Christopher Latham Sholes(1815-1891)
Although many went before him, and despite
the fact that he worked closely together with Carlos Glidden, James Densmore
and Samuel Soule (in different capacities), it is the name of Christopher
Latham Sholes that is generally linked to the title of 'Inventor of the
Fact is that Sholes was the creative genius behind
the first typewriter to be produced in numbers and fact is that many of
the basic principles he introduced (the QWERTY keyboard!) set standards
for the industry.
Sholes is the only typewriter inventor whose biography
was written by more than one author and extensive details about his life
are available. Sholes was a printer and newspaper man who liked to tinker
in a local workshop in Milwaukee, Wis., with his friend Soule. They were
working on a machine that would automatically number pages. One day in
1867, Carlos Glidden, another of the local amateur inventors in the workshop,
read an article about the Pratt typewriter in Scientific American, and
suggested to Sholes that he might transform his number stamping machine
into a letter stamping machine.
The team went to work and after their first attempt
received funding from James Densmore, an oil man who had heard about their
attempts. In all, Sholes and Glidden (Soule dropped out after the first
attempts) produced more than 30 working models before they finally had
built the machine that the Remington & Son arms factory put into production
in 1874. (For more details, see the entry for the Sholes typewriters in
Some of these early models built by Sholes and Glidden are kept by the
Milwaukee Public Museum and are presented on this page.
Sholes Working Model *
Picture 2 shows a duplicate of an original Sholes working model. No further
details about this model are available. What is interesting is that the
model is much lower than the first S&G production machines, and it
has two large space keys placed to the left and right of the keyboard.
The only typewriter ever produced with such space keys was the Caligraph,
an invention of George Yöst, who had been involved with the S&G
production. This is possibly a late model for an improved version of the
Sholes & Glidden.
Sholes & Glidden patent model *
Picture 3. The machine in picture 2 is catalogued as a Sholes & Glidden
patent model, similar to two patent models held by the Smithsonian institute.
This model is close to the early production models, which indicates that
it must be one of the later working models, possibly produced in or just
Sholes experimental model *
Picture 4. The Milwaukee Public Museum catalog says about this piece:
After Mr. Sholes had produced the Sholes & Glidden, later the Remington
typewriter, he continued experimenting with writing machines. One of these,
representing his last completed effort, the Sholes Visible was placed
on the market in 1901, ten years after his death. This model shows that
Mr. Sholws was trying to work out machines which could write from wheels
or semi-wheels, as it was argued at the time that it was impossible to
keep type-bar machines in alignment, and that only the fixing of type
on one common frame or wheel would cure this deficiency. In a letter written
by Mr. Sholes, he repeatedly referred to the question of securing permanent
Sholes Experimental model *
Picture 5 shows another attempt at a type-wheel design by Sholes. Note
the rubber strip of type hanging loose from the wheel in the center and
the hammer striking down from above the wheel.
(The pictures were taken by typewriter
historian and journalist Darryl Rehr.)