Did You Know?


The typographer, America's first typewriter, was invented and made by William Austin Burt.

The typographer, America's first typewriter, was invented and made by William Austin Burt.
The typographer, America's first typewriter, was invented and made by William Austin Burt.

The typographer, America's first typewriter, was invented and made by William Austin Burt. It was a mechanical device that was worked by hand to make the letter print on paper. The working model provided by Burt for his 1829 patent was destroyed in the 1836 Patent Office fire. The main purpose of the device was to speed up secretarial work, although that ultimately was not accomplished.

The typographer was patented on July 23, 1829, as U.S. patent No. 5581X. United States Patent Office documents describe Burt's American machine as "the actual construction of a type writing machine for the first time in any country". It was the first practical typewriting machine ever made in America, although Pellegrino Turri had made one in Italy in 1808. The patent gave Burt the full exclusive rights to his new typewriter machine for 14 years, including vending or selling to others any or all of these rights as he saw fit, signed by President Andrew Jackson.

All "type writing" machines, those that used letters of typeface, were generally given the name "typographer" from Burt's 1829 patent until 1874 by subsequent inventors who improved on Burt's machine. The concept ultimately came to be called "The Type-Writer" in 1874. The word stayed hyphenated until the 1880s. William Ozmun Wyckoff, president of the New York State Shorthand Reporters' Association in 1886, and founder of the Remington Typewriter Company, publicized the unhyphenated name "typewriter". It became very well known, and the public finally accepted this as one word by 1919. Eventually, Burt's typographer was called a typewriter.

French authors, Henri Dupont and C. Senechal in their book "Les machines a écrire: historique, avantages, descriptions et traité complet de dactylographie ou art d'écrire a la machine" in 1906 described the facts about Burt's typographer machine as has been described above.

In 1714, the British patent office issued a patent to English engineer Henry Mill for a typewriter; however, he never built it. This first record of an initial attempt gave Mills time (14 years) to develop a model or at least a description of his "artificial machine"; however, the secret of how to make such a machine, if there ever was one, died with him. There is no record that it ever existed. There hasn't even been found a trace of any drawings or specifications. Its description is more like that of making embossing tape, which product output would be used for the blind.

Christopher Latham Sholes is given credit for inventing the first "practical" typewriter. He was in fact the fifty-second person or possibly the 112th to reinvent a "type-writing" machine – which he called a type-writer. Some of the "type-writing" machines invented between Burt's 1829 patented machine and Sholes' 1867 type-writer are "The Projean Machine" (1833), "The Thurber Machine" (1843), "The Foucault Machine" (1843), "O. T. Eddy's machine" (1850), "The Fairbanks machine" (1850), "J. M. Jones' machine" (1850), "William Hughes' machine" (1851), John M. Jones "mechanical Typographer" (1852), "Thomas' typograph" (1854), "The Beach typewriter" (1856), "The Francis Typewriter" (1857), "The Hansen Machine" (1865), "The Livermore Printing Device" (1863), "Peeler Writing Machine" (1866), and "The Sholes and Glidden Typewriter" (1867) invented by three men (C. Latham Sholes, Samuel W. Soule, Carlos Glidden). Thomas Edison is even given credit for an electrified version in 1872.

The Board of Electors at the National Shorthand Association of Detroit recognized Burt as:

  • leader among typewriter inventors
  • top American inventor in the world-wide field of typewriting machines.

Source

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