U.S. Patent Number 5581X was awarded to William Austin Burt on this date in 1829 for his “typographer” (seen above). It was the first device that can be called a typewriter, although that term (with a hyphen) was not in use until the 1860s.
Burt’s invention was large: 12 inches tall by 12 inches wide by 18 inches long, and it did not utilize a keyboard. It worked via a wheel on the front, which one used to dial up the desired letter and line it up where one wanted it, and then one pushed an attached lever to make contact with the paper. (It must have been like composing a text on an old cell phone via a number pad, one letter at a time, except with a giant wooden box.)
Burt found neither investors nor buyers, so he did not produce many working models, and the one that he did build was lost in a fire in the U.S. Patent Office in 1836. The photograph at top is of a replica that Burt’s great-grandson built for the Columbian Exposition of 1893 by following the instructions found in the patent that was awarded on this date in 1829.
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Donald Barthelme died on this date in 1989. Eudora Welty died 15 years ago today. Amy Winehouse died five years ago today. She was better than she comprehended. “Back to Black”:
Dr. Sally Ride died three years ago today.
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Haile Selassie was born on this date in 1892. Pee Wee Reese was born on this date in 1918. Calvert DeForest, AKA Larry Bud Melman, was born on this date in 1921. Bert Convy was born in 1933 on this date. Don Drysdale was born in 1936 on this date. Philip Seymour Hoffman would be 49 today.
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Justice Anthony Kennedy is 80. Ronny Cox is 78 today. Don Imus is 76 today. It’s Lydia Cornell‘s birthday today. I do not personally know Ms. Cornell, but somewhere along the line we started to follow each other on social media. Even in that small way, she has sent little “attaboys” and encouragements that may have meant little to her but they meant a lot to me. Whether or not you ever see this, thank you, Lydia Cornell, and happy birthday.
Woody Harrelson is 55. Eriq La Salle is 54. Slash is 51 today. Stephanie Seymour is 48. Alison Krauss is 45 today. Monica Lewinsky is 43. Kathryn Hahn is 43. Daniel Radcliffe is 27 today.
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