Do you use a typewriter? More likely in our day you use a computer, be it a laptop, desktop, or maybe a handheld of some type to send and receive texts on. Modern technology is always ahead of us.
At one time though residents and businesses, county offices, banks, hospitals, schools, etc, in all of Eureka County as well as Nevada and the entire country, used a typewriter for the simple reason: that was all they had.
Computers and other types of modern texting devices did not exist then. How many of you remember taking typing class high school?
The present day computer keyboard layout is much the same as it was on the later improved models of the typewriter.
The tale of the typewriter, or a machine that impresses letters on paper goes back as far as 1575 in Italy, and many different types of machines were created over the centuries, all based on the idea of finding a successful letter-printing machine.
The first successful commercial typewriter was invented by three men in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, Samuel Soulé (Soo-lay), Christopher Sholes and Carlos Glidden.
However, there have been others who contest that claim and say credit should also be given to Frank Haven, Guiseppe Ravizza and John Pratt. Maybe so, maybe not.
In 1866, Soulé, Sholes and Glidden had been working together on the idea of a page numbering machine, but were also aware of the need for a writing machine. Over 50 attempts had been made to invent such a machine, but the results of each try were cumbersome and quite impractical.
Machines that had been invented were just not good enough for use on a commercial scale, let alone for private use.
Sholes had been a master printer since the age of 18 and been editor of the Wisconsin Enquirer since age 20. He had also worked as a clerk for the territorial legislature, U.S. postmaster under President James Polk (1845-49), collector for the port of Milwaukie under President Lincoln, and had held several state legislative offices, and served a term in the Wisconsin State Senate.
By 1867 , Sholes was seriously working on a writing machine. He said, “A practical writing machine means a revolution almost as great as that caused by the invention of printing.”
With the assistance of Soulé and Glidden, the three inventors did produce a prototype in 1867 and received a patent in 1868.
Sholes said one of the driving forces for him to create a practical writing machine stemmed from his education as a youth in the one-room school house he attended in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, and his having to write his full name, Christopher Latham Sholes, so many times on the blackboard. He didn’t say what the reason for that was. He called it, “A challenge to the laborious and unsatisfactory performance of the pen. That implanted in my mind the embryo of the mechanical typewriter.”
Biographers note that after his typewriting machine was perfected and improved, he never used a pen to sign his name again.
Soulé and Glidden later gave up on the project, but Sholes did not. He stuck with it, making improvement after improvement or reconstructing over 50 models until 1873.
The 1873 model had the QWERTYUIOP keyboard layout that is still used today.
Then Sholes sold his rights to his invention to Philo Remington of the Remington Arms Company for $12,000.
The first commercial typewriter sold in public bore the name “Remington,” and according to some historians, the first buyer was Mark Twain who paid $125. He was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to a publisher – Life on the Mississippi (1883).
Sholes continued making more improvements to his models over the years, correcting defects and other problems.
In 1882, Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict bought the rights to the machines and sold 200,000 models by 1896.
Shortly before the end of the 19th century, the typewriter was recognized as one of the world’s most important inventions.
Sholes prediction that the typewriter might be equally as important as the invention of the printing press was just about right.
Author Peggy Robbins noted the $12,000 Sholes received when he sold his invention to the Remington Company was the only payment he ever received for this writing machine.
Sholes died in Feb. 1890, three days after his 71st birthday.
And because of him and numerous others who made improvements to the typewriter that became a necessity for so long in business, commerce, education, etc., everyone in Eureka County, Nevada and the United States who has ever used one for whatever reason can be thankful of its invention.
(Adapted from a story by Peggy Robbins, 1981)