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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (LII)


Was Mary Vander Mynsbrugge the first woman in the world to invent a typewriter?
Mary, along with (presumably) her husband Victor Vander Mynsbrugge, was issued with a US patent for a new typewriter design on this day in 1893.
The couple had already been issued with a British patent for the typewriter, on March 4, 1892. They applied for the US patent two months later.
At the time the US patent was issued, more than 16 months after the English patent, both Mary and Victor Vander Mynsbrugge were resident in New York City.
However, Mary remained a British citizen ("a subject of [Victoria] the Queen of England") and Victor a Belgian ("a subject of [Albert I], the king of Belgium").
I'm sure Wim Van Rompuy will be pleased to see Belgium represented here at last.
From the onset, Mary and Victor declared "the object of our invention is to provide a typewriting machine which is simple in construction, readily adjusted and not apt to get out of order".
Just my kind of typewriter!
Nonetheless, I can't make out a great deal from the patent drawings. It looks to me like it could be a downstroke typewriter, with the typebars arranged in an arc in front of the platen, which shifts to allow for a change of case or to type figures and symbols.
I'll leave you to be the judge, based on the patent specifications:
The machine would have "a rocking-bar resting on the key-levers and fixed on the rocking-shaft, which rocking-bar has projecting arms carrying pawls at their ends, the pawl on the upper arm serving to operate either one of the ratchet-wheels on two ribbon spools on which the inking-ribbon is wound, said ribbon passing through a triangular head on the end of a pivoted ribbon-guiding arm.
"[The] ribbon guiding arm also has an aligning-device composed of two pins, of which one is fixed on the arm and the other on a pivoted and adjustable piece on the arm. The pawl on the other arm engages a rack fixed on a carrier, that is mounted to move in the direction of the length of the cylinder.
"[Said] carrier [is] a cylinder-carriage, which cylinder carriage is mounted to move on the carrier transversely to the direction of the length of the impression-cylinder, so as to permit of shifting the cylinder to receive impressions of the type for capitals, small letters and numerals.
"When it is desired to print capitals, the impression cylinder must be shifted toward the rear a short distance, and when it is intended to print numerals it must be shifted toward the rear a greater distance. To shift the impression-cylinder for capitals, the left hand lever is depressed, whereby the sliding plate is lifted and then the arm is swung upward at its front end ..."
On this day in 1960, Harper Lee’s brilliant novel To Kill a Mockingbird was first published, by J.B.Lippincott of Philadelphia.
Harper Lee is seen sitting in front of a typewriter in this Time-Life photograph taken in her father's law office while visiting her home town of Monroeville, Alabama, in May 1961.
On this day in 1899, the American writer E.B.White was born in Mt Vernon, New York.
Elwyn Brooks White was a long-time contributor to The New Yorker magazine and wrote many famous books for both adults and children, such as the popular Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little.
He also co-authored a widely used writing guide, The Elements of Style, popularly known by its authors' names, as “Strunk & White”. White died in North Brooklin, Maine, on October 1, 1985, aged 86.
White is seen here with his dog, Susy, in North Brooklin, on February 26, 1973.
Seen below is a White display, including one of his typewriters, at the Townsend Public Library in Townsend, Massachusetts.

1 comment:

Richard P said...

That picture of E.B. White in his cabin -- just him and his Underwood (?) portable -- is so stark and powerful. It's an icon of pure writing activity at its most intense. Fantastic.