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Dodging the typewriter agent (1903)

In the early days of the typewriter, machines were mostly sold through agents. Only gradually were machines available in department stores. So, typewriter agents could be particularly aggressive, reaching out to potential customers… again… and again… and again…

The Clay Center Dispatch (Clay Center, Kansas), June 4, 1903 –

© 2024, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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1877: “It makes the following characters…”

When I was a teenager, I purchased a $20 stereo for my car. This was the late 1980s and twenty bucks was a real bargain. The packaging displayed obvious features: volume control, fast forward, channel selection, tape player — which were the only features! Twenty bucks, after all.

When the typewriter was introduced in the 1870s, advertisers sometimes listed features that would seem painfully obvious to us today:

A bit obvious, though people may not have known what symbols and figures the machine made.

Some features were well worth extolling: “It does not run with a treadle, and requires no ‘winding up.’” Apparently, consumers did not like the treadle on the original Sholes & Glidden Type Writer (see here).

I’m guessing “Dinsmore” was disappointed with at least one aspect of the advertisement:

The Fall River Daily Herald (Fall River, Massachusetts), June 2, 1877 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Describing the newly introduced “Type Writer” in 1877, one author writes, “Alas for poor clerks and legal scriveners! With Babbage’s calculating machine perfected, and the ‘type-writer’ complete and in working order, there is only one more invention to smash this shivering universe into ‘smithereens.’ Who will win the laurel by inventing a ‘thinking machine’? — Who?”

With the introduction of AI in the 21st century, we are finally able to answer that question!

The Irish Builder (Dublin, Ireland), October 1, 1877 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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The tandem typewriter bicycle (an illustration)

The typewriter was not simply an office tool for composing words. Over time the machine drove how business functioned, as illustrated in this 1899 article.

From The Typewriter and Phonographic World (New York), September 1899 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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She died of the clickety click

The following is a cute, little poem, but I wonder if it represents a real typist’s thoughts, or what the author imagined a typist might have felt. Certainly there is drudgery in any type of work, but typists of the late 19th century generally expressed enthusiasm for their profession.

From The Robinson Index (Robinson, Kansas), January 18, 1895 –

Note: Spelling variant – “clickety click” and “clickity click.”

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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