ASME To Recognize Early Typewriter For Historical Significance

Sep 16, 2011

by Michael MacRae

Milwaukee Public Museum to Host Ceremony on Oct. 6

NEW YORK, Sept. 16, 2011 – The Sholes & Glidden typewriter, the first commercially successful mechanical writing machine, will be recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for historic significance and contribution to the progress of mechanical engineering.

ASME will name the Sholes & Glidden a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark at a ceremony to be held Oct. 6, 2011, at the Milwaukee Public Museum, which houses the typewriter in its extensive collection of industrial artifacts.  Members of the ASME Committee on History and Heritage will join together with representatives of the Milwaukee Public Museum and city officials in a celebration of engineering achievement and local history.

It was in a machine shop in Milwaukee, in the mid-1860s, where Christopher Latham Sholes and Carlos Glidden went to work on a writing machine that they envisioned to be functional and reliable.  Advancing ideas and concepts from earlier failed attempts to design a usable typewriter, the two inventors and a group of associates toiled for nearly seven years, before introducing a model that entered into mass production in 1874.

The Sholes & Glidden featured a revolving cylindrical platen to serve as the paper carrier, a lever-action key mechanism, radial type-bars, and inked ribbon, among other firsts in typewriter design.  In addition, Sholes devised the Q-W-E-R-T-Y arrangement of keys to minimize the possibility of jamming the keys.

The Q-W-E-R-T-Y configuration enabled a skilled operator to “produce original documents faster than possible by hand,” says ASME in a bronze plaque to be presented to the Milwaukee Public Museum at the ceremony beginning at 3:00 p.m.

The nearly 248 ASME landmarks – ranging from mills and steam engines to industrial processes and space rockets – represent progress in the evolution of mechanical engineering and significance to society in general.  Through its Landmarks Program, ASME encourages the preservation of historically important works. 

About ASME

ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.