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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Rose Louisa Fritz: World Champion Typist

Rose Fritz on the right of the world championship trophy (which looks bigger than Rose!) and her custom-built Underwood typewriter. On the right is Otis Braisdell, who in 1910 succeeded Rose as world champion, ending her three-year reign.
Rose Fritz was still 17 when in Chicago in March 1906 she became the world's fastest typist.

With a Prince of Wales in the headlines at the moment, it is timely to look back at the typist who most impressed a Prince of Wales, the great Rose Louisa Fritz.
The New York Times, March 7, 1908
The Prince of Wales in 1908 two years later became King George V.
Rose Fritz was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 6, 1888, the daughter of Simon Julius Fritz, a real estate broker, and his wife, Frieda Fritz. Rose's parents were at the time listed as German-born, but after World War I they claimed to have been Russian-born. Perhaps the boundaries had changed?
Rose Fritz was a 17-year-old stenographer, just out of school, when she became not only the world's fastest and more accurate speed typist but also the most famous typist anywhere in the world. She certainly travelled extensively, demonstrating her typing skills, not just around the US but also in Canada, England in 1908, and in Germany and other parts of Europe in 1911-12.
In later life she became a school teacher at a private school. I do not know when she died, but I believe it may have been June 1959. I also understand that a typewriter collector called John Lewis, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, owned the custom-built Underwood typewriter that Rose had used.
A thorough description of a typewriter "custom-built" for speed championship typing is contained in a comment by John Lavery on a post last February on speed typists. John wrote, "These typewriters [were] carefully 'tuned'. The main spring tension was increased and the escapement dog was carefully filed down. The return spring on the dog rocker was stronger than on a stock machine." 
As a pioneering member of Underwood's team of full-time speed typing champions, Rose Fritz was coached by Charles E.Smith, author of A Practical Course in Touch Typewriting.

1907
1907
Evolution of the Typewriter (Oden, 1917)
Typewriter Topics, 1907
Typewriter Topics, 1907
The New York Times, October 18, 1907
The New York Times, November 13, 1912 
The New York Times, November 2, 1906
The New York Times, October 31, 1906
The New York Times, March 28, 1908
The New York Times, October 4, 1907
After relinquishing her world title (she did not defend the crown in 1909), Rose Fritz wrote a number of books giving expert advice on typewriting - many of these were co-authored by Edward Henry Eldridge of Simmons College, Boston.
Rose Fritz's records were set under competition conditions, with her words-per-minute count being averaged out, usually after an hour's typing, with deductions for errors. Other types of speed typing records, such as "sprint typing", were not officially recognised. However, in 1907 Typewriter Topics ran this item from the Philadelphia Bulletin (McGurrin used a Fay-Sho):


6 comments:

John said...

Very interesting, as we, your followers have come to expect. If you were to add Miss Friz's words per minute to mine and divide by two I'm afraid New Haven would be a below average city in terms of typing speed

Robert Messenger said...

Hi John. When I saw she was from New Haven, I was hoping you would read this. Thank you for doing so. It would be great to think that New Haven might recognise her in some way - a plaque, maybe, or even a story in the local newspaper about Rose.

Anonymous said...

Rose L. Fritz was my wife's great aunt.

We have many of her journals from the trips she took throughout Europe and the contests she won, also a large plaque showing her standings in contests from November, 1905 through May, 1916.

I have always wanted to write a book about her life and adventures abroad.

She traveled by steamship alone to Europe, which was risky for a young lady at that time.

Public demonstrations of major typing contests were considered a form of entertainment at the time, drawing large crowds.

The typewriter in the early 1900's was a very important piece of equipment for business and communication as the computer is today.

Anonymous said...

Rose L. Fritz was my wife's great aunt.

We have many of her journals from the trips she took throughout Europe and the contests she won, also a large plaque showing her standings in contests from November, 1905 through May, 1916.

I have always wanted to write a book about her life and adventures abroad.

She traveled by steamship alone to Europe, which was risky for a young lady at that time.

Public demonstrations of major typing contests were considered a form of entertainment at the time, drawing large crowds.

The typewriter in the early 1900's was a very important piece of equipment for business and communication as the computer is today.

Wynn Prager said...

Rose L. Fritz was my wife's great aunt.

We have many of her journals from the trips she took throughout Europe and the contests she won, also a large plaque showing her standings in contests from November, 1905 through May, 1916.

I have always wanted to write a book about her life and adventures abroad.

She traveled by steamship alone to Europe, which was risky for a young lady at that time.

Public demonstrations of major typing contests were considered a form of entertainment at the time, drawing large crowds.

The typewriter in the early 1900's was a very important piece of equipment for business and communication as the computer is today.

Wynn Prager said...

Rose L. Fritz was my wife's great aunt.

We have many of her journals from the trips she took throughout Europe and the contests she won, also a large plaque showing her standings in contests from November, 1905 through May, 1916.

I have always wanted to write a book about her life and adventures abroad.

She traveled by steamship alone to Europe, which was risky for a young lady at that time.

Public demonstrations of major typing contests were considered a form of entertainment at the time, drawing large crowds.

The typewriter in the early 1900's was a very important piece of equipment for business and communication as the computer is today.