Monday, March 23, 2015

An Autograph? Please!

There must always be a way to make life just a little bit easier, whatever the profession.  For centuries writers were restricted to hand produced products.  But in 1714 an Englishman by the name of Henry Mill filed a patent for a machine to put  letters on paper.  It was pretty vague in description, and he did not go on to produce such a machine.

An Italian, Pellegrina Turri did come up with such a machine in 1808.  He made it for his friend, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano.  He did it to provide her with a way to write for she was blind and unable to sit down with pen and paper.

There were others who tried their hand at the making such a machine.  The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer actually came out in 1873 and in 1874 they had one manufactured by the sewing machine department of Remington arms company.

Mark Twain bought one of the new-fangled machines but was less than impressed by them.  He did turn in the manuscript for Life on the Mississippi which was probably the first book written with a typewriter.  But in March 1875, he noted his feelings in a letter: 

          "Please do not divulge the fact that I own a machine.  I have entirely stopped
           using the Type-Writer, for the reason that I never could write a letter with it to
           somebody without receiving a request by return mail that I would not only
          describe the machine but state what progress I had made in the use of it, etc., etc.
          I don't like to write letters, and so I don't want people to know that I own this
          curiosity-breeding little joker."

He did write one letter with it, though.  A boy had requested not just an autograph from Twain, but also went on to request a full autograph letter.  Twain was less than pleased with the request and sent the boy a typewritten letter.  In it he explained that writing was his trade, and it wasn't fair to ask a man for a free sample of his trade.  Would the boy "ask a blacksmith for a horse shoe," he asked, "or a doctor for a corpse?"  The letter was  produced using all capital letters, including his signature which was also typed.

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