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Sholes and Glidden Typewriter Decorated
Kleinsteubers Machine Shop

With a mostly working prototype in hand the men sought funding to help further its development which they found in 1868 in the pockets of James Densmore. Densmore, who'd made his fortune in the oil industry, was impressed enough to quickly purchase a 25% share in the venture. During 1869, Glidden & Soule lost interest and sold most of their remaining shares to Sholes & Densmore (Soule retained 10% ownership). 

Sholes & Glidden

1873 - 1878

Remington Typewriter Works

Ilion, New York, US

The individual credited with the creation of the first commercially successful typewriter, the Sholes & Glidden (S&G), is inventor Christopher Latham Sholes (1819 - 1890). His interest in writing machines was sparked when good friend Carlos Glidden showed him an article about John Pratt's Pterotype, a typewriter predecessor. Sholes, Glidden and another collaborator, Samuel Willard Soule, a work partner of Sholes, commenced their project in 1866 at Kleinsteuber's Machine Shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1867 they had crude, completed prototype.

Christopher Latham Sholes

Christopher Latham Sholes

Sholes & Glidden Patent

With assistance from yet another inventor, Matthias Schwalback, patent no.182,511 was applied for in 1872 for a typewriter that would be very close to the final product. The patent was awarded in 1876, long after production had begun. An original patent model is currently at the Smithsonian.

While constantly improving and adjusting the original design, Sholes and Densmore were also in search of a major investor to help place the typewriter into production and on the market. Investors, though, weren't yet ready for a mechanical writing machine. The general consensus was that typewritten letters were too impersonal and the overall benefits were minimal. Disillusioned, Sholes sold his shares to Densmore in 1872.

Sholes and Schwalback Patent Model
Remington Typewriter Factory

Enter manufacturer and super-salesman George Washington Newton Yost who, in March of 1873, was able facilitate a meeting between Densmore and the Remington company. Remington, a gun and sewing machine manufacturer, was looking for additional revenue streams to compliment its existing portfolio since gun sales were down after the end of the Civil War. Remington was so confident in the invention that it was presented with that day that 1,000 units were contracted on the spot.

Sholes and Glidden Typewriter
Sholes and Glidden Typewriter

Flywheel Model

Sholes and Glidden Typewriter

Side Lever Model

Sholes and Glidden Typewriter

Top Lever Model

Aesthetically, early Sholes & Glidden typewriters were reminiscent of sewing machines from the same era, complete with similar treadles that returned the sewing machine-like stands. Even the Victorian era decorations were sewing machine-ish. These similarities were by chance. They were the result of Remington having produced the S&G in the same Ilion, NY factory were the company's sewing machines were made. Nowadays we would call this "lateral integration."It just makes sense that   Eventually a side lever replaced the foot pedal which also rid the need for the stand. And later, with the final design, the side lever was replaced by a top lever

Ultimately there were three different S&G's produced over and eight year period. Though not advertised as such, today they are referred to as the Flywheel Model, the Side Lever Model and the Top Lever Model because of the placement of the return mechanism. Though, because one could send a S&G to the factory to be retrofitted, it is common to find an early S&G with later hardware. If the serial number of your S&G ends with an "A" then it was probably retrofitted at the factory.

All S&G's had a circular upstrike typebar arrangement powered and a 4-row keyboard with a QWERTY layout. The earliest S&G's only came with Small Gothic typeface in uppercase only. We also now know, thanks to typewriter historian Peter Weil, who recently discovered and advertisement, S&G's from late 1875 and on were also available  with lowercase characters as well as script.

See an early S&G-typed letter with the all-CAPS Roman Gothic typeface here...


Christopher Latham Sholes working on his typewriter in 1870
History of Copying up to the Typewriter

Among the reasons for the success of the S&G was the ability of the user to type faster than to write with a quill pen (ballpoint pens weren't yet invented. The keyboard's QWERTY layout helped in no small part with this achievement by separating commonly used letters in order to prevent jam-ups. Less jam-ups resulted in faster typing.

Another reason was the high level of legibility, which was a definite benefit in commercial environments. Because more of the public was reaching higher levels of education, the production of immediate and legible text was becoming more of a necessity in learning institutions.

Need an instruction manual for your S&G? Get a copy here...

See various original S&G ephemera here...

Sholes & Glidden Typewriter

Have a Sholes & Glidden Typewriter for sale? Email me at or call +1 (860) 729-2252

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