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The Invention of the Typewriter

Typewriters

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Christopher Latham Sholes - typewriter

Christopher Latham Sholes invented the first practical modern typewriter, patented in 1868.

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While new technology for printing newspapers was being developed, another instrument for journalists was coming into existence, the typewriter.

Early Typewriters

Alfred Ely Beach made a sort of typewriter as early as 1847, but he neglected it for other things. His typewriter had many of the features of the modern typewriter, however, it lacked a satisfactory method of inking the types. In 1857, S. W. Francis of New York invented a typewriter with a ribbon that was saturated with ink. Neither of these typewriters were a commercial success. They were regarded merely as the toys of ingenious men.

Christopher Latham Sholes

The accredited father of the typewriter was Wisconsin newspaperman, Christopher Latham Sholes. After his printers went on strike, Sholes made a few unsuccessful attempts to invent a typesetting machine. He then, in collaboration with another printer, Samuel Soule, invented a numbering machine. A friend, Carlos Glidden saw this ingenious device and suggested that they should try to invent a machine that print letters.

The three men, Sholes, Soule, and Glidden agreed to try to invent such a machine. None of them had studied the efforts of previous experimenters, and they made many errors which might have been avoided. Gradually, however, the invention took form and the inventors were granted patents in June and July of 1868. However, their typewriter was easily broken and made mistakes. Investor, James Densmore bought a share in the machine buying out Soule and Glidden. Densmore furnished the funds to build about thirty models in succession, each a little better than the preceding. The improved machine was patented in 1871, and the partners felt that they were ready to begin manufacturing.

Sholes Offers the Typewriter to Remington

In 1873, James Densmore and Christopher Sholes offered their machine to Eliphalet Remington and Sons, manufacturers of firearms and sewing machines. In Remington's well-equipped machine shops the typewriter was tested, strengthened, and improved. The Remingtons believed there would be a demand for the typewriter and offered to buy the patents, paying either a lump sum, or a royalty. Sholes preferred the ready cash and received twelve thousand dollars, while Densmore chose the royalty and received a million and a half.
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