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$5,000 a letter

Geyer’s Stationery, May 1, 1902 —

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


The Czar’s typewriter

As the world was hankering for a sub-$100 typewriter, the Czar of Russia commissioned an ornate $700 machine, as was reported variously in the 1890s. Nicholas II and his wife apparently had an interest in writing machines, two of which are mentioned in historical records. The first was an autotype, which was used for dictation (not much more is known about that machine), and the second was a Remington, costing seven times the price of a regular machine.

The Remington was a dual-case No. 5 with 84 Russian characters. The Hamilton Literary Magazine, quoting Remington executive Henry H. Benedict, reported, “In decoration the Czar’s machine is a marvel of beauty. The frame is of white enamel, beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl in floral designs. The paper shelf is also of inlaid enamel and upon it is written in Russian a code of rules for the use and care of the machine. All the keys are made of ivory and the Russian characters upon them are inlaid in blue enamel. The trimmings of the machine, including the bars and the type basket, the front and rear shift rails, the levers, handles, bell, etc., are all gold-plated and the whole combination presents a dazzling effect.”

The Czar’s Remington was displayed in New York for a time. What ultimately became of the machine is unknown.

Robert Messenger at oz.Typewriter offers a post about royalty and their machines here: Typewriters Fit for Czarinas, Queens, Khedives and Viceroys: Elaborate, Ornate, Extraordinarily Curious and Wonderful.

In the News:

From The Shorthand Review, Jan. 1891.

From The Hamilton Literary Magazine, June 1896.

From the Phonographic World, January 1896.

From the Great Falls Tribune, Feb. 7, 1905.

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Love on a typewriter

For an opposing view to yesterday’s piece on typewritten love letters, I offer the following from an interview with J. Walter Earle of Remington in England. Very practical lovemaking on a typewriter.

From The Phonetic Journal, March 23, 1895 —

© 2019 – 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Making love on a typewriter

From Browne’s Phonographic Monthly, February 1887:

Linguistic note: Professor John McWhorter, Ph.D., of Columbia University, explains that “making love” did not initially refer to the act of sexual intercourse, even into the mid-1900s. His lectures can be found at The Great Courses.

© 2019 – 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Horton’s Typograph (ghost of the Bennington?)

Industry experts noted early the similarity between the Horton (left) and the Bennington (right).

Known more commonly as the Horton Typewriter, the Horton Typograph garnered “considerable interest” when introduced in 1882. Its inventor, Edward E. Horton, was a court reporter and vice president of the Canadian shorthand society, and one of the many stenographers who endeavored to build a better writing machine. Remington typewriters were esteemed, but stenographers badly wanted a machine with visible typing, something Remington would not offer until 1908.

(Quick primer: Early Remingtons struck the underside of the platen, the writing being out of view.)

The slew of visible typewriters that followed did not always live up to expectations. The Oliver functioned well and was successful, but most others fell short of expectations. The Horton, for its part, never even emerged as an actual product, and absent financing, the company folded after many years of promotion (see Robert Messenger’s post here). Only a few Hortons were ever made over a period of several years.

Originally, the Horton was called a typograph, a term frequently applied to machines before the Sholes & Glidden “Type Writer” of 1874. Shortly later, the Horton was called simply a typewriter. Greg Fudacz offers a “preliminary circular” for the Horton here, and that document identifies the machine as a typewriter. The circular likely dates to 1886.

The editors of The Phonographic World compared the Horton to another machine of similar design (see below), observing that there is “nothing new under the sun.” That machine, by Byron A. Brooks, later developed into a moderately successful product, and Brooks himself found success with the Remington Typewriter Company. Among his many accomplishments was case shifting (upper and lower case writing) for the Remington Standard No. 2 in 1878.

This typewriter, by B.A. Brooks, reflects a pattern in the design of some visible typewriters. See story below.

The Bennington Typewriter, which was issued about a decade after the Horton, was not favorably reviewed for its boasted improvements. Wrote The Typewriter and Phonographic World in 1903 (full text below), “[J]udging from the illustration of the ‘Bennington,’ its ‘inventor’ must have realized that in typewriters there was ‘nothing new under the sun,’ for it appears to embody, for the most part, all the exploded ideas in typewriters of a decade past.”

The publication observed that it looked frighteningly similar to the old Horton.

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.