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The Tachytypograph

The Tachytypograph was described in 1871 as a typewriter with an “ordinary key-board.” A working model of the machine, invented by J.S. Davies, was said to have been displayed in the offices of Fontainemorean and Co. It is possible that the Tachytypograph was a stenographer’s machine, as another machine called a Steno-Tachygraph has also been observed. The line between stenography and typewriting was somewhat blurred in the late 1800s.

The novelty of “obtaining verbatim reports of speeches, debates, sermons, &c., in ordinary English characters” testifies to the enduring appeal of these writing machines. “Tachy” is derived from the Greek for rapid. The Tachytypograph employed special paper for making character impressions. It is said to have worked noiselessly.

From the English Mechanic and World of Science – No. 334, Aug. 18, 1871.

The Tachytopograph received attention around the world, though most citing English Mechanic (above). The following is from The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, Aug. 25, 1871:

And for German readers, from Die typographischen Phänomene, by Karl Hoger, 1897:

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Married by a typewriter

“I do,” typed the bride.

“I do,” typed the groom.

And thus the two were married.

News briefs from 1891 and 1914:

Published in The Shorthand Review, 1891.

And further reported here…

Tue, Apr 21, 1891 – Page 2 · The News (Frederick, Frederick, Maryland) · Newspapers.com

And some decades later, another marriage by typewriter…

Tue, Apr 7, 1914 – Page 2 · The Neosho Daily News (Neosho, Newton, Missouri) · Newspapers.com

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


Woman’s labor vs. man’s (1891)

The question of equal pay arose as women joined the workforce in the late 1800s. In 1891, The Shorthand Review observed, “A fair typewriter will accept a salary of $8 to $12 a week, when a man with the same qualifications expects from $16 to $20.” Though the magazine championed equal pay, it struggled to find a progressive reply.

Indeed, in “Woman’s Labor Vs. Man’s” (offered below), the magazine would conclude that the onus was on women themselves:

“Women do not spend as much money as men, it does not cost them individually as much to live, and consequently less money will satisfy them.”


“It does not cost a woman half as much to live as it does a man and consequently she can afford to accept half as much salary for her work. But aside from this fact she is making a great mistake in lowering the price of labor.”

From the onset, patriarchal attitudes are apparent: a “typewriter”1 is, by definition, a woman (an object?), whereas a man is a person “with the same qualifications.” The woman is passive — “a fair typewriter will accept;” the man is active — he “expects.”

At times, the author of the article (one assumes a man) seems primarily concerned with the effect of women’s employment upon men’s salaries, that increased employment of women would decrease wages for all. The author even moralizes, “It is well for woman to work, but she should consider the future as well as the present need, and know that it is as much to her interest to keep up the wage scale as it is to the man whose place she is taking.”

In the September-October, 1891, issue of the publication, an article entitled, “A Proposed National Stenographer’s Association,” included the following: “The introduction of so much cheap labor, girls and incompetents, is placing the entire fraternity in a desperate condition, and a desperate remedy must be administered” (emphasis mine).

Indeed, lower pay for women did impact salaries for men, but the “us vs them” attitude of the article, already expressed in the title, was the ultimate culprit. The composite well-being of the whole — a diverse being of gender, ethnicity, and age — was always the real concern and the real business of business. Our society would have progressed further with a singular “us” attitude… and still can.

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© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

  1. The term “typewriter” referred both to the machine and its operator in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as the term “typist” had not yet gained traction. []

Rebuilt typewriters

The odds are high that a typewriter in your collection was rebuilt — i.e., not factory original — as the market for reconditioned machines was robust from the late 1800s through World War 2. The extent to which these machines were reconditioned varied, but complete rebuilds were not uncommon. Typewriter Topics, a leading trade publication, chronicled this industry extensively in a variety of articles, including the one presented in this post.

For context, it should be observed that the first World War posed unique challenges for manufacturers. First, the industry had only just begun to gain traction, convincing consumers that typewriters were essential, only to see that market constricted during the conflict. Second, war mobilization made both labor and resources scarce. More than ever, the second-hand market was needed to fill the gap.

Rebuilt machines were attended by logical concerns for the “quality and merit in the merchandise for sale,” wrote Typewriter Topics in 1918. The publication presented the Typewriter Emporium, headquartered in Chicago, as an organization that had addressed this concern through standardization. “Each person in the Emporium employ has certain established duties to perform. He performs those and not others. He becomes a specialist in that particular branch and thereby increases his own personal efficiency.” Employees even received bonuses for error-free operation.

The article details a process whereby machines were entirely disassembled, stripped of paint, and rebuilt.

It is worth noting that the company employed both men and women, though the latter were called girls. African-Americans were also in their employ, though whether or not this was a war-time expedient, I cannot say.

Dave and Will Davis are authorities on rebuilt machines, and they have published several articles about this industry at their blog. “Rebuilt Typewriters – A Discussion and Categorization” (link) is essential reading; other posts can be found via search (link). That said, Typewriter Topics offers a vital and early first-hand account.

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© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Typewriter Topics notes the end of WWI

From Typewriter Topics, December 1918.

The Great War was a great interrupter, too. The typewriter industry, which had only begun to flourish at the turn of the century, was stymied by the conflict as manufacturing shifted from consumer goods to war goods. For a short period, typewriters were scarcely to be found, as the government was purchasing most machines. Foreign markets were entirely shuttered. (See my previous post on this topic, “WWI’s impact on typewriter manufacturing,” here).

The post-war years presented new difficulties: supply chains were not adequate to meet manufacturing demand; strikes halted supplies of steel to some typewriter manufacturers; and, consumer markets were only just recovering.

It is noteworthy that the major typewriter manufacturers — Remington, Underwood, and Royal — entered the portable typewriter market only haltingly, reaching capacity only at the tail-end of 1921. The roaring 20s certainly saw unprecedented growth for all industries, but at the end of World War I, the path forward was not so certain for the typewriter industry.

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.