The First Typewriters

History of Typewriters, Typing, and Qwerty Keyboards

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A typewriter is a small machine, either electric or manual, with type keys that produced characters one at a time on a piece of paper inserted around a roller. Typewriters have been largely replaced by personal computers and home printers.

Christopher Sholes

Christopher Sholes was an American mechanical engineer, born on February 14, 1819, in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, and died on February 17, 1890, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He invented the first practical modern typewriter in 1866, with the financial and technical support of his business partners Samuel Soule and Carlos Glidden. Five years, dozens of experiments, and two patents later, Sholes and his associates produced an improved model similar to today's typewriters.


The Sholes typewriter had a type-bar system and the universal keyboard was the machine's novelty, however, the keys jammed easily. To solve the jamming problem, another business associate, James Densmore, suggested splitting up keys for letters commonly used together to slow down typing. This became today's standard "QWERTY" keyboard.

Remington Arms Company

Christopher Sholes lacked the patience required to market a new product and decided to sell the rights to the typewriter to James Densmore. He, in turn, convinced Philo Remington (the rifle manufacturer) to market the device. The first "Sholes & Glidden Typewriter" was offered for sale in 1874 but was not an instant success. A few years later, improvements made by Remington engineers gave the typewriter machine its market appeal and sales skyrocketed.

Typewriter Trivia

  • George K. Anderson of Memphis, Tennessee patented the typewriter ribbon on 9/14/1886.
  • The first electric typewriter was the Blickensderfer.
  • In 1944, IBM designs the first typewriter with proportional spacing.
  • Pellegrine Tarri made an early typewriter that worked in 1801 and invented carbon paper in 1808.
  • In 1829, William Austin Burt invents the typographer, a predecessor to the typewriter.
  • Mark Twain enjoyed and made use of new inventions, he was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to his publisher.
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Bellis, Mary. "The First Typewriters." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Bellis, Mary. (2021, July 31). The First Typewriters. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The First Typewriters." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).