The typewriter indeed revolutionized business. It allowed for its expansion and sped up life, as most American technologies have seemed to do. More companies were taking the risk of manufacturing the machine and competition was rising. The typewriter allowed for more efficiency in shorthand, and eventually became a symbol of the American woman worker, as secretaries all over the country began using them. Clerical work defined women workers, and the typewriter became the main tool, or machine, that those women used in their “production.”


As with most technology, the typewriter had many trial and error phases before it could be accepted by society and begin to be manufactured. Hoke explains, “The history of typewriter manufaturing falls into three phases: Firsts, early designs and failed manufacturing efforts, 1853-1867; second, the typewriter’s successful design and manufacture–the Sholes & Gliden Typewriter at Remington, 1867-1881; and third, once Remington’s machine had attracted a market, the invention of new designs and the development of typewriter manufacturing by new firms 1881-1924.” 1 The first of the machines were unsuccessful in manufacturing because they all wrote too slowly. This included the Typographer mentioned earlier.

When Sholes developed his typewriter and Densmore got the Remington Company to manufacture it, they used the American system and between 1874-1881 the Remingtons had the typewriter market to themselves. 2

The third and final phase that Hoke explains is the development by new firms. It “encompasses the full flowering of American System manufacturing technology in the private sector” 3

Hoke explains, “The typewriter was the most complex mechanism mass produced by American industry, public or private, in the nineteenth century. Unlike the wooden movement clocks and axes, the typewriter was and extremely complex machine, requiring extensive adjustment and alignment.” 4 Though it had many interchangeable parts, it was still tested to make sure that all of the machine was indeed working. It is no wonder that a complex machine had complex manufacturing needs.

In terms of competition, Remington fell, Hoke states, “In view of the structure and organization exhibited by E. Remington & Sons with their other consumer products, it clearly approached the typewriter as just another item. Its manufacture was intertwined with all other Remington products and process, which were badly disorganized.” 5 In 1886 Remington had to sell their typewriter business to the firm of Wyckoff, Seamans, & Benedict, who was the exclusive sale agency for the typewriter. Immediately, they createst the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company. 6

Many manufacturers had to develop their system around the typewriter needs. The Remingtons had to develop special tools to insure the proper alignment of the type. 7 The American Writing Machine Company also found it necessary to build adjustability into its writing machine despite specialized machinery, a gauging system, and its dedication to the interchangeable system. 8 Many companies had to use and adapt existing technologies to their needs when manufacturing typewriters.

Women and Work

Marceau, “Woman Seated with Underwood Typewriter” Library of Congress, 1918 (accessed April 10, 2011).

The typewriter completely changed the secretarial positions that women were working and added a new set of responsibilities with their new tool. Secretarial work has seemed to always be dominated by women workers and it is their “industry”. Remington was correct in saying that the typewriter would revolutionize business because it affected secretaries all over the country. Bliven explains the true view of secretarial work, “Considering her vast power, her far-reaching influence, and her strong bargaining position, today’s typewriter operator is entitled to a measure of smug self-satisfactions. She belongs to the largest, strongest group of working women in the world…” 9 These women had to learn new skills, such as typing and shorthand with the arrival of the typewriter. No long could these women possibly be unskilled labor. Bliven mentions, “Typing and shorthand, the students felt, were skills that a girl could fall back on in later years, if necessary, because they were not too strenuous physically.” 10 From this we can see that the typewriter had a significant influence on all of women’s work. Typing was something that women could benefit from, something that could improve their futures.


G.W.N. Yost’s Caligraph. Densmore eventually split from Shole and Remington and began working with Yost. Yost had been creating a writing machine of his own and in 1881 it was ready to be put on the market. Unlike Sholes machine, this was a “beautiful writer” 11 and the second model had a double keyboard with upper and lower case. Even though this was true, it was slower than Shole’s machine, though intended to be faster, none of the features of the Caligraph stood out as real advancements and was not quite as successful.

  1. Donald Hoke, Ingenious Yankees: The Rise of the American System of Manufactures in the Private Sector (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990) 132.
  2. Ibid, 133.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid, 150.
  6. Ibid, 148.
  7. Ibid, 152.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Bruce Bliven, The Wonderful Typewriting Machine (New York: Random House, Inc., 1954) 14.
  10. Ibid, 16.
  11. Richard Current, The Typewriter and the Men Who Made It (Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1954) 103.

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