AUGUST 20Pocket typewriters seem to have been an inventors’ dream almost from the time the typewriter first went into production.
Perhaps the closest anyone got to it (small index machines such as the Simplex aside) would be Charles Almon Bennett with his 10-inch by 5-inch by 2-inch 1907 Junior (and the later Bennett), which had a full keyboard and typewheel.
Almost 20 years after the Bennett, John Bennett Underwood – combining the names of both the most successful typewriter maker of the time and that of the earlier pocket typewriter designer – came up with his idea of what a pocket typewriter should be.
It was one with a full keyboard and ribbon that could be carried in a jacket pocket, taken out, a sheet of paper clipped to a sidebar, and used by running up and down the sheet. I have taken the extreme liberty of dubbing it "The Venus" (a name connected to John Bennett Underwood and this period in his life, which will be explained later).
There’s no way of knowing whether John Bennett Underwood, of Grass Valley, California, was trying to cash in on his surname when he was issued with a patent for his pocket typewriter on this day in 1929. He was no relation, at least not a close one, of the famous typewriter-making John Thomas Underwood of New York. Nor was he of Charles Almon Bennett, of New Jersey.
John Bennett Underwood spelled out his objectives for what would have been a rather revolutionary and truly remarkable little typewriter:
“My invention relates to improvements in typewriters with folding parts; and the objects of the invention are, first, to provide a typewriter of such convenient size, that it may be placed in a small case and carried in a pocket of a person's clothing; second, to afford facilities for its ready adjustment for writing; and third, to provide that it may be made to write on any suitable flat surface, such as the page of a book or surface of a package.
“In its operation, my machine differs from that of the typewriter which has a movable carriage on which the sheet of paper, held in place against a roller, is carried along as the writing proceeds, in that the body portion of my machine travels across the paper, or other writing surface, when the machine is being operated. Said body portion, which includes the keyboard, typebars, ribbon mechanism, and other parts attached to the frame … is caused to move across the writing surface over a guide rule, which is held in alignment by a margin rule. The margin rule grips the edge of the paper by means of a strip, hinged and kept in contact by the weight of the machine resting upon the paper.”
John Bennett Underwood was born in LaMoure, North Dakota, on September 22, 1884, the son of John Kinney Underwood and Ellen Stiles Underwood. He died in Newark, California, on August 18, 1980, aged 95.
Underwood also invented an atomic model machine in 1952, wrote a book called Behind the Scenes of Human Progress and, at a much earlier age, around the time he designed his pocket typewriter, a play called Venus: A Comedy of Two Worlds.
On this day in 1889, Frederic Erasmus Gladwin (born Connecticut, 1859; died 1940), who ran a typewriter supplies company in San Francisco, was granted a patent (above) for a typewriter on which “a sheet of paper is wrapped around the roller and the line of writing is carried circumferentially, the spacings between letters and words being produced by limited rotative movement of the roller on its axis. After one line is written the next line is spaced by a longitudinal movement of the roller in the direction of its axis.”
Get it? Not sure I do. I think the idea might to pivot the carriage so as to see what is being written.
American author Jacqueline Susann was born in Philadelphia on this in 1918.
She died in New York City in September 21, 1974, aged 56. Susann wrote the best-selling novel Valley of the Dolls, a book that spawned an Oscar-nominated 1967 film and a short-lived TV series.