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The Dial Typewriter (aka the Peacock)

Known in most resources as the “Peacock” typewriter, the Dial was patented in England by E. Peacock in 1884. The machine received brief notice in the 1880s, but no known specimens or images are extant.

(A typewriter copy-holder was patented by a different Peacock in 1894 — see patent here.)

From Brown & Holland Shorthand News, October 1885 —

Micahel Alder describes the Peacock in Antique Typewriters (p. 111): “A novel British patent for a circular index machine with radial type plungers around a drum and roller inking was granted to E.E. Peacock of London in 1894.”

Peacock’s Dial should not be confused for the toy typewriter of the same name.

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Speed of the typewriter (1887)

Advertisement displaying an early Remington typewriter, from the Camden Daily Courier, August 11, 1883.

What was it like to type on a Remington Standard No. 1? In practical terms, how efficient was that model? Opinions varied. A reporter from England put the machine to the test, stating, “As I have frequent inquiries addressed to me as to how many words I could write per minute and have also heard the machine spoken of somewhat disparagingly, I have put my ability to a practical test.”

The reporter found in extended diction tests that he typed faster than he could write shorthand, achieving around 45 words per minute on his “all caps” Remington. The publication concluded that the typewriter was indeed mightier faster than the pen.

His account is recorded in Browne’s Phonographic Monthly, March 1887.

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Once there were Type-Writers and Caligraphs

When the Remington Standard No. 2 was introduced in 1878, it became the commercial success that the Sholes & Glidden, introduced in 1874,1 promised to be. The No. 2 was the first commercial typewriter to feature case-shifting (upper and lower case typing), and it proved popular among stenographers. But there was also the Caligraph, introduced in 1880, which featured a double-keyboard (sometimes called a “duplex” keyboard).

For a time, trade journals and periodicals alternated between “type-writer” and “caligraph” as common nouns for mechanical writing machines.

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. The S&G later became the Remington Standard No. 1. []
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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



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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. []
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Manuscript hunters lamented the typewriter

Grant Allen… at his typewriter, here.

As authors in the 19th century increasingly adopted the typewriter, manuscript hunters lamented, as witnessed in The Literary World, Volume 46, 1892 —

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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