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ca.1913 - 1927

Fortoni Music Typewriter Company, Limited

London, England

His name was Luigi Fortoni (1876 - 1926), born in Italy. He emigrated to England sometime before 1911 which was when he first appeared in the England Census as a boarder at a London address. Occupation: artist. Sometime in the first quarter of 1915 Luigi married Clara Mabel Hamlin (1883 - 1979) in the Marleybone District. He worked as a composer and orchestral band leader at Prince's Theater in Piccadilly. For almost the entire time that he lived in London, and before he was married, Luigi was perfecting his invention: a music typewriter.

Fortoni Music Typewriter

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Fortnoi Music Typewirter Patent
Luigi Fortnoi w/his Music Typewirter
Fortnoi Music Typewirter Patent

An initial patent, no.1,073,976, was issued to Luigi in September of 1913 and another, no.1,429,862, in 1922. The image of Luigi with his typewriter at the top of this page, which I own, dates to 1920. The one towards the bottom was published in the Winnipeg Tribune, a Canadian newspaper, in 1922. It is obvious from the two images that Luigi made at least two prototypes and, according to the patents, they were well over a decade in the works. It is unclear when but at some point Luigi formed the Fortoni Music Typewriter Company, Ltd., most likely around the time he applied for his first patent.

In February of 1923 Luigi invited a reporter and several musician-friends to watch him demonstrate his typewriter. The reporter noted that the Fortoni was "but a little larger" than a standard typewriter and its cost would be "approximate that of the ordinary typewriter." On the Fortoni, a music sheet would have been held upright and flat against a steel plate. Using transfer paper in conjunction with a touch control regulator, the typist could reproduce several copies at once. An extra wide ribbon was necessary for typing clefs. It was stated that the machine was no more difficult to use than a common typewriter.

Luigi Fortoni Composition

By far, the most interesting thing about the Fortoni is that it is both a keyboard and an index typewriter. It has a curved index that resembles piano keys towards the bottom, for musical notation, and an alphanumeric keyboard towards the top (see patent no.1,436,491). With this layout the user could compose both the score and lyrics at the same time. The Fortoni could reproduce a total of 225 different characters. I know of no other typewriter ever having been produced with both an index and keyboard.

For all his tireless effort, Luigi Fortoni died a poor man with little legacy. He passed away at the age of 51 on May 27, 1926. His widowed wife, Clara, was left with just £125 according to probate records. Today, some of Luigi's composition can be found if you look hard enough, but they are in no way in demand. His typewriter, which must have been his life's work, never went into production. No known example has been found (yet). On October 11, 1927 the London Gazette had named his company as "officially dissolved."

Luigi Fortnoi w/his Music Typewirter
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