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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (LXXIII)

Terry, the Longleys,
 Traub and McGurrin
Eugene Terry’s ability to “attain great speed in operating a typewriter” inspired him to apply, in May 1893, for a patent for the devices which enabled him to type so quickly. Terry, of Ithaca, New York, was issued with the patent on this day in 1893. He assigned it to Schuyler Grant, an insurance adjuster of the same locality.
Eugene Terry was born on October 22, 1861, in Tompkins County, New York. A grandson of the local postmaster, he was Clerk of the Surrogate's Court in Ithaca. He was educated at district schools and the Ithaca High School. At 21 he taught in the town of Ulysses, and in 1883 entered the State Normal School at Cortland, after which he became the principal of Jacksonville School. He was attracted to law, and in 1887 moved to Ithaca to work for M. N. Tompkins then Jared T. Newman before becoming a law clerk with Almy and Bouton. Bradford Almy was elected county judge in the fall of 1891 and Terry was appointed as Clerk of the Surrogate's Court of Tompkins County. He was admitted to the bar on November 18, 1892, at the general term of the Supreme Court in Syracuse.
This was Eugene Terry’s situation when he came up with his speed typing devices. In his specifications, Terry described the detachable keyboard guides and wrote that they would be, “suitably mounted upon the keyboard, whereby I am enabled to locate easily, readily and without using the eyes, the respective keys thereof. My object is to produce, as a new article of manufacture, a device by which I can attain great speed in operating a typewriter, by allowing the eyes to be engaged continuously with the copy, while the fingers are enabled to find the respective keys by means of the guide pieces."
Ideas such as this indicate that, even a decade after Elizabeth Margaret Vater Longley had developed eight-finger typing, aids for speed typing were still being sought.
As they still were in May 1935, when Modern Mechanix
 magazine featured the infamous "Typing Gloves"
But this nonsense leads us to our excuse to take a serious look at Mrs Longley.
Thanks largely to the exhaustive research done by Koichi Yasuoka of Kyoto for his blog The Truth of QWERTY, I can confidently relate much of Margaret Longley’s life story. I’m sure Koichi will soon correct me if I get any of it wrong! Nonetheless, dates for Margaret’s birth, at St Pancras in London, vary. Koichi and the International Genealogical Index give her birth date as August 3, 1830, while a detailed family history published in Cincinnati in 1954 (The Ancestors and Descendants of William Henry Venable, by Henrietta Brady Brown) states September 30, 1830. Either way, she was christened at the Old Church, St Pancras, on October 3, 1830.

And either way, she was just 16 when she married Elias Longley in Cincinnati on May 12, 1847. Years for Elias Longley’s birth also vary, between August 29, 1823, and August 29, 1825, so he was either 23 or 21 when he married Margaret. Either way, they were very young parents. Margaret was just 17 when she became a mother, to daughter Consuelto Phonetta Longley.
Consuelto’s second name, Phonetta, gives a clue that Margaret and Elias were already interested in phonetics. Indeed, Elias had started to study phonetics in 1845, just eight years after its introduction by the Pitmans in England. From this stemmed the young couple’s involvement in phonography, the Pitman form of shorthand.
Margaret was the eldest surviving daughter of Thomas Vater, and had writing, editing and publishing in her blood.
Thomas Vater was born on May 12, 1805, outside Liverpool in England. He was “an idealist, given to radical reform ideas. He became a member of a republican organisation in London and assistant editor of its newspaper after the editor had been arrested for treason. His activities on this paper made necessary his flight from England, which he accomplished in 1832, his ship leaving the wharf as the officers sent to arrest him came in sight. After a voyage of six weeks, he landed in New York City.”
Vater settled in New Orleans, where the whole family survived yellow fever. The Vaters moved to Peoria, Tazewell County, Illinois, where Thomas bought a farm, store and grist mill. In 1844 Thomas Vater decided to join one of the experimental settlements then being tried in Ohio, the Prairie Home Community near Liberty, eight miles south-west of Dayton. He made two other attempts at communal living: at Clermont Phalanx, 14 miles from Cincinnati, above New Richmond on the Ohio River, and at Utopia, also on the river at Chilo. All these settlements failed.
The family settled in Cincinnati and established a store on Sixth Street. It was at this time that Margaret married the journalist, printer and publisher Elias Longley.
Elias Longley was born at Oxford, Ohio, while his father, the Reverend Abner Hixon Longley was still a student in Oxford College. The Reverend Abner moved to Lebanon, Ohio, in 1832, and then to Cincinnati in 1840. Elias was educated in the public schools and Woodward College, then studied for the Universalist ministry.
One biography states, “Elias was designed by his father for a minister, at least his education was directed in that line, and while in college his reading and literary exercises were all directed toward theological topics and religious exercises. He was a brave advocate and defender of the faith of his father, in many a discussion with his schoolmates and in the debates in the hall of the literary society. And the good father was for a short time gratified by the efforts of his son in the same pulpits he himself had been occupying. But Elias was not himself satisfied with those three or four attempts at preaching, and he abandoned the idea of becoming a minister. He was then engaged in printing the Star in the West, the Reverend John A. Gurley's paper, and was then, and continued to be, a frequent writer for its columns.
“He was afterwards quite prominently known as a writer for and publisher of phonetic and phonographic books, and from the breaking out of the war in 1861, as a shorthand reporter and city editor upon the Cincinnati daily papers.”
In 1850 Elias Longley began the publication of a monthly 32-page magazine, The Phonetic Magazine. This became a semi-monthly and later was enlarged to a weekly newspaper. It was published by a company Longley had established with his brothers.
Elias Longley also compiled and published an American Manual of Phonography, and a primer, first and second readers in phonetic spelling, which was sold extensively throughout the US.
In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Elias Longley gave up his phonetic publications to concentrate on reporting courts martial in Cincinnati. He was the first shorthand reporter in Cincinnati, for two years official court reporter and also, for a time, official reporter of the Ohio legislature.
Elias Longley continued his daily newspaper reporting until 1884, working for the Cincinnati Gazette, then the Cincinnati Commercial, and later as city editor of the Daily Chronicle. He did the shorthand speech reporting for these newspapers and much of the interviewing. Beginning with Abraham Lincoln’s speech on the old Burnet House steps, he reported the addresses of Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield.
Elia Longley was sent to report the re-hoisting of the flag at Fort Sumter, where he took down the speeches of Henry Ward Beecher and William Lloyd Garrison (II?).
Through his Civil War era court reporting, Elias Longley came in contact with Benjamin Pitman (July 24, 1822-December 28, 1910), also known as Benn Pitman, the English-born author and populariser in the US of Pitman shorthand (below).
In 1837 Benn Pittman assisted his brother, Isaac Pitman, in perfecting the latter's system of shorthand. At Isaac's request, Benn went to the US in January 1853 to promote the system. Benn settled at Cincinnati, where he founded the American Phonetic Association, of which he was president. Elias Longley was association secretary.
From 1853 to 1873, Benn Pitman was chiefly engaged in reporting. During the first years of the Civil War, he served in the Union Army. From 1863 to 1867, he acted as the official stenographer during the trials of the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, the Sons of Liberty and the Ku-Klux Klan.
At the time Margaret Longley had become a young mother, in 1849, she joined her husband in his study of phonography. The following year Margaret “met with marked success in Cincinnati in teaching a class of children to read by means of the phonetic alphabet, and in 1851 she went to Indianapolis, in response to an invitation to make the experiment, and taught the same method in the public schools, demonstrating its great advantages”.
It was written of Margaret that she “adopted what were in those days advanced ideas about the right of women to step outside of the theretofore restricted field of work open to them and to engage in the more remunerative and reputable employments of men”. Margaret learned how to set type, “setting at the same time an example to other young women to work in her husband's office”.
Margaret assisted Elias in reading and transcribing his Civil War era court notes, “and, he says, was often more successful in deciphering his hieroglyphics than he himself”. Margaret herself became a journalist and in 1869 was an editor of Dayton Woman's Advocate. She also became a court reporter, working with Cincinnati newspapers.
Margaret taught private pupils in phonography and when in 1882 her husband opened the Cincinnati Shorthand and Type-Writer Institute, she joined it as a teacher.
With the appearance of the first typewriters in the mid-1870s, Margaret had learned to type and from about 1878 became the first person to teach the use of the Remington typewriter in Cincinnati, “if not in the whole west”.

Koichi Yasuoka
She was “the first person anywhere to formulate a complete course of lessons for a typewriting machine”. This was her Type-Writer Lessons for the Use of Teachers and Learners Adapted to Remington’s Perfected Type-Writers published by the Phonographic Institute Company of Cincinnati in 1882. Caligraph Lessons for the Use of Teachers and Learners Designed to Develop Accurate and Reliable Operators was published soon after.
Margaret updated these books as the “art of typewriting” developed over the ensuing years. Margaret was also the first agent in Cincinnati for Remington. Yet she is said to have been neither a great fan of the QWERTY keyboard configuration, nor of the Remington itself.
Because of Elias Longley’s ill health, in 1885 Margaret took her husband to settle in South Pasadena, California, where they were a pioneer family. Margaret selected two acres of land, for which she paid $1000, pitched a tent under a large live oak tree, and proceeded to build a home. Elias recovered and became the Los Angeles agent for Remington. He also resumed teaching shorthand and typewriting.
In 1893, when the People’s Party (“Populists”) was organised at Los Angeles, Margaret was among the women who succeeded in getting adopted in the party’s platform a plank in favour of woman suffrage.
Margaret was a Californian delegate to the party’s first convention and in 1894 became a Los Angeles County executive committee member and state vice-president. She headed the Los Angeles Campaign Committee for a referendum of suffrage. She once said she “never wanted to hold office until her sister women could vote for her”.
The Longleys both died in South Pasadena, Elias on January 1, 1899. and Margaret Longley, aged 81, on April 16, 1912.
After the Longleys moved to California, Louis Traub and a man called Jack took over the running of Longley's Shorthand and Typewriting Institute in Cincinnati, with Traub the principal in the typewriting department. He had been a Longley pupil and had adopted Margaret Longley’s eight-finger typing technique on the Caligraph.
Frank Edward McGurrin (above), an official stenographer of the Third District Court in Salt Lake City, was an all-finger typist on a Remington No 2 and could operate it blindfolded. McGurrin challenged Traub and on July 25, 1888, beat Traub in a competition in Cincinnati, winning $500. Traub and Jack subsequently switched from using Caligraphs to Remingtons.
McGurrin’s development of touch-typing in 1878 “helped lock in Sholes’s QWERTY as the speed standard. But it was Longley’s idea of using all your fingers that allowed him to do it.”
McGurrin was born in Grand Rapid, Michigan, on April 2, 1861. He described how he came to adopt touch-typing:
“I first began using the method in 1878 … I was a clerk in the law office of D. E. Corbitt, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He bought a second-hand No 1 (Remington) Typewriter … on which the carriage was pulled back by a string and a sledgehammer blow was required to depress the keys. My employer and I began practising on it at the same time and there was quite a rivalry between us for some months as to who could write the faster. Those were my first typewriting contests. Before long I could beat him so easily that he gave up the struggle. One day he came into the office and told someone else who was there that he had just been over to the office of Henry F. Welch, who was dictating from his notes to a girl who was running the typewriter while looking out of the window. All this while she was writing from dictation at a very rapid rate. I afterwards learned that this was a fairy tale and only told in my presence to take the conceit out of me. However, boy like, I made up my mind that whatever a girl could do I could do, so I set to work to learn to operate without looking at the keyboard. I discarded my former method of two or three fingers and determined to use all of my fingers. Before the end of the year 1878 I could write upwards of 90 words a minute in new matter without looking at the keyboard. I did not meet the girl in Mr Welch’s office for two years after and then learned to my surprise that she did not operate the machine without looking at the keyboard and had never attempted to do so. I do not take any great credit for having thought of operating without looking at the keyboard for it is simply a matter of common sense, and the system of fingering is so simple that anybody could formulate it.”

So much for "modern technology". On Sunday, my newspaper had another of its computer system "upgrades" - they're usually one step forward and two back. Anyway, Monday morning's newspaper had no quotation marks and no apostrophes, not anywhere in the paper! I'm suggesting we go back to typewriters ...

British pop music writer and musicals composer Lionel Bart was born Lionel Begleiter in Stepney, London, on this day in 1930. He died, aged 68, in Hammersmith, London, on April 3, 1999. Bart is best known for creating the book, music and lyrics for a musical about a magical typewriter called Oliver!
Bart is seen here, however, using an Olivetti Studio 44.
Just having a Dickens of joke about the musical - but what a good idea! 


notagain said...

Finally a topic I can add to! I have a later Manual of Phonography, which I tried to learn. It turned out to be impractical because it relies on light and heavy lines to distinguish similar sounds. That's why the more uniform Gregg system replaced it.
Pitman shorthand is mentioned in a Bob Hope movie, "My Favorite Brunette," I think it was.

Richard P said...

More amazing research. Well done.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you notagain and Richard for your comments. I found it very interesting that rather than being two separate if associated things, shorthand writing and touch typing were connected in this way, through this couple. It gave me a good topic for a presentation the next day, to a group of women who had learned shorthand and touch typing as schoolgirls in the 50s.