Why typewriters?
Social relevance
-George Blickensderfer
-Lee Burridge
-William McCool
-John Molle
-Chr. L. Sholes
One of a Kind
The end of history

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 Typewriter'.

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 the Collection.)
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 before 1873.

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 alignment.

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.)