≡ Menu

Gum vs. the Typewriter

From an advertisement for Beech-Nut in 1942.

From The Phonographic World (New York), February 1886 –

[continue reading…]

© 2020 – 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Not worthwhile to use the third finger…

It is worth observing that touch typing was a later innovation, appearing years after the introduction of the typewriter in 1874. In the following article, the author champions the two-finger method, writing: “Unless the third finger of the hand has been previously trained to touch the keys of a piano, we believe it is not worth the while to attempt to use that finger in operating the typewriter.”

The Cosmopolitan Shorthander (Toronto), August 1887 –

© 2020 – 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Working for half the wages of a man

In the late 19th century, women typed their way into employment. Demand was intense, so capable female typists found quick employment, but not on equal terms. “It seems to be the general opinion that simply because you are a woman you must work for about half the wages of a man,” wrote one critic of the system in 1882. The author suggested that women revolt by refusing to work for less pay.

Some women followed this course, asserting their right for equal pay, but typing paid more than other positions, and many women accepted less in order to gain entry into the workforce. This hindered and advanced the cause: despite that pay was unequal, it was more, and it gave many women an opportunity for independence.

The following article describes how some women fought this bitter reality.

From Brown & Holland Shorthand News, May 1882 –

© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Corona Four Keyboards 1928

The “Corona Four KEYBOARDS 1928” handbook was part of a dealer’s sales equipment, including dozens of keyboard arrangements for languages and specialty purposes. The company distinguished “type face” as the style of the font — Pica, Italic, Micro, Elite, Gothic, and Pin Point-Gothic Combination — and “keyboard” as the language or purpose.

“The salesman should point out, however, that practically any combination of characters can be made up into a special keyboard,” the document states. But, the company explains, the “salesman should use every reasonable effort to dissuade the customer from ordering unusual keyboard arrangements,” as the customer might find resale difficult.

The booklet, available here as a PDF download (57 mb), describes nearly 100 typefaces. Many of the foreign-language keyboards simply include special accents, but several display foreign characters. Several keyboards are for specialty purposes.


[continue reading…]

© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


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.

[continue reading…]

© 2020, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. p. 100, The Writing Machine, a history of the typewriter, Michael Adler, 1973 []
{ 1 comment }