Inventors are often notably, well-regarded historical figures. One such inventor and son of a famous man is Christopher Latham Sholes.
Sholes was known as the “Father of the Typewriter”. He was responsible for developing one of the first practical typewriters, which he commercialized in 1867 and patented later that year. He is also credited with inventing “Lincoln Logs” (the name that came to be used for both boards and logs), which were marketed by his company, United States Lumber Corporation.
Sholes’ invention of the typewriter was one of necessity and not genius. Sholes suffered from a painful arthritis condition in his hands and it limited his ability to hunt and trap for fur, two occupations he had grown up with. His father died when he was young, however, Sholes inherited $40,000 after that death. He used this inheritance to found the United States Lumber Corporation in 1881. It was successful for a time, but burned down in 1907.
In 1880 Sholes married Caroline Henshaw (1855-1911). The couple had three children: Caroline (1882-?), Mabel (1878-?), and John (1879-?). Caroline was an amateur artist and painted the landscape art, which was sold in the store.
The Sholes family lived in Appleton, Wisconsin for many years, but moved to Washington D.C., where they lived until 1911. Even though it was a move for Caroline, she continued to support her husband until her death of cancer on November 23, 1911.
Sholes suffered an accident in April 1908 that left him deaf from the roar of a factory he had built. His hearing never fully recovered and he received hearing aids for years afterward. He died on December 8, 1910 in Washington D.C. He is interred in Lakeview Cemetery in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Sholes’ story was dramatized in the play “Christopher Latham Sholes’ Typewriter” by Philip Rappaport, which premiered at Ohio Theatre Company in July 2002 and opened on Broadway in November 2004.
Today, a wide variety of companies worldwide still manufacture the Sholes’ invention. Although many underwent updates in design and features, the basic idea has remained the same. The original machine used a lever to depress each key (which is located on a type bar). A ribbon then carries ink to the surface of paper. This has now been replaced by much more efficient devices, such as ones that have built in keyboards. While other aspects have been modernized, one notable similarity is that both are still known as typewriters; they might be referred to as computers today.
The Sholes Corporation was a company founded by Christopher Latham Sholes in 1881 and it commercialized his invention the typewriter. The first company store opened on Water Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1883. In April 1893, the name of the company was changed to The United States Lumber and Manufacturing Company (USLM), (where USLM stands for United States Lumber). The Chicago office office of the company was located at the corner of LaSalle and Jackson Streets.