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The Stearns Visible Typewriter

A Stearns typewriter with a Burlingame telegraph device attached.

The Stearns Visible Typewriter was a modestly successful machine. Edward Carl Stearns, more widely recognized for his efforts in automobiles and bicycles, manufactured this typewriter from around 1902 through about 1915. The Stearns was an early “visible” typewriter, and it was adopted as the principal machine by a telegraph company, though later that company turned out to be fraudulent (Robert Messenger outlines that story here).

How many Stearns are extant is uncertain and only a few are to be found in collections.1 What became of the typewriter enterprise, however, is unknown. Stearns himself merits a page on Wikipedia (see here).

August Schneeloch, the principal designer of the machine, filed a number of patents for the Stearns (assigned to E.C. Stearns & Co.). Later, he worked for Oliver and Underwood. His patents can be located here.

Geyer’s Stationer, May 8, 1902 —

Edward Carl Stearns


The Willmington Messenger, Feb. 2, 1907:
Tue, Feb 12, 1907 – Page 5 · The Wilmington Messenger (Wilmington, New Hanover, North Carolina) · Newspapers.com

Canadian Journal, May 1907:

From the Burlingame Telegraph Company (contrary to the caption in the advertisement, the machine is not a Stearns, but an L.C. Smith):

Sat, Jan 23, 1909 – Page 11 · Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania) · Newspapers.com

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. See this page archived at the Way Back Machine. []
{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Bill M February 27, 2019, 12:09 pm

    Interesting looking typewriter. I wonder how it actually worked.

  • Richard P March 1, 2019, 4:39 am

    The Stearns is very rare today, for some reason. I see one on eBay once every 4 or 5 years, I think.

    • Mark Adams March 3, 2019, 9:40 pm

      Frequency on eBay is an interesting gauge. Machines appearing only once every so many years are, generally speaking, exceedingly rare. Doesn’t appear that the Stearns was made in any appreciable number.

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