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The typewriter clavier (it doesn’t type)

It looks like a typewriter… sounds like a typewriter… but it doesn’t type.

The “Type-Writing Clavier” was intended as a learning tool so as to save schools and institutions the cost of real machines. Wrote Charles Edwards in his 1902 patent application: “Heretofore it has been necessary in order to enable a beginner to learn the rudimentary art of type-writing to use a complete typewriting machine, which necessitated the subjection of the machine to the hardest kind of usage, to its great injury and to the expense of its owner…”

Absent are the ribbon and carriage lever, and the paper table merely supports copy from which students can practice typing, though the placement seems impractical, as typically typists view copy to the side of the machine. Edwards wrote that his machine would not only be “a source of great benefit to the student, but likewise one of entertainment and encouragement as well.”

It is unknown if any of these devices were manufactured.

You can view the patent here.

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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As good as the pen

By the 1890s, the typewriter had become so established that governments were passing laws to include typewritten material in the definition of writing.

From The Illustrated Phonographic World, August 1895 —

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

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The poetry of Q-W-E-R-T-Y-U-I-O-P

Note: What we don’t see is often the problem, as illustrated in this CBS radio report highlighting the struggles of the blind to navigate public places. See Bad braille plagues buildings across U.S.


The development of the typewriter is intertwined with the history of writing aids for the blind. Though Braille machines would emerge shortly afterwards, they did not displace the typewriter, which remained an essential tool for both the blind and the sighted.

An early 1900s account describes how a veteran journalist, who had gone blind late in life, employed the typewriter to sustain his career. “Q-W-E-R-T-Y-U-I-O-P,” explained Marvin R. Clark, “that’s like poetry.”

Clark was admired as a journalist, and a committee had been established to raise funds for his support. “While in the prime of his life he sustained the injuries to his eyes, which resulted in total blindness, from defending a woman and child from a brutal assault,” wrote one newspaper. “Persisting in continuing his work, he was prostrated by a nervous disease and lost the use of his limbs.”1

Clark overcame his injury and continued to write with the aid of a typewriter.

Wrote Eliza Arshard Conner, “He writes upon long strips of paper like a roll of webbing. This is so that he may not be troubled about getting the sheets of paper straight and in order. His copy is astonishingly neat and clear, needing fewer corrections and revisions than that of many writers who see every word they write. His success with the writing machine is wonderful.”

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. See https://www.newspapers.com/clip/33330733/. []
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The Boston Typewriter

Writes Martin Howard, “The Boston is a wonderful 19th-century typewriter and is so beautiful in its intricacy. It is quite large at two feet wide and is a great piece of period engineering.”1

The Boston typewriter was not successful, largely because it was a slower index machine, and The Phonographic World classed the Boston among the “cheaper, or ‘toy’ machines” in 1892. Nevertheless, a marvelous piece of engineering.

From The Illustrated Boston, The Metropolis of New England, 1889 —

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. http://www.antiquetypewriters.com/collection/wanted.asp?Boston%20Typewriter%20wanted#.XCPY9M9KjOQ []
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The “Stanograph”

Some failed typewriters simply never existed, like the Stanograph. According to news reports in 1895, unsuspecting farmers invested around $10,000 in this machine and lost all of their capital. Like the Bennington, the Stanograph could allegedly type entire words (short, simple words such as “the,” “for,” “but,” etc.).

No substantial research has been offered regarding fraudulent typewriter companies, but stock manipulation was common around the turn of the century. In some instances, inflated reports would be issued about a company, and insiders would profit from well-timed selloffs once the stock rose. In most instances, though, companies just never realized their ambitions or else overestimated their product’s potential. In the case of the Stanograph, neither the machine nor the company existed.

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© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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