Miss Industry = Sholes & Glidden

The American Latham Sholes is not the inventor of the first typewriter. He is the one who puts all the right elements together in one machine. And has the (mis)fortune to be pushed to the limits of his ability by Densmore, a financier who believes more in Sholes' typewriter than he does himself. Together, they make the blueprint of the typewriter that will change office life forever and establish a powerful branch of industry: the typewriter industry.

1867, Milwaukee, US

In Kleinstube's machine workshop German craftsmen who are immigrants, give their best as metal and bronze casters, engravers, stencil makers, sewing machine repairers and so forth. It is also a meeting place for amateur inventors. In the summer of 1867, three friends put their heads together: Carlos Glidden (lawyer), Soule (civil engineer) and Latham Sholes (publisher and politician).
The latter is busy working on a machine with which to number pages when Glidden pushes an article from 'Scientific American' under his nose. This carries the story of the Pterotype, typewriter prototype. Sholes' eyes light up.


Sholes must have been a visionary as the first letters he types are: WWW. He strikes these letters on a converted telegraph key at the bottom of a sheet of paper with the aid of a borrowed piece of carbon paper. However, the 'proof of concept' is given. After which they saw a round hole in the kitchen table to see if it also succeeds with more letters. It does!

Financier? Densmore!

But what now? You need a fully working model for a patent application. Sholes and Glidden have already run up debts for the hours that Kleistube's workers have put in. Sholes starts hastily searching for investors and also sends a - typed - letter to a man he met twenty years earlier: James Densmore. He describes his invention in the letter and ends with Shakespeare: There is a tide in the affairs of men - Which, taken at the flood, leads on to Fortune.

A word is enough to the wise. Densmore jumps at the proposal, even without having seen the machine.

He pays the six hundred dollar debt and also all the money that will be needed for the machine to grow to full stature, in exchange for a quarter of the proceeds.

How could Sholes know that Densmore has just decided to put his whole fortune on the line?

Laurel en Hardy

When Densmore sees the 'machine' for the first time, he cannot believe his eyes. He discovers one mistake after the other in Sholes' 'finished' model. And that goes on for another five years! They are just like Laurel and Hardy: the melancholy, careful Sholes with his fine, gray beard who all too often wants to give up. And the blustering Densmore with a fiery red beard who always gets what he wants and chases after Sholes to finally deliver a machine that works. That is, however, not possible in Kleinstube's workplace: "It's as if they're trying to make a watch in a smithy".

Densmore rents an old mill, but he does not succeed in making a standardized machine without the help of machines and specialized workers. A few commercial attempts fizzle out. Densmore is desperate as he has already thrown 31.000 dollars into a bottomless pit. Yet he staunchly goes on believing in success! Much more than Sholes, whose daughter Lillian is using the huge typewriter in this engraving.

Promotor? Yost!

In 1872 Densmore receives a visit from George Washington Newton Yost. A well-spoken man with an aristocratic appearance, but very astute - he could sell an icebox to an Eskimo. At the beginning of 1873 he gets the Remington family enthusiastic for the production of Sholes and Densmore's 'Type-Writer'.  Remington is a major armorer searching for diversification of his production line after the American Civil War. They already make sewing machines, so why not typewriters? They already have excellent engineers, Clough and Jenne, who free the machines from top to bottom of any imperfections.

Manufacturer? Remington!

The first machine rolls off the conveyor belt in April 1874 at Remington, and has 'The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer, Manufactured by R. Remington & Sons, Ilion, N.Y.' printed on it.

That is undeserved as Glidden only played a minor role in its development. The machine should really have been named: Sholes & Densmore'. Or to be completely truthful: 'Densmore & Sholes'.

Success fails to come

After years of painstaking work ... disillusionment. The typewriter leaves the potential buyers completely cold. The machine breaks down too often and is terribly expensive (125 dollars - in the days that an office clerk earns 6 dollars a week). But there is more: a typed letter is seen as impolite, a polished hand-written letter as courteous.

By the way, the Sholes & Glidden only writes horrible CAPITALS. The 'Centennial Exposition' of 1876 in Philadelphia is an absolute all-time low for the morale. Graham Bell's telephone makes its appearance and does a roaring trade while the Remington 1 is hardly noticed.

Sellers? Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict

In 1878, the Remington 2 at last gets the wind in its sails. A shift mechanism now provides upper and lower case letters and the teething troubles are at last a thing of the past. The golden days start when the driven threesome Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict become the exclusive distributors. Three years later they buy up the whole Remington production line, including the family name.


And what happened to that slippery businessman Yost? Oh, he launches the very first competitor, the Caligraph, onto the market in 1880, later followed by the ... Yost. Just like the brothers Densmore who also make their own machine!


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