Christopher Latham Sholes (1819-1890) got his first patent on this day in 1867. One of those determined entrepreneurs that are the hallmark of 19th Century America, Sholes was out in Wisconsin when he started working with a friend – Sam Soule – to design a page numbering machine for the printer they worked for.
They showed it to a friend – Carlos Glidden – a lawyer and parttime inventor who suggested they adapt it for letters. (Glidden himself was working on a mechanical plow – everybody was working on something in those days.)
Sholes saw an article about an English machine, but thought he could make a better one and decided to call it a typewriter.
Soule and Glidden helped and the three applied for a patent. They sent out typed letters and one reached James Densmore of Pennsylvania, who was so impressed he offered to buy a share of their patent without even seeing the machine. Eventually Soule and Glidden dropped out but Sholes stuck with it and Densmore urged more and more improvements.
By 1873, they had a good working model which they took to the Remington Sewing Machine Company for an evaluation and instead they got an offer for the patent. Sholes agreed to sell his half, but Densmore held out for a royalty deal.
You can see where this is going: Sholes walked away with $12,000, while Densmore collected, over time, $1.5 million.
Typewriters then were also the people who used the machines – for the most part the women who were just entering the workforce. Typewriters were often decorated with flowers to please the typewriters.
Today is also the anniversary of the most expensive hailstorm in US history – Kansas, 1951, 14 million dollars. This is the second hailstorm anniversary in just a week because we are entering hail season, but the most interesting hail story ever comes from Roopkund in northern India, high in the Himalayas.
In 1942, a park ranger discovered hundreds of skeletons scattered around a lake (now called Skeleton Lake). Nobody knew what had happened to them until 2004, when a forensic team started studying the remains – which dated from some time before the 15th century.
The scientists came to the conclusion that more than three hundred people, stranded on a open plain, had all been killed by very big hailstones. Be careful out there.