descriptions of such mechanical writing machines date to the early eighteenth century. In 1714, a patent something like a typewriter was granted to a man named Henry Mill in England, but no example of Mills’ invention survives.

In 1829, William Burt from Detroit, Michigan patented his typographer which had characters arranged on a rotating frame. However, Burt’s machine, and many of those that followed it, were cumbersome, hard to use, unreliable and often took longer to produce a letter than writing it by hand.

Finally, in 1867, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin printer-publisher-politician named Christopher Latham Sholes, with assistance from Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, patented what was to be the first useful typewriter. He licensed his patent to Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York, a noted American gun maker. In 1874, the Remington Model 1, the first commercial typewriter, was placed on the market.

Based on Sholes’ mechanical typewriter, the first electric typewriter was built by Thomas Alva Edison in the United States in 1872, but the widespread use of electric typewriters was not common until the 1950s.

The electronic typewriter, a typewriter with an electronic "memory" capable of storing text, first appeared in 1978. It was developed independently by the Olivetti Company in Italy and the Casio Company in Japan.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Invention of  the Typewriter    from The Great Idea Finder
Invention of the QWERTY Keyboard   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages (1993) / Bluewood Books 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.
Accidents May Happen: 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Hardcover - 86 pages (1996) / Delacorte
Fifty inventions discovered by mistake receive entertaining cartoon embellishment but are actually serious subjects which will delight and entertain kids. 
The Typewriter: An Illustrated History
by Victor M. Linoff (Editor), Typewriter Topics / Paperback: 128 pages / Dover Pubns
Until the publication of very rare, superbly illustrated volume, there were few books dedicated to the early history of the typewriter.
Quirky Qwerty : A Biography of the Keyboard
by Torbjorn Lundmark / Hardcover: 176 pages (March 2000) / New South Wales Univ Pr Ltd
The renowned typewriter expert's is sure to stimulate enthusiasm all over again, bringing you new and as yet unpublished insights into the origins of the invention itself in a detailed history of the machine.
The Story of My Typewriter (Out of print.)
by Paul Auster, Sam Messer / Hardcover - 72 pages (July 2002) / Distributed Art Publishers
A relationship between Auster, his typewriter, and the artist Sam Messer, who, as Auster writes, "has turned an inanimate object into a being with a personality and a presence in the world."
Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
by Friedrich A. Kittler, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young / Paperback: 344 pages (1999) / Stanford Univ Pr
A vital historical dimension to the current debates over the relationship between electronic literacy and post-structuralism, and the extent to which we are constituted by our technologies.

ON THE WEB:
Typewriter
Machines to supersede the pen. From the UK Science Museum.
(URL: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/online/typewriters/index.asp)
Typewriters in the Office
SciTech, Carbons to Computers series from the Smithsonian Institution. Practical writing machines became technologically feasible as early as the fourteenth century. The invention of at least 112 such machines preceded the successful Remington typewriter.
(URL: www.smithsonianeducation.org/scitech/carbons/typewriters.html)
The First Typewriter
It was called the "Sholes & Glidden Type Writer," and it was produced by the gunmakers E. Remington & Sons in Ilion, NY from 1874-1878. It was not a great success (not more than 5,000 were sold), but it founded a worldwide industry, and it brought mechanization to dreary, time-consuming office work.
(URL: home.earthlink.net/~dcrehr/firsttw.html)
National Inventors Hall of Fame
The National Inventors Hall of Fame™ honors the women and men responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible..
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/168.html)

Technology History
On March 1, 1873, Sholes sold the rights to his typewriter patent to the Remington Arms Company for $12,000. The gunmaker perfected the design and began to sell the enormously successful Remington typewriter.
(URL: www.tecsoc.org/pubs/history/2002/mar1.htm
)
Typewriter Histroy
The first practical typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes, and was marketed by the Remington Arms company in 1873.
(URL: www.mit.edu/~jcb/Dvorak/history.html)

The Virtual Typwriter Museum
This virtual museum, that is based on private collections of antique typewriters from around the world, is a tribute to their ingenuity.
(URL: www.typewritermuseum.org/)
!829 Typewriter
Office workers today wouldn't be where they are without the contribution of William Austin Burt, who in 1829 patented the first typewriter.
(URL: www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/features/michweek/splash.html)

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • There was buying resistance to the first typewriters, because poor spellers could no longer hide their ignorance by using poor handwriting
  • Samuel L Clemens, better know as Mark Twain, was probably the first author to submit a typed script to his publisher? - he was one of the first to purchase a Sholes & Glidden typewriter.
  • The least expensive typewriter, produced in the late 1800`s, cost only $1, and was appropriately named, "The Dollar Typewriter"
  • E. Remington & Sons embarked on a new venture, and in September of 1873, the first Remington typewriters were produced. In 1886 Remington sold the typewriter business. This business would later become Remington Rand, then Sperry Rand.
  • The type writing machine prototype was eventually sent to Washington as the required Patent Model. The original still exists, locked up in a vault at the Smithsonian.
  • The invention of at least 112 such machines preceded the successful Remington typewriter.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised April 26, 2007.
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