From the fourteenth
century (when the technology was first available) into the
nineteenth century over 100 proto-typewriters were planned or
built, many of which were patented and some of which were marketed
on a limited, though largely unsuccessful, basis.
Henry Mill, an English engineer, received the first patent
in 1714, while William Burt of Detroit received the first American
patent in 1829. None
of these early typewriters were quicker than handwriting, and many
were too big and bulky for practical use.
In 1870, Malling Hansen, a Danish pastor, developed a
typewriter intended to help blind people communicate in writing.
It used pinions on a writing ball (resembling a
pincushion), electromagnets, rotary wheels, and other mechanisms.
Hansen’s writing machine was diagrammed and explained
in the January 15, 1876 issue of Harper’s Weekly.
Although a number of Hansen typewriters were sold in
Europe, the machine’s commercial success was hindered by the
fact that it could not outpace handwriting.
Christopher Latham Sholes, a printer, newspaper editor, collector
of the port of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and inventor, was inspired
partly by an article in Scientific American describing a
British typewriter to undertake his own attempt at crafting a
workable model. Sholes,
assisted by Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule, initially created
a clumsy apparatus made of a telegraph key, a round piece of
glass, piano wire, and part of a table.
Returning to the drawing board, the men developed a
square-shaped machine with a piano-like keyboard that operated
faster than handwriting. This
first practical typewriter was patented in 1868 and is today
housed at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of
uninterested to raise the capital necessary to mass-produce the
invention, Sholes and his partners sold their patent rights to
businessmen James Densmore and George Yost.
Sholes continued to make improvements that enabled Densmore
and Yost to convince Remington and Sons, the famous American arms
manufacturer, to begin producing in late 1873 what became the
first commercially successful typewriter, the Sholes & Glidden
Type-Writer (also sold as Remington No. 1).
Designed by a Remington sewing-machine engineer, it had a
foot-pedal to advance the paper and was decorated with painted
Weekly ran a news item
in its June 28, 1873 issue
describing the invention. The
first mention of the typewriter—“a machine to supersede the
pen”—in a Remington advertisement
appeared in the August 14, 1875 issue.