Saturday, June 23, 2012

Happy Birthday to the Typewriter!

Patent drawing for the Sholes, Glidden & Soule Typewriter 1868
144 years ago on June 23, 1868, American inventor Christopher Sholes, and two partners Samuel Soule and Carlos Glidden, patented the “Type-Writer.” There were other mechanical writing machines before this, but the "Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer" became the first commercially successful model. The rights to the typewriter were purchased by E. Remington & Sons in 1873. Remington (later Remington Arms Co.) marketed a commercially viable version the next year.  During its development, the typewriter evolved from a crude curiosity into a practical device, the basic form of which became the industry standard. The machine incorporated elements which became fundamental to typewriter design, including a cylindrical platen and a four-rowed QWERTY keyboard.
The first commercially viable typewriter

A female typist operates a Sholes and Glidden typewriter, as depicted in an 1872 Scientific American article
Through the years major manufacturers of typewriters have included Remington, Underwood, Royal and Smith-Corona. With the advent of the electric typewriter in the early 1900s other business machine companies got in on the act. IBM launched its first electric typewriter in 1935 and changed the world standard with its IBM Selectric in 1961.

Now, in the world of computers, word processing programs and touch screens, typewriters have become just another part of history. Old typewriters are cherished by business machine and office products collectors. Designers love the look as an accent in an otherwise modern office. Typewriters fit right in with industrial chic!

Many famous writers have depended on typewriters for their livelihoods, some well into the computer era. Mark Twain claimed in his autobiography that he was the first important writer to present a publisher with his typewritten manuscript for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Ernest Hemingway used to write his books standing up in front of a Royal typewriter that was placed on a tall bookshelf. Famous beat poet, Jack Kerouac, typed his classic On the Road on a roll of paper so he would not be interrupted by having to change the paper.

Other notables were Tom Robbins, who wrote lovingly about his Remington in Still Life with Woodpecker, Andy Rooney and William F. Buckley, who swore by the typewriter (and presumably "at" the computer) right to the end and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynki, used a typewriter to  write his infamous manifesto.

Even musicians have been captured by the classic sounds of the typewriter. Composer Leroy Anderson wrote The Typewriter (1950) for orchestra and typewriter, and it was used in this classic scene with Jerry Lewis from his movie comedy Who's Minding The Store. The Lovin' Spoonful used the  typewriter, complete with carriage return bell, in their hit song Money (1968).

We have a few excellent old typewriters available. One is a Royal KHM typewriter from the 1930s. The other two are Remingtons - a Remington-5 (1937) and a Remington-7 Noiseless (1940s).  These are available in our shop and are not listed online at this time. Contact us if you are interested in one of them.
Royal KHM Typewriter from the 1930s ($195)
Remington-5 Typewriter from 1937 ($145)

Remington-7 Noiseless Typewriter from the 1940s ($145)

For more information about typewriter history and collecting, visit Anthony Casillo's

1 comment :

  1. I actually recall using a manual (and eventually electric) typewriter as a little girl, watching the paper scroll out words written with dual-colored ribbon -- and a heavy carriage return! Computer keyboards simply don't have the same romanticism.

    You carry lovely things in your shop, and thank you for swinging by my blog!


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