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The Stenodactyle (1902)

The Stenodactyle is an exceptionally rare machine, and only one is known today (see ETCetera, p. 18, here). Jules Lafaurie, a Frenchman, designed and patented the Stenodactyle in 1903 in both the United States and France (see US734895 and FR339341). It was, at this early stage, regarded as a version of a typewriter, not a dedicated machine for transcription. One advertisement pictures a young woman typing with the device on her lap.

La Nature expresses the belief that the invention of M. Laufaurie (sic) will be a boon,” wrote the Phonographic World in 1903, “particularly to newspaper reporters, in whose work uniformity in outlines while making notes is an extremely important matter. The machine is adaptable to any language, and, inasmuch as employs an undeviating code, its operation is easily mastered.”

The Stenodactyle, however, was not a success, and beyond a few mentions in the press, it was little noticed, though it appears to have been employed in the French parliament.1 Lafaurie (his name was misspelled in some press accounts) was an engineer and held several patents, including one for telegraphy, a type of brush, and improved ribbon movement in typewriters (likely the Stenodactyle). His name also appears in a patent for an earlier stenographic machine invented by Alfred Julius Boult (GB190009271T). It may be that Lafaurie was a co-inventor.

Lafaurie was also associated with Guillaume Girou-Lanauze, an engineer whose inventions were related to the shoe industry.

Note that the Stenodactyle was sometimes spelled Stenodactyl.

La Nature (Paris), November 1902 – click image to enlarge –

Liverpool Daily Post (Liverpool), November 27, 1902 –

27 Nov 1902, Thu Liverpool Daily Post (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) Newspapers.com

The Literary Digest (New York), November 29, 1902 –

Click image to view in Google Books –

The Typewriter and Phonographic World (New York), February 1903 –

Images from the patent:

A copy of a French advertisement for the Stenodactyl can be found at Richard Polt’s blog here. An original is held in the Library of Congress.

© 2022, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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