Throwback Thursday Object: Todd's Improved Edison-Mimeograph Typewriter

To continue looking at alternative writing tools as we celebrate Louis Braille’s birthday, this week we feature an early typewriter adapted for users with vision loss.  Famed inventor Thomas Alva Edison developed this machine in 1894 to cut stencils for his Mimeograph machine. (A Mimeograph was an early duplicating machine that I learned how to use as a page back in my own middle school.)  The Edison Mimeograph Typewriter used a rotating disk on the base to select a letter, then a lever on the left of the machine was pressed to activate a hammer that struck a plunger that typed on the underside of the roller. To view what had been typed, an operator had to swing the carriage upward. W.G. Todd, Superintendent of the Kansas Institution for Education of the Blind from 1893-1895, sold a modified version of the Edison-Mimeograph Typewriter that he had adapted for use by people who were blind or visually impaired. Todd rearranged the keyboard and put raised letters on the keys. This example was used at the Kentucky School for the Blind, which bought its first typewriters in 1900 after Superintendent B.B. Huntoon saw them being used at other schools for the blind.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind


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