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F.A. De Mey’s mechanical typographer

Michael Adler dismisses F.A. De Mey’s machine out of hand, writing, “[He] virtually re-invented Thurber’s Patent Printer, or at least, the De Mey machine was so similar in its essentials that it does not warrant separate description.”1 Indeed Thurber’s 1843 patent printer and De Mey’s 1863 mechanical typographer look (passably) similar, but the latter is actually typesetting device, not an early typewriter.

I must admit that when I located the De Mey in a patent search, I thought it was an early writing machine, though I did not see a similarity to Thurber’s device:

Ultimately, apart from a circular wheel holding the type, the machines are radically different. Scientific American, describing the typographer in 1864, wrote, “This apparatus is intended to make electrotype molds, thus avoiding setting and distributing types, and consequently accelerating the work of the compositor.”

Possibly contributing to the confusion is that nearly every writing machine pre-dating the Sholes & Glidden “Type Writer” was called a typograph, beginning in 1820 with J. Purkis’ Duplex Typograph for the blind (see here). Throughout the 19th century, typograph was the term for mechanical writing machines, despite that, problematically, “typograph” was a loan word from the print industry.

What to call the typewriter was a persistent topic through the late 1800s, a situation that was further aggravated by the fact that in the United States the operator was also called a “typewriter” (England adopted “typist” in the early 1880s). One American critic wrote, “My first thought upon this matter was that ‘typograph’ would be an excellent word to denote the instrument on which ‘typoscript’ is produced; but as soon as my attention was called to the fact that we already have the words ‘typograph,’ ‘typographical,’ etc., with well established meanings, it was apparent that ‘typograph’ would not answer the purpose.” The author suggested graphotype! (See that piece here.)

That De Mey should be caught up in all this is amusing. Unfortunately, I could not find anything about the man, but his name has been memorialized in this quirk of typewriter history.

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© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. p. 100, The Writing Machine, a history of the typewriter, Michael Adler, 1973 []
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“The Struggle Staggers Us”

The Struggle Staggers Us, by Margaret Walker

Our birth and death are easy hours, like sleep
and food and drink. The struggle staggers us
for bread, for pride, for simple dignity.
And this is more than fighting to exist,
more than revolt and war and human odds.
There is a journey from the Me to You.
There is a journey from the You to Me.
A union of the two strange worlds must be.

Ours is a struggle from a too-warm bed,
too cluttered with a patience full of sleep.
Out of this blackness we must struggle forth;
from want of bread, of pride, of dignity.
Struggle between the morning and the night,
this marks our years, this settles, too, our plight.

Published in Poetry in 1938.

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© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Document: A Brief History of the Invention of the Type-Writer, which is offered for download here (70 MB PDF).

Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict published a history of the typewriter sometime between 1882 and 1886, in a small volume (4 1/2″ x 6 1/2″) advertising the models 1, 2 and 4.1 Entitled “A Brief History of the Invention of the Type-Writer,” this rare volume affirms that the No. 1 was offered with several different typefaces. Collector Peter Weil mentioned this in a Facebook post in February, describing that the No. 1 was sold with five varieties of type as early as 1875 or 1876. He included a printed, though undated, advertising letter with his post.

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© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. The document mentions 1882, and its publisher George B. Walbridge died in 1886. []
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A boy and his typewriter

Actually, the typewriter belonged to my father, but in my late teens, I took possession of his Royal Futura 400. I had entered a creative phase and was pounding out verse and short stories. I was not a touch typist, but I managed well enough. After graduating from high school, I took a typing class, but most of my writing from that point was accomplished on a Brother WP-50 or a Macintosh Plus.

As I look closely at the photo, which dates to perhaps 1987 or 1988, I note that I still possess the violin (though I play only occasionally) and the children’s dictionary (barely visible). The Panasonic tape recorder was my father’s, and I used to produce mock radio shows, which I shared with my friends and some of my teachers.

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© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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The Remington that never was

Byron A. Brooks, who designed the Remington Standard No. 2 (the first double-case typewriter), invented typewheel machines known as the Crown and People’s. But he did not apparently design one for Remington. It is interesting to note, however, that in 1887 Remington was considering such a machine. Nothing materialized from this effort.

From The Cosmopolitan Shorthander (Toronto), June 1887 –

© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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