View Full Version : Friday Trivia: Typewriters

Star lover
February 1st, 2019, 08:27 AM
Christopher Latham Sholes (1819-1890) had produced 50 machines by 1873, but was unable to sell them; that year, he sold the production rights to gun manufacturer Philo Remington (1816-1889).


By 1874, the first Remington-made typewriter was sold by E. Remington & Sons. In 1878, the first typewriter to offer upper and lowercase letters, the Remington No. 2, debuted.

157445. Remington No. 2

In the 1890s, Remington competitor John Thomas Underwood (1857-1937) bought the rights to a more practical “front-stroke” machine from inventor Franz Xavier Wagner. The US Navy ordered 250 Underwood typewriters in 1897, solidifying his place in the market, and by 1915, the company employed 7,500 workers and produced 500 typewriters daily.


Even though he had been unsuccessful in the marketing of his invention, Sholes was aware that the typewriter would be vital in helping women achieve entrepreneurial freedom, saying it was a means for women to “more easily earn a living.” Typewriting led to a separation of the authorship and the writing up of documents, which provided a new social avenue for women, especially in business and politics.

Mark Twain was the first person in the world to produce a literary manuscript on a typewriter. That book was "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," which Twain said he'd had "type-copied" in 1874. He bought his first typewriter in Boston in 1873 for the sum of $125 and taught himself to type by repeating "The boy stood on the burning deck" (from the poem "Casabianca," by Felicia Hemans) until he mastered the skill.

Remington Rand typewriter ad featuring Mark Twain and his daughter, COLLIER'S MAGAZINE, February 24, 1945

The typewriter became a symbol of a certain type of writer, and many are still preserved in the estates or museums of well-known authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, and Ian Fleming.

The original typewriter’s most ubiquitous impact on modern society, seen all around the world on computer keyboards and mobile phones, is its key layout known as QWERTY. Christopher Latham Sholes originally tried an alphabetical layout in his prototypes, but the keys would jam; his solution shifted three of the most commonly used letters (E, T, and A) to the left hand, resulting in a design that slowed typists down and avoided jamming on the earliest machines.

157443. First typewriter with QWERTY keyboard.

In 1932, William Dealey and August Dvorak introduced the Dvorak keyboard, which was designed to make typing faster and less fatiguing; studies showed it increased accuracy and speed by about 70%. However, it never caught on because QWERTY had become too entrenched in society. It had been the sole layout when Remington cornered the market at the beginning, and by the 1930s, manufacturers, typists, and typing schools had too much invested in the status quo to change, even to a more efficient format.

157447. The Dvorak keyboard.

February 1st, 2019, 11:14 AM
The keyboard designis fascinating

February 1st, 2019, 11:15 AM
Interesting facts.

I still remember typing class on high school. The typewiter keys were still separate at that time, so if you slipped, your fingers got caught between the keys. I was happy for electric ones, with no space between the keys.

Carlie Wolf
February 1st, 2019, 12:51 PM
I remember learning of the non electric typewriters. The keys were kind of hard to push down. I was thrilled when the IBM Selectric came out :-) I thought that was so neat. I also remember initially crashing my earlier computers because my speed was so high. That was annoying, I had to keep remembering to slow down.

February 1st, 2019, 01:44 PM
My typing class in HS didn't get any electrics til the end of that year, so I learned on the manuals.

February 1st, 2019, 02:53 PM
I barely remember manual typewriters except what a pain it was to change the ribbon! Also the ghost letter you would get on keys used with your ring finger! I was a secretary my whole life. What changes there have been. Does anybody remember the mag card used mainly in law offices? That was between the selectric era and the word processor. It felt so modern and futuristic at the time! I enjoyed reading this history. I am still old school, I use a computer but my fave program is still Word Perfect.

February 1st, 2019, 03:40 PM
My DH used to work for IBM as a Customer Engineer & was trained on all the office equipment, including the Selectric typewriters & Mag Cards. We had a Selectric II for many yrs. DH kept it maintained until a part broke he couldn't get & he no longer could remember how to fix it. We had a wide selection of fonts. Now it's so amazing what all our computers can do.

February 1st, 2019, 03:40 PM
Anita, Wow, who knew a simple typewriter was so complicated. You come up with the most interesting facts. Love them.


February 1st, 2019, 06:28 PM
I still keep my dad's for its sentimental value. He was a journalist and I remember helping him sandwiching carbon paper so he could make several copies at once. And I am not that old! Just 45!

Patty J
February 1st, 2019, 09:15 PM
As an aside piece of information, Latham Sholes was the Newspaper editor and manager for a time in Southport which is now Kenosha, our local museum has one of his machines. He led a very interesting life--Including politics.
I had a Remington electric typewriter and I loved it. I was very sad when I broke some of keys and they wouldn't work anymore. I was a better typist than a shorthand stenographer. LOL