Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Mooresburg, Montour County
Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter and the QWERTY keyboard.
Christopher Sholes was born in 1819 in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, and he spent the bulk of his career employed as a newspaperman, working in various areas of Wisconsin. Sholes is most famously known for his invention of the first practical typewriter as well as the common keyboard layout, QWERTY, which is still used today. Sholes added the shift key as his final invention before his retirement. He died on February 17, 1980.
Christopher Latham Sholes was born on February 14, 1819, in Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, but as a teenager he moved to Danville, Pennsylvania. It was here that Sholes learned the printer’s trade by working as an apprentice to a printer. At age 18, Sholes relocated to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to join his two brothers, Henry and Charles. Sholes was the editor of the Wisconsin Enquirer for a short while before he relocated to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1845. He became the editor and publisher of the Southport Telegraph, which he published for 17 years. He also dabbled in politics, serving in the Wisconsin Senate from 1848 to 1849 and 1856 to 1857 and in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1852 to 1853. Sholes served as postmaster in Milwaukee during the Civil War and later served as port collector and as commissioner of public works. Sholes is known for being an active inventor and developed several devices during his newspaper career. His lesser known inventions include a paging/numbering device he created in 1864 and a newspaper addressing machine. These devices helped Sholes develop the first practical typewriter in 1867. Sholes worked closely with Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soules to create the typewriter. The three men were granted a patent for this device on June 23, 1868. Sholes is credited with inventing the typewriter keyboard layout, which is known as QWERTY because of the first six keys ordering in the third row. The ordering was created to separate the most common two letter combinations used in English so that typists encountered less typewriter jams. Since its invention, QWERTY has also become the most common modern-day keyboard layout on English-language computers. By 1872, the model had been perfected. However, some letters needed to be capitalized, and there was no key for this. Shortly after this time, Sholes sold the copyright to the Remington Arms Company for $12,000, and the machine was first marketed as the “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer” in 1873. Less than 5,000 machines were sold, but Sholes continued to work on advancing the device. In 1878, Sholes created a shift key so that both lower and upper case letters could be used. The advanced machine, “Remington No. 2” became a huge success after another decade on the market. Sholes spent his later years of retirement in Milwaukee and passed away on February 17, 1890. He is buried in the Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.
“Biography of Christopher L. Sholes.” History Articles. 2008. 28 Feb. 2008.