“Dear Brother….”

June 24, 2006

Something I ran across while browsing some old magazines.

The first typewriter was offered for sale by the Remington Company in 1873. Remington was best known for making guns, sewing machines, and farm equipment. The first typewriter was expensive: $125 — the equivalent of $8–$10,000 today. Obviously, there were few early buyers. Yet, one well-known writer at the time saw a Remington on display in 1874 and bought it on the spot.  He was, you see, an early geek.  In December 1874, Samuel Langhorne Clemens sent a note to his brother.

DEAR BROTHER:

I AM TRYING TO GET THE HANG OF THIS NEW FANGLED WRITING MACHINE. BUT I AM NOT MAKING A SHINING SUCCESS OF IT. HOWEVER THIS IS THE FIRST ATTEMPT I HAVE EVER MADE & YET I PERCEIVE I SHALL SOON & EASILY ACQUIRE A FINE FACILITY IN ITS USE…THE MACHINE HAS SEVERAL VIRTUES. I BELIEVE IT WILL PRINT FASTER THAN I CAN WRITE. ONE MAY LEAN BACK IN HIS CHAIR & WORK IT. IT PILES AN AWFUL STACK OF WORDS ON ONE PAGE. IT DON’T MUSS THINGS OR SCATTER INK BLOTS AROUND…

YOUR BROTHER,

SAM

And so it was that Mark Twain’s next novel, Tom Sawyer, which appeared in 1876, went to his publisher in typewritten form, the first typewritten book in history. Apparently some scholars believe that distinction actually belongs to Life on the Mississippi in 1883, but whatever the case, Mark wain was the first novelist to turn in a typewritten manuscript.

I love history.

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