June 16, 2024

Typewriters and Guns?


What do typewriters and guns have in common?  Nothing, you might say;  however while researching the museum’s collection of typewriters I discovered an interesting connection not once but three times.

Christopher Sholes invented the first commercially successful typewriter in 1869.   His machine was manufactured by the Remington Typewriter Company, whose parent company was E. Remington & Son, the weapons manufacturer, later called Remington Arms Company.

A second typewriter has the same connection.  Lyman C. Smith was related to Horace Smith, who co-founded what is now Smith & Wesson,  another famous gun maker.  Lyman was running the gun company when he branched out into typewriters with his L.C. Smith logo.   The first typewriter built by the L.C. Smith & Bros. gun factory would ultimately give rise to the Smith-Corona typewriter line.

Early typewriters were very expensive and used mostly by government offices at first, but eventually they became cheaper and were purchased by law,  newspaper, and business offices and by some writers.  Mark Twain was one of the first authors to make use of a typewriter.  Schools began teaching typing as a vocational skill around 1915.  The picture shown here is an early typing room at St. John’s High School.

People under forty  may not realize how significant the switch from typewriters to computers was.  I remember getting a portable typewriter for Christmas my senior year in high school and using it all through college.   I remember finding a typing error and having to retype the entire page because using an eraser made the page look sloppy and could affect my grade.   I remember the frustration of reaching the bottom of a page and not having enough room for the footnotes, which meant the page had to be retyped.  And that is my other tie-in with guns.  I really wanted to shoot that typewriter sometimes!

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