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The typewriter-cycle

Mr. Dudley H. Pope on a typewriter-cycle, featuring a Remington on the handlebars.

An avid cyclist, I find this typewriter-cycle impossibly top heavy, but Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict thought it an idea worth exploring.

Describing the initiative in 1894, the Illustrated Phonographic World wrote: “The inventor of the typewriter-cycle is Mr. Dudley H. Pope… Mr. Pope rode this cycle throughout the 28 mimic battles, without a single hitch occurring, and at the direction of the commanding officer, from time to time, threaded his way at full speed in and out the various lines of gun-carriages, wagons, etc.”

“The typewriter is instantly detachable,” the World continued, “rendering the cycle available for the speedy transmission of any message or order. The practical utility of the typewriter-cycle was fully evidenced, messages being signaled from balloons and instantly typewritten, and then conveyed to the rear by a trained war dog.”

The utility of portable typewriters, notably the Corona 3, would eventually obviate the need for such contrivances.

From The Illustrated Phonographic World (New York), November 1894 —

Robert Messenger writes about other bicycle/typewriters here.

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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The Yost No. 4, as observed in 1895

Today, we turn to CNET for the latest in technology, but in the 1890s, readers turned to stenographic magazines. New typewriters and models were of particular interest to this group and certain features would draw their attention. The Phonetic Journal highlighted the Yost No. 4 in its product summary after that model was introduced in 1895.

“Dealing with the carriage, it will be observed that the carriage of the No. 4 presents many improvements,” wrote the publication. “The paper can be instantly inserted without the operator having to raise or depress any panel, and can be freely turned either forward or backward at any moment by simply turning the platen or roller.”

Overall, the No. 4 was only moderately improved from the No. 3.

From the Phonetic Journal, Feb. 2, 1895 —

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Use black ink

Many letters in the late 19th and early 20th century were typed in purple ink. (To read about this letter, see here.)

A lot is said about the printed word’s enduring quality. John Mayer made this observation in the documentary California Typewriter, noting that all of his lyrics existed in digital form, which prompted him to invest in an electric typewriter so that his drafts might be admired in physical form. (It is remarkable to see an artist’s handwritten or typewritten work.)

That the digital word is so insubstantial, so ephemeral is debatable — our digital footprint is quite immutable (yes, as long as someone remembers to pay the power bill) — but the printed word has stood the test of time.

In the late 1800s, however, people were concerned that typewritten material lacked permanence, particularly purple ink, which was a favored color. At issue was quick-drying aniline ink that was also (apparently) quick-fading. Journals and publications recommended using non-analine black ink.

The matter was resolved over time (inks became more substantial) but black, at some point, became the dominant color. And so we type mainly… in black.

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Typoscript, graphotype… anyone?

From the Marin Journal, July 18, 1889 —

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Hear it type

Had it gone into production, Theodore D. Robinson’s typewriter would have been music to the ears. Each keystroke on this novel machine would have rung a different note, making a sort of melody. Robinson did not explain why this would be useful — perhaps as an aid to the blind? — but each keystroke would produce a sound much like a telephone keypad. Robinson filed his patent in 1902.

To make this melody, the keys would strike sounding bells. “The bells are so constructed,” explained Robinson, “that each bell has a distinct and individual sound different from that of all the other bells, or a series of bells may have the same distinct sound which differs from the sound of another series of bells.”

Further, the operator could “tune” his or her machine, substituting bells of different sizes and thicknesses, and adjusting the striking position so that the levers struck different portions of the bell.

The patent can be found here. Robinson filed a number of patents for various inventions. This is his only typewriter patent.

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.