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1905 editorial: The typewriter “liberated” men too!

Mary A. Saunders, businesswoman and typist.

Ironically, while extolling the accomplishments of a certain woman in business, a newspaper editorial from 1905 omitted her name. The subject was, in fact, Mary A. Saunders, a pioneering typist and “author” of QWERTYUIOP (she suggested switching the positions of the period and the y, yielding QWERTY – more here).

While much had been said about the role of the typewriter in the women’s liberation movement, the editorialist asserted that, ultimately, the typewriter freed men from menial tasks. “Have men thereby been thrown out of employment,” writes the paper, “or have they been released from the typewriter to do the increased work which the invention of the typewriter has made possible for an accelerated industrial system?”

Only men are named in the article.

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), January 22, 1905 –

© 2023 – 2022, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Typewriters as copiers

“Our best customers have hitherto been theatrical people, for whom we prepare prompt books and actors’ parts at the price of 5s. an act — that is to say, an act of fifteen pages of type-writing on quarto paper.” – The Pall Mall Gazette, May 5, 1885

I recall my great aunt using a typewriter to make copies, and, yes, that entailed typing documents, over and over and over, until a sufficient number of copies were made. And such was one of the uses of the typewriter from the earliest days:

17 Sep 1882, Sun The New York Times (New York, New York) Newspapers.com

15 Aug 1883, Wed Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) Newspapers.com

30 Sep 1883, Sun Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) Newspapers.com

04 Jun 1885, Thu Cawker City Public Record (Cawker City, Kansas) Newspapers.com

© 2023 – 2022, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Ye: Typewriter

From The Cosmopolitan Shorthander (Toronto), April 1885 –

What is noteworthy about the typewriter in this cartoon is its size: very compact for a machine in 1885. Portables of this period were exclusively index machines, which were very portable but not very typeable.

Here’s a portable typewriter of the mid-1880s:

01 Jan 1886, Fri The Midland Journal (Rising Sun, Maryland) Newspapers.com

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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The mitrailleuse

One of several pithy statements from The Golden Gate, June 16, 1880.

Ernest Hemingway liked his Corona typewriter well enough to write a poem about it, one of several poems published privately in 1923:


It is noteworthy that he was not the first to compare the typewriter to a mitrailleuse, a weapon similar to the Gatling gun. As early as 1880, people compared the typewriter to the mitrailleuse, as seen in one of the adages published by The Golden Gate.

The Golden Gate (Newton, Kansas), June 16, 1880 –

© 2023, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


True that…

Howard County Herald (St. Paul, Nebraska), December 27, 1899 –

© 2023 – 2022, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.