Have you ever seen those brown markers on the side of the road? If you are like me and my fiance (both with some kind of degree in history) you slam on the breaks, jump out of the car, and read whatever the site commemorates. Historical Markers nationwide are fascinating: they not only tell you the story of a town, but also they explain the progression of American society.

I recently moved back to the Milwaukee County area after an eight year absence. What better way to get reacquainted with my new hometown than go on a tour visiting the markers?! This post marks the first in a series about the Historically significant events, people, and ideas in Milwaukee County.  Enjoy.

Historical Marker Stop #1: The Invention of the Typewriter

The official Wisconsin State Historical Marker marking the invention of the typewriter. Photo credit: Meggy

The official Wisconsin State Historical Marker marking the invention of the typewriter. Photo by Meggy Demeter.

Where is this Historical Marker?

This marker is located on the corner of 4th and State, on the grounds of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee.

What does this Historical Marker Say?

“At 318 State Street, approximately 300 feet northeast of here, C. Latham Sholes perfected the first practical typewriter in September 1869. Here he worked during the summer with Carlos Glidden, Samuel Soule, and Matthias Schwalbach in the machine shop of C.F. Kleinsteuber. During the next six years, money for further development of the typewriter was advanced by James Densmore, who later gained the controlling interest and sold it to E. Remington & Sons of Ilion.” Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1956.

Why was this site commemorated with an official Historical Marker?

In this day in age, this marker speaks for itself: the typewriter set the foundation for the modern computer. The computers we type on have the same keyboard format as the original typewriter. They purposely put the letters that commonly go together far away from each other, as the typewriter would get jammed if you pressed more than one key at a time. Thanks for QWERTY, guys!

What was going on in the United States in 1869 that influenced the event?

The inventors created the typewriter to meet the increased demand for quick communication. In the wake of the United States Civil War, the country shifted from an agrarian society where labor was abundant, to an industrial-based society where mass production was king. Up until this point, everything was written by hand and printed on a printing press. However, in 1869, when most goods and services were becoming industrialized, it made sense for the print industry to follow.

If you are interested in seeing the list of Wisconsin Historical Markers, you can check it out here!

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