top of page
Peoples Typewriter

I admit, at first glance, there are some similarities between Thomas's patent drawing and the example on this page. In particular, the escapement rack with its series of metal teeth and the type element which was referred to as a bow. But that really is the end of the similarities.

Peoples

1885

Company Unkown

Chicago, ILL

The mysterious "People's Type-Writer" of 1885. It is a very early example of an index typewriter though not the first, or is it? Many books cite the Peoples as having been patented on May 30, 1854 by Robert S. Thomas of North Carolina. That should be taken with a grain of salt because the same books erroneously refer to the typewriter as the Pearl. So, no, I don't believe the Peoples dates to 1854 and it is definitely not a Pearl.

Peoples Patent 01.jpg
IMG_2988.jpg

The more compelling evidence to the contrary is from an 1887 story in American Scientific which states when the Peoples was actually placed on the market. The info in the story seems to be corroborated by a stencil found on the machine itself.

What the 1887 story tells us is, first, that the actual name of the typewriter is the Peoples and not the Pearl. Second, a woodcut illustration of the typewriter that was included with the story looked exactly like the example on this page and nothing like the 1854 patent drawing. Third, the story stated that the inventor of the typewriter was Reverend Enoch Dye Prouty (1844 - 1935) of Chicago, who, because we are privileged by hindsight, we know he was a prolific inventor of various machines including the Prouty and blank typewriters. Lastly, the story stated that the year the Peoples typewriter was first placed on the market in 1885. All this data steers us away from the 1854 patent. 

The Peoples Typewriter Index 01.jpg
Reverand Enoch Dye Prouty 01.jpg

Rev. Enoch Dye Prouty

What the typewriter itself confirms the name of the machine. More interestingly, one of its stencils reads "PAT. APL'D FOR." Why would a machine produced in 1885 state that a patent was "applied for" if said patent was issued in 1854? Wouldn't it state "Patented" or maybe have the patent number listed? This leads me to believe that Enoch Prouty applied for a unique patent specific to the Peoples typewriter that had not yet been awarded upon production, which was common. The 1854 patent does not seem to apply.

IMG_2987.jpg

 

So what is the correct patent? As of now, none has been found. It is possible the Enoch Prouty applied for a patent but it was never awarded. It is also possible that the books may have been partially correct and that the Thomas's 1854 patent was it inspiration for the Peoples. Or, it is possible that Prouty somehow acquired the rights to use the Thomas's patent.

A single-case Peoples which typed 60 characters, like the one on this page, sold for $20. A double-case example which could type 90 characters from a triangular bow was available for $25. The typewriter was large and heavy having been made of cast iron. Though a company name and factory location were not mentioned in the Scientific American story, Prouty himself is listed in an 1887 Chicago directory as being a typewriter dealer with two location 29 and 84 Market St. It is highly probably that at least one of those was the home office of the Peoples.

IMG_2979.jpg

The Peoples on this page was found by me in Kansas City, They were origina

Image_20240429_0001 - Copy (2).jpg
Image_20240429_0001 - Copy.jpg
Image_20240429_0002.jpg

 

As for the red Pettypet on this page, serial numbered K-17343, it belonged to Wayne Welshans before selling it to me. Wayne owned it since Christmas 1952. He even typed some papers with it during his high school years according to his daughter. The typewriter was gifted to Wayne by his father, Army Sgt. Floyd L. Welshans, who brought it with him from Germany shortly after WWII. Sgt. Welshans was stationed in several German towns including Munch and Frankfurt.

Have a Pettypet or Stylotype typewriter for sale? Please email me at Antikey.Chop@gmail.com or call +1 860 729 2252
 

bottom of page