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Perhaps the most important business development of the last twenty years has been the widespread adoption of personal computers, fax machines, advanced copying and printing techniques, email and, of course, the Internet.  It has enabled instantaneous, worldwide communication and facilitated truly multinational corporations and global enterprises.  This website describes the ancestry of many of these products.

While the telegraph was in widespread use by the time of the Civil War, the development of office machines in the last quarter of the nineteenth century helped spur the expansion of American business from local to regional to national.  Many of these products were written about in Harper’s Weekly as they were patented and adopted.  In particular, the 173,000 advertisements in the publication between 1857 and 1912 included many different brands of typewriters, adding machines, copiers, and dictating machines.  Even the keypunch and tabulating machines, which were developed initially for the 1890 census and are the predecessor of today’s computers, were covered in some depth.

Dr. Robert C. Kennedy explains the history of eight of these office machines from early prototypes through descriptions and illustrations in Harper’s Weekly (1857-1912) to contemporary models.  Anyone interested in today’s computers and the Internet should enjoy this website.

John Adler, Publisher

Selected items on Business Machines from the pages of Harper’s Weekly, 1857 - 1912:

Adding Machine / Calculator, 1857
      Keyboard Adding Machines

Typewriter, 1873
      Finding Financial Success
      Women's Work
      Rival Companies
      Expansion and Consolidation

Dictation Machine, 1878

Copier, 1880

Shorthand Typewriter, 1883

Fax Machine (Telautograph), 1888

Keypunch Tabulating Machine, 1890

Answering Machine, 1905

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