April 26, 2011
1880 Remington No. 2, (Newseum collection)

1880 Remington No. 2, (Newseum collection)

Just Our Type: Typewriters Remain Alive at Newseum

When newspaper editor C. Latham Scholes, called the “father of the typewriter,” got a patent in 1868 on the world’s first commercial typewriter, he thought the public would view his creation as a passing fancy.

One hundred and forty-three years later, Scholes’s invention, which revolutionized communications, appears headed for extinction. Typewriter manufacturer Godrej and Boyce announced April 26 that the Indian company will get out of the business after selling its remaining 500. Though still being produced by other companies, the typewriter now seems more appropriate for a museum than an office.

The Newseum has 63 typewriters in its collection of artifacts, from historic models to typewriters used by prominent newspeople. The oldest, an 1880 Remington No. 2, was the first Remington to have upper and lowercase letters.

Also in the collection:

  • Columnist Walter Winchell’s 1929 Remington
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam’s typewriter used in the 1960s
  • TV news anchor Howard K. Smith’s electric Smith Corona
  • ABC News correspondent Pauline Frederick’s Hermes “Baby” portable typewriter
  • USA Today founder Al Neuharth’s Royal typewriter
  • Reporter Claude Sitton’s Underwood Olivetti used to cover the civil rights movement
  • Veteran journalist Daniel Schorr’s IBM correcting typewriter

Scholes, who died in 1890 at age 71, spent the rest of his life perfecting his invention. And though computers and laptops have replaced typewriters as the world’s preferred “writing machines,” Scholes’s QWERTY keyboard — arranged to speed up the process by splitting up commonly used letters to prevent jams — remains the dominant feature on all of them.

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