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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Aug. 7, 1903)
AUGUST 7,' 1903.
irmqpVa'Vrr1F VW"" Kr fJTO
The History of the Typewriter
Writing in the Chicago Tribune, S.
N. D. North, director of the census,
While the idea of a mechanical let
ter writer appears to have occurred
to an Englishman named Henry Mill
In 1714, I helievo I have the honor of
fcelng the first person to put the type
writer into actual practical business
usage. This was in 1872 at TJtica, N.
lY. I have often wished that I had
kept that original machine, for it
would have illustrated better than any
other mechanism with which I am fa
miliar the marvelous rapidity with
which American ingenuity advances to
the point of perfecting any labor-saving
instrument the underlying prin
ciple of which has been successfully
worked out. My machine was heavy
and cumbersome in comparison with
the delicate mechanism of today, but
the principle of construction was es
sentially the same, except that the
carriage, instead of being restored to
position by hand at the end of each
line as now, was brought back by
means of a foot pedal, and it came
with a jar that made the machine
tremble in ever part My machine did
neither elegant nor uniform work, but
after a week or two I was able to ac
complish all my editorial writing upon
it, and I began to realize dimly what
an unspeakable boon to weak-eyed per
sons lay here in embryo.
While many patents have been
granted in Europe for writing ma
chines, the real history of the type
writer belongs to the United States;
it was in this country that the first
practical typewriter was made and
from the beginning the superiority of
the American machine has been rec
ognized in all parts of the world.
Therefore the history of the evolu-
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Uon of the typewriter of today may bo
gleaned from an account of the fail
ures and successes of American in
ventors, and incidentally I might Bay
that nearly 2,000 patents in the class
of typewriters have been granted in
the United States patent offlco. It is
impossible to go into detail of the nu
merous attempts to construct a prac
tical typewriter or the various invent
ors who labored toward that end.
While most of these men failed to pro
duce a perfect machine, their efforts
contributed to the final success, and
to each of them a share of tho credit
is due. In this connection, however, it
may prove Interesting to mention some
of tho earlier inventions. The first
typewriter invented in the United
States was called tho "typographer,"
and was patented in 1829 by William
Austin Burt of Detroit, Mich. It never
produced good results. In 1843 Charles
Thurner of Worcester, Mass., patented
a writing machine which produced
good results in every respect except
speed. Another step in the evolution
of the present day typewriter was tho
invention of A. Ely Beach of New
York, who secured patents on a ma
chine in 1847 and in 1856.
It was not until 1874, however, that
tho typewriter was placed on tho
market for general sale. Like many
other inventions which have grown
to be indispensable, the typewriter
was first greeted by tho public with
skepticism. But tho typewriter had a
usefulness which was not to be ignored
and among the first to recognize this
fact were the court stenographers, who
found that with the aid of the type
writer they could make several conies
of a record at tho same time and with
neatness and dispatch. Lawyers, hav
ine the advantage of the machine thus
brought home to them, soon began to
adont it for nrivato use. Courts of
'law, which for centuries had required
all naners to be submitted in hand
writing, began to require such papers
to be typewritten, ana today the hand
written leeal document is tho excen
tlon, not the rule. Tho largo business
houses having an extensive corre
spondence, being always ready for im
Drovements and time-savins: methods.
were next to adopt the typewriter, and
the commercial world in general soon
followed their example. The work of
the typewriter was its own best rec
ommendation. As typewritten letters
and papers were spread throughout
the country there was awakened a
general interest in the machine and
Its work. It began to find its way in
to every line of business and profes
sional life: authors and newspaper
men adopted it; telegraph companies
have made it a part of their equip
ment, for so raDldlv can messages be
transcribed that tho receiving operator
cannot only keep pace with tne sender,
but can maintain speed so great as to
brine- about the abbreviation of the
telegraphic code. In fact, there is not
a single business or proression m
which the typewriter has not estab
lished its usefulness.
The use of the typewriter for mis
cellaneous correspondence became
general in all the departments of the
government except the department of
state during the early '80's; it was
first used for instructions to diplo
matic and consular officers of the de
partment of state in April, 1895. The
official communications of the depart
ment of state to diplomatic officers of
, loreign countrieo wcuiu
I United States continued to be hand
written until May, 1897. ceremonial
letters addressed to foreign sover
eigns are still handwritten.
Amno- m most, noticeable advance
ments in the art of typewriting during
recent years has been tne develop
ment and perfecting of book typewrit
ar.a omi at this time inventors are ac
tively engaged in perfecting power
typewriters. In this class or maenmes
The operator merely has to touch tho
key with sufficient force to releaso a
latch mechanism, whereupon power
from some external source completes
Another aspoct to be' considered in
connection with tho typewriter is its
industrial effect. Not only has tho
steadily increasing demand opened a
new field for skilled labor in the
manufacture, but tho effort to secure
the best possible results from the uso
of tho machine created n new profes
sion. When tho machine became prac
tically useful tho need of skilled oper
ators became apparent This resulted
in giving employment to thousands of
The rise of tho typewriter has been
most remarkable. Looked upon at
first as an articlo of amusement and
of little practical value, it has re
ceived within tho last quarter cen
tury tho unqualified approval of tho
business and professional world, and
has been given tho sanction of statute
by almost every state and national
legislature and adopted by every civ
ilized government In the world.
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A Model of the Capital,
On tho attic floor of tho capltol, bo
hind doors which open only to the art
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of the Capitol Elliott Woods Is be
ing constructed the flrSt accurate mo
dol of the proposed enlarged capltol.
For several weeks Emilo Garret, the
French artist, said to be tho finest
plaster modeler in the United States,
has been at work on the model. It is
not for the gratification of a personal
whim, but for the coming congress
that the artist and hiB four or five as
sistants aYe laboring. When congress
convenes the work for which was ap
propriated $7,000 will be ready to be
placed before them, and thoy will see
for the first time tho ideas which Su
perintendent Woods has had in mind
when he was asked for the extension
of the main portion of tho capltol.
For years tho enlargement of the
capitol has been agitated, and, in fact,
the wjngs were constructed, It Is said,
with the idea of extending the main
building. At present the stately dome
sits awkwardly on the eastern edge of
Tho structure, and not symmetrically
in the center, as the new addition
would make it. Congress at its last
session authorized Mr. Woods to have
constructed an exact .model of the
proposed addition. It Is this work that
is now being done by Emile Garret
In order to show'off the improvement
it was necessary to make a model of
the whole capitol. The original draw
ings and cuts of the building were put
at the disposal of the artist, and now
line the walls of sanctum sanctorum.
From these, with molds and chisels,
by the utmost preciseness a little cap
itol has been fashioned. One of the
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the construction of the dome with its
correct curve. Tuesday pieces of the
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all not yet having been put in place
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The location of every one of tho pro
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