Lost to the past is one of the most amazing and widely used inventions the industrial era ever created. The typewriter. As with many inventions, such as the telephone, sewing machine and automobile numerous people, whether working independently or in competition with each other had a hand in constructing the popular time saver.
Although, the first patented typewriter was produced in the early 1700s by Englishman Henry Mills, it did not become commonplace until the mid-1880s. The Sholes and Glidden Typewriter was the first to be commercially successful and was invented by Americans Charles H. Sholes, Frank H. Hall, Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule. The group eventually sold the patent for $12,000 to Remington and Sons Company who began production on March 1, 1873.
One of paper manufacturer John T. Underwood’s clients happened to be Remington and Sons. Eventually, Remington would start his own paper production business, cutting into Underwood’s profits. Not to be outdone, John Underwood immediately started producing German-American inventor, Franz Wagner’s typewriter, referred to as the “Underwood Typewriter.” This fierce competition lasted well into the late 1960s as both companies continued typewriter production until they were eventually replaced by the modern-day computer.
Remington typewriters have two features still in use on modern computers. The first is the QWERTY key layout. These are the first six keys on the typeing keyboards top row. Originally arranged in alphabetical order, when a fast typist would type the keys would jam together and would have to be pulled apart. In an effort to slow typist down, Charles Scholes rearranged the most often used keys away from each other, as far apart as possible. The second feature is the shift key. It was created to shift the carriage to another position to enable the typist to type capital letters.
Remington and Underwood are only two of almost 700 different brands of typewriters. This one simple invention literally changed the world by allowing for better, faster communication in business, literature and endless other ventures. It allowed women to start careers never available to them before and it helped to increase manufacturing jobs as well as providing better pay.
The WPPMuseum has several 1920 era typewriters, a 1904 and 1917 War Postal scale and a working 1930 Stenographer Typewriter. Also, on display are 7 Goodman-Tidball Mercantile Company account ledgers ranging from a 1913 cash book to 1926 check register. This is a unique look back into business practices from the early part of the 20th century.
The museum is open 7 days a week, 10-4. For more information on this exhibit or any of our upcoming events, call 775-289-4710.