Sholes and Glidden typewriter
The Sholes and Glidden typewriter (also known as the Remington No. 1) was the first commercially successful typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

. Principally designed by the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 inventor Christopher Latham Sholes, it was developed with the assistance of fellow printer Samuel W. Soule
Samuel W. Soule
Samuel W. Soule along with Christopher Sholes and Carlos Glidden invented the first practical typewriter at a machine shop located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1869.- References :Samuel W...

 and amateur mechanic Carlos S. Glidden
Carlos Glidden
Carlos Glidden , along with Christopher Sholes and Samuel W. Soule, invented the first practical typewriter at a machine shop located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.-References:...

. Work began in 1867, but Soule and Glidden left the enterprise shortly thereafter, replaced by James Densmore
James Densmore
James Densmore was a business associate of Christopher Sholes, who along with Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule helped contribute to inventing one of the first practical typewriters at a machine shop located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin....

, who provided financial backing and the driving force behind the machine's continued development. After several short-lived attempts to manufacture the device, the machine was acquired by E. Remington and Sons
E. Remington and Sons
E. Remington and Sons was a manufacturer of firearms and typewriters. Founded in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington in Ilion, New York, on March 1, 1873 it started manufacturing the first commercial typewriter.-Becoming "E. Remington & Sons":...

 in early 1873. An arms manufacturer seeking to diversify, Remington further refined the typewriter before finally placing it on the market on July 1, 1874.

During its development, the typewriter evolved from a crude curiosity into a practical device, the basic form of which became the industry standard. The machine incorporated elements which became fundamental to typewriter design, including a cylindrical platen
A platen is typically a flat metal plate pressed against a medium to cause an impression in letterpress printing...

 and a four-rowed QWERTY
QWERTY is the most common modern-day keyboard layout. The name comes from the first six letters appearing in the topleft letter row of the keyboard, read left to right: Q-W-E-R-T-Y. The QWERTY design is based on a layout created for the Sholes and Glidden typewriter and sold to Remington in the...

 keyboard. Several design deficiencies remained, however. The Sholes and Glidden could print only upper-case
All caps
In typography, all caps refers to text or a font in which all letters are capital letters. All caps is usually used for emphasis. It is commonly seen in the titles on book covers, in advertisements and in newspaper headlines...

 letters—an issue remedied in its successor, the Remington No. 2—and was a "blind writer", meaning the typist could not see what was being written as it was entered.

Initially, the typewriter received an unenthusiastic reception from the public. Lack of an established market, high cost, and the need for trained operators slowed its adoption. Additionally, recipients of typewritten messages found the mechanical, all upper-case writing to be impersonal and even insulting. The new communication technologies and expanding businesses of the late 19th century, however, had created a need for expedient, legible correspondence, and so the Sholes and Glidden and its contemporaries soon became common office fixtures. The typewriter is credited with assisting the entrance of women into the clerical workplace, as many were hired to operate the new devices.

Early development

The Sholes and Glidden typewriter had its origin in a printing machine designed in 1866 by Christopher Latham Sholes to assist in printing page numbers in books, and serial numbers on tickets and other items. Sholes, a Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

 printer, formed a partnership with Samuel W. Soule, also a printer, and together they began development work in Charles F. Kleinsteuber's machine shop, a converted mill in northern Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is the largest city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, the 28th most populous city in the United States and 39th most populous region in the United States. It is the county seat of Milwaukee County and is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. According to 2010 census data, the...

. Carlos S. Glidden, an inventor who frequented the machine shop, became interested in the device and suggested that it might be adapted to print alphabetical characters as well. In July 1867, Glidden read an article in Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

describing "the Pterotype", a writing machine invented by John Pratt and recently featured in an issue of London Engineering. Glidden showed the article to Sholes, who thought the machine "complicated and liable to get out of order", and was convinced that a better machine could be designed. To that point, several dozen patents for printing devices had been issued in the United States and abroad. None of the machines, however, had been successful or effective products.

Following their successful collaboration on the numbering machine, Sholes asked Soule to join him and Glidden in developing the new device. Mathias Schwalbach, a German clockmaker, was hired to assist with construction. To test the proposed machine's feasibility, a key was taken from a telegraph machine and modified to print the letter "W"; by September 1867, a model with a full alphabet, numbers, and rudimentary punctuation had been completed, and it was used to compose letters to acquaintances in the hope of selling the invention, or procuring funds for its manufacture. One recipient, James Densmore, immediately bought a 25% interest for $600, the cost of the machine's development to that date. Densmore saw the machine for the first time in March 1868, and was unimpressed; he thought it clumsy and impractical, and declared it "good for nothing except to show that its underlying principles were sound". Among other deficiencies, the device held paper in a horizontal frame, which limited the thickness of the paper that could be used and made alignment difficult. A patent for the "Type-Writer" was granted on June 23, 1868, and, despite the device's flaws, Densmore rented a building in Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 in which to begin its manufacture. Fifteen units were produced before a lack of funds forced the venture back to Milwaukee.


During 1869, an improved model was designed which, unlike the previous version, drew upon work done by other inventors. A machine patented in 1833 by Charles Thurber, for example, used a cylindrical platen. Sholes adapted the idea and implemented a rotating drum to which the paper was clipped, replacing the frame of the previous model. Soule and Glidden did not assist development of the new platen and, as their interest in the venture was waning, sold their rights to the original machine to Sholes and Densmore. Prototypes were sent to professionals in various fields, including James O. Clephane
James O. Clephane
James Ogilvie Clephane was an American court reporter and venture capitalist who was involved in improving, promoting and supporting several inventions of his age, including the typewriter, the graphophone, and the linotype machine...

, a stenographer whose heavy use destroyed several machines. Clephane's feedback, although "caustic", led to the development of an additional 25 to 30 prototypes, each an improvement on its predecessor. In summer 1870, Densmore traveled to New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 to demonstrate the machine to Western Union
Western Union
The Western Union Company is a financial services and communications company based in the United States. Its North American headquarters is in Englewood, Colorado. Up until 2006, Western Union was the best-known U.S...

, which was looking for a method to record telegrams. Western Union ordered several machines, but declined to purchase the rights, as it believed a superior device could be developed for less than Densmore's asking price of $50,000.

To supply the orders and to repay debts, Densmore began to manufacture the machine in summer 1871. During this time, the machine was revised to improve durability and the platen was redesigned after feedback from Western Union, which wanted the ability to print on a continuous roll, indicated that clipping paper to the platen was impractical. The new design, however, infringed a patent granted to Charles A. Washburn in November 1870; Washburn, consequently, received royalties on future production. In 1872, to manufacture the new machine in earnest, a former wheelwright
A wheelwright is a person who builds or repairs wheels. The word is the combination of "wheel" and the archaic word "wright", which comes from the Old English word "wryhta", meaning a worker or maker...

 shop was secured along with several employees. Although the machines worked well, the lack of economies of scale prevented the venture from yielding a profit. In exchange for funding the ventures, Densmore had been acquiring an ever increasing ownership interest
Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate or intellectual property. Ownership involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title, which may be separated and held by different parties. The concept of ownership has...

. Sholes was eventually bought out for a cash payment of $12,000. Densmore consulted with George W. N. Yost, a manufacturer with whom he had been acquainted, who suggested showing the machine to E. Remington and Sons. Remington, an arms manufacturer seeking to diversify after the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, possessed the machining equipment and skilled machinists necessary to further develop the complex machine. A typewritten letter was sent to Remington, where executive Henry H. Benedict was impressed by the novelty and encouraged company president Philo Remington
Philo Remington
Philo Remington was the eldest son of Eliphalet Remington II, who was himself the only son of Eliphalet Remington, inventor of the Remington rifle....

 to pursue the device.

Start of an industry

Following a demonstration at Remington's offices in New York, the company contracted on March 1, 1873, to manufacture 1,000 machines, with the option to produce an additional 24,000. Although the agreement required Densmore to give Remington $10,000 and royalty rights, a marketing firm to be formed by Densmore and Yost was allowed to serve as the exclusive sales agent. Remington dedicated a wing of its factory to the typewriter, and spent several months retooling and re-engineering the device; production began in September and the machine entered the market on July 1, 1874. Typewriter production was largely overseen by Jefferson Clough and William K. Jenne, manager of Remington's sewing machine division. The redesigned machine was sturdier and more reliable than Sholes' model, but it had taken on some of the characteristics of a sewing machine, including a japanned
Japanning describes the European imitation of Asian lacquerwork, originally used on furniture. The word originated in the 17th century.- Japanned :Japanned is most often a heavy black lacquer, almost like enamel paint...

 case with floral ornamentation and a stand with a treadle
A treadle [from OE tredan = to tread] is a part of a machine which is operated by the foot to produce reciprocating or rotary motion in a machine such as a weaving loom or grinder...

 to operate the carriage return. The typewriter, however, had been rushed into production with insufficient testing, and early models were soon returned for adjustments and repair.

By December 1874, only 400 typewriters had been sold, due in part to their high price and poor reliability. As businesses were slow to adopt the machine, authors, clergymen, lawyers and newspaper editors were the targeted customers. Individuals, however, generally did not write enough to justify the machine's price of about $125, the average annual income per person at the time. There were exceptions, however; Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 was among the first to purchase the machine, which he termed a "curiosity breeding little joker". Although the machine was exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, it was overshadowed by Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell was an eminent scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone....

's telephone. Several design and manufacturing improvements followed—including replacing the treadle with a hand lever—and 4,000 machines had been sold by 1877. In 1878, Remington outsourced marketing to E. & T. Fairbanks & Company
Fairbanks Morse and Company was a manufacturing company in the late 19th and early 20th century. Originally a weighing scale manufacturer, it later diversified into pumps, engines, windmills, locomotives and industrial supplies until it was merged in 1958...

, a scale manufacturer, as marketing to that point had produced only lackluster sales.

An improved model, the Remington No. 2, was also introduced in 1878. The new machine was able to type upper and lowercase characters, thus remedying a significant drawback of its predecessor. As the only typewriter manufacturer, Remington maintained a monopoly
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 position until the American Writing Machine Company introduced a typewriter to compete with the Remington machines in 1881. In response to the new competition, Remington lowered the price of the Sholes and Glidden (referred to in sales literature as the Remington No. 1) to $80, and negotiated an agreement with the marketing firm Wyckoff, Seamans
Clarence Seamans
Clarence Walker Seamans was an American typewriter manufacturer and executive of several organizations involved in the production and sale of the Remington typewriter, including the Union Typewriter Company and the Remington Typewriter Company.-Early life:Seamans was born June 5, 1854 in Ilion,...

 & Benedict to take all the machines produced. The arrangement marked the beginning of the typewriter's commercial success, as the agency's marketing prowess led to the sale of 1,200 machines in its first year. By 1884, more competitors had appeared, including the Hammond Typewriter Company, the Crandall Type-Writer Company and the Hall Typewriter Company; in the decade since the introduction of the Sholes and Glidden, a "thriving typewriter industry" had developed.


The Sholes and Glidden typewriter incorporated several components adapted from existing devices, such as escapement
In mechanical watches and clocks, an escapement is a device that transfers energy to the timekeeping element and enables counting the number of oscillations of the timekeeping element...

 (a mechanism governing carriage movement) adapted from clockwork
A clockwork is the inner workings of either a mechanical clock or a device that operates in a similar fashion. Specifically, the term refers to a mechanical device utilizing a complex series of gears....

, keys adapted from telegraph machines and type hammers adapted from the piano. In developing the first model, however, Sholes and Soule had not investigated printing machines created by other inventors and, consequently, developed several poor designs which could have been avoided. The failure to research earlier designs also led to the reinvention of features which had already been developed. Soule, for example, suggested a circular typebar orientation. A circular arrangement had been used more than 30 years earlier in a machine designed by Xavier Progin in 1833.

In the machine's original 1868 design, paper was placed horizontally on the top of the machine, held in place by a movable square frame (to provide line and letter spacing). Above the paper and centered on the device, an arm held an inked ribbon which crossed over a small metal plate. Depressing a key caused a typebar
A typebar is an 'arm' inside a typewriter with a character on the end of it. There are generally two characters per typebar, one which will be printed if the corresponding key is struck by itself, the other of which will be printed if the corresponding key is struck while the shift key is depressed...

 to rise from underneath the paper, pressing the paper upwards against the ribbon and thus printing an inked character. This method of imprinting required use of very thin, nonstandard paper (such as tissue paper
Tissue paper
Tissue paper is a lightweight paper or, light crêpe paper. Tissue can be made both from virgin and recycled paper pulp.-Properties:Key properties are: strength, absorbency, basis weight, thickness , brightness, stretch, appearance and comfort....

). Two variants were produced with alternative methods of actuating the typebars: one in which the keys and typebars were connected by a series of wires and one in which the keys directly "kicked" the typebars upwards.
The arm and frame components were replaced with a cylindrical platen in 1869. Unlike modern typewriters, the revised machine entered letters around the cylinder, with axial rotation providing letter spacing and horizontal shifting providing line spacing. Paper was clipped directly to the cylinder, which limited its length and width to the dimensions of the apparatus. The platen was again redesigned in early 1872 to allow the use of paper of any length. The redesigned platen also introduced the modern spacing functionality (horizontal and axial movement providing letter and line spacing, respectively). The cylindrical platen became "an indispensable part of every standard [typewriter]".

By the end of 1872, the appearance and function of the typewriter had assumed the form that would become standard in the industry and remain largely unchanged for the next century. Although the machine possessed a cylindrical platen and what was essentially a QWERTY keyboard, two design elements that would later become essential were lacking: the ability to write in upper and lowercase letters and "visible" print. Although the former was implemented in the Remington No. 2, the machine was fundamentally an "upstrike" design, meaning the typebars struck upwards against the underside of the platen. As this occurred inside the machine, the operator could not see what was being entered as it was typed. Although competing brands, such as the Oliver
Oliver Typewriter Company
The Oliver Typewriter Company was an American typewriter manufacturer headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The Oliver Typewriter was the first effective "visible print" typewriter, meaning text was visible to the typist as it was entered. Oliver typewriters were marketed heavily for home use,...

 and Underwood, began to market "visible" typewriters in the 1890s, a Remington-branded model did not appear until the Remington No. 10 in 1906.

QWERTY keyboard

The QWERTY keyboard, so named for the first six characters of the uppermost alphabetic row, was invented during the course of the typewriter's development. The first model constructed by Sholes used a piano-like keyboard with two rows of characters arranged alphabetically as follows:
Schwalbach later replaced the piano-like keys with "buttons" and positioned them into four banked rows. The mechanics of the machine, however, made the alphabetical arrangement problematic. The typebars were attached to the circumference of a metal ring, forming a "basket". When a key was pressed, the corresponding typebar would swing upwards, causing the print head to strike at the center of the ring. Gravity would then return the typebar to its initial position. The implication of this design, however, was that pressing adjoining keys in quick succession would cause their typebars to collide and jam the machine. To mitigate this problem, keys were reordered using analysis of letter frequency and trial and error. Typebars corresponding to letters in commonly occurring alphabetical pairs, such as S and T, were placed on opposite sides on the ring. The keyboard ultimately presented to Remington was arranged as follows:

After it purchased the device, Remington made several adjustments—including switching the period and "R" keys—which created a keyboard with what is essentially the modern QWERTY layout.

Reception and legacy

The Sholes and Glidden was the first commercially successful typewriter. Industrialization and corporate growth in the late 19th century produced a business environment for which the device was well suited. New communications technologies, such as the telegraph and telephone, facilitated geographic expansion and increased the speed with which business was conducted. The resulting increase in the volume of correspondence required messages to be produced quickly and legibly. Before the typewriter, clerks and copyists could write relatively quickly in shorthand
Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed or brevity of writing as compared to a normal method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos and graphē or graphie...

 or longhand
Cursive, also known as joined-up writing, joint writing, or running writing, is any style of handwriting in which the symbols of the language are written in a simplified and/or flowing manner, generally for the purpose of making writing easier or faster...

. The comprehension of these scripts, however, required either special training or close concentration. Typesetting was used when legibility was important, but it was a slow and expensive process. The typewriter succeeded because it simultaneously addressed both issues.

The public was initially skeptical of the typewriter, and reactions included apathy and antagonism. Outside of large companies, letters generally did not need to be composed quickly; as the device was reliant upon its operator, it offered no automation. In business settings involving customer interaction, the unfamiliar machines were viewed with suspicion (as there existed the perception that mechanical devices could be rigged by unscrupulous merchants) and the presence of such a large object between the customer and employee "interrupted the 'personal touch. Individuals receiving typewritten letters often found them insulting (as type implied they could not read handwriting) or impersonal, problems exacerbated by the all upper-case writing. The typewriter also precipitated privacy concerns, as recipients of letters of a personal nature believed a third-party operator or typesetter must have been involved in their composition.

Women and the typewriter

The association of women with the typewriter may be linked to the way in which it was marketed. Before the typewriter was acquired by Remington, Sholes' daughter was employed to demonstrate the device and to appear in promotional images, which served as the basis for early advertisements. Remington's sales agents later marketed the machine with tactics including the use of attractive women to demonstrate the device at trade shows and in hotel lobbies. Depictions of female operators suggested the device was "easy enough for a woman" and suited for domestic use. Although also designed to allow Remington to maintain manufacturing efficiencies with its sewing machine division, the typewriter's aesthetics (the sewing machine stand and floral ornamentation) were further intended to facilitate its acceptance into the household.

A "major consequence" of the typewriter's development was the entrance of women into the clerical work force. Although women were already employed in factories and certain service industries in the 1880s, the typewriter facilitated an influx of women into office settings. Before the Young Women's Christian Association
The YWCA USA is the United States branch of a women's membership movement that strives to create opportunities for women's growth, leadership and power in order to attain a common vision—to eliminate racism and empower women. The YWCA is a non-profit organization, the first of which was founded in...

 (YWCA) established the first typing school in 1881, women were trained by the manufacturer and their typing services provided to customers along with the machine. The expansion of correspondence and paper work that demanded the efficiency of typewriters, however, also created demand for additional clerical workers. The low wages accepted by women—often 50% (or less) of those paid to a man—made them more attractive economically to businesses when filling the new positions. As typing and stenography positions could pay up to ten times more than those in factories, women were attracted in large numbers to office work. In 1874, less than 4% of clerical workers in the United States were women; by 1900, the number had increased to approximately 75%. Before his death, Sholes remarked of the typewriter, "I do feel that I have done something for the women who have always had to work so hard. This will enable them more easily to earn a living."

See also

  • American Typewriter
    American Typewriter
    American Typewriter is a style of typeface created in 1974 by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan for International Typeface Corporation based on the form and monospaced feature of the early Sholes's patent of the typewriter. They adapted the friendliness and immediacy of this style into the proportionally...

    , a modern font based on the Sholes and Glidden typewriter font
  • Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
    Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
    The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard is a keyboard layout patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey. Over the years several slight variations were designed by the team led by Dvorak or by ANSI...

    , QWERTY alternative

Further reading

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