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Tuesday 8 January 2013

On This Day in Typewriter History: Harger's 1858 Typographer

PART 218
On this day (December 28) in 1858, Henry Harger, of Delhi, Iowa, became only the ninth person to be issued with a US patent for what today would be classified as a typewriter. 
Those who preceded him, in chronological order, were William Austin Burt, Charles Thurber (two), John B. Fairbank (not Fairbanks), Oliver T. Eddy, John M. Jones (two), Robert S. Thomas, John H. Cooper and Samuel Ward Francis. Alfred Ely Beach, mentioned yesterday in an article about Thomas Hall, is not included in this master list, possibly because his machine was specifically designated as being for the use of the blind.
A Condensed History of the Writing Machine in 1923 recognised Harger's contribution, as did Ernst Martin in Die Schreibmaschine und ihre Entwicklungsgeschichte in 1949; Others to mention Harger were Michael Adler, in both of his typewriter histories, Richard Current (1954) and The Story of the Typewriter (also 1923); but Müller, Mares, Bliven, Beeching and Lippman did not.
Adler wrote, "An interesting design ... the ideas were used later in production machines. The type plungers were operated by a handle which advanced the paper as the plunger was being depressed. The type plungers of the wide letters were shorter than those of narrow letters, thereby altering the travel of the handle and giving full differential spacing."
Harger, who called his machine a "mechanical typographer", himself wrote it was an "improved arrangement of means for actuating type, feeding thereto the article or substance to receive the impressions, and also for keeping the parts properly adjusted relatively with each other, so that the desired work - to wit, printing direct from the type - may be performed with great facility."
Henry Harger was born on April 14, 1832, in  Oxford, New Haven, Connecticut. He died, aged 82, in  1914 in Boise, Idaho, where he had gone to take up land. His widow, Sarah Elizabeth Smith Harger, born in Michigan in 1843, lived until 1940.
Harger was for many years the county recorder in Delhi. He was a representative in the sixth generation of the descendants of Jabez Harger, a Huguenot. Henry was educated in the east, graduating from the State Normal School at New Britain, Connecticut, with the class of 1856. He also received an excellent scientific education, being a graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School, the technical school of Yale University. He arrived in Delhi in 1858, the year of his typewriter patent, when he was aged 26.
Harger conducted a select school for a number of years before serving several terms as county recorder. He also engaged in the "abstract business" [?] . He eventually went to Lost River, Idaho, to take up land. His two sons, Prank and Burton, and widow remained there after his death.

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