23 Jun: Inventing The Typewriter

The Glidden-Sholes prototype for “the writing of ordinary communications with types instead of a pen” was granted a patent on 23rd June, 1868. It wasn’t the first typewriter, but it became the first to be mass-produced, and gave the world a new way to write things down.

But it only typed out in uppercase, didn’t yet have a QWERTY keyboard, and users couldn’t actually see what they were typing. It also looked like a sewing machine, having been developed in collaboration with sewing machine manufacturer Remington.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how it was not Glidden or Sholes, but actually investor James Densmore, who was most responsible for making it a hit; reveal what a ‘Japanning Finish’ is; and consider the role of Remington’s marketing department in creating the ‘typing pool’ and – therefore – a generation of jobs for women… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Improvement in Type-Writing Machines: Specification forming part of Letters Patent No. 79,265’ (United States Patent Office, 1868): 


• ‘The typewriter: an informal history’ (IBM Archives, 1977): https://www.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/modelb/modelb_informal.html

• ‘How QWERTY conquered keyboards’ (VOX, 2017):