Who is the father of the typewriter

150 years ago The invention of the typewriter

In the late autumn of 1866, the carpenter Peter Mitterhofer set off from South Tyrol to Vienna - a distance of around 650 kilometers lies ahead of him. He has stowed his latest invention in a wheelbarrow, which he can turn into a "humpback truck" and carry on his back: a "writing instrument" with a full keyboard, paper roller, type lever basket, space key.

"Peter Mitterhofer was very musical, he could sing well. And he built fantasy instruments, and there was one there, that was a kind of xylophone, it had little hammers, keys and connecting levers, and they hit wooden plates, and it is believed that he came up with the idea of ​​building a typewriter, "says Ewald Lassnig, long-time vice mayor of Mitterhofer's place of birth, Partschins near Merano.

This instrument was probably a so-called wooden gout, which was struck with keys instead of the usual clapper and produced "laughing tones" - as Mitterhofer must have been a happy young man in the first place. After attending the village school in Partschins and working for several years in his father's business, he first went "on the roll" in 1849, at the age of 26. He migrated to Italy, France, Germany and the Balkans, where he also earned his living as an art piper and ventriloquist. Then around 1862 he began to work on his writing instrument.

"The first two models were almost entirely made of wood, because Peter Mitterhofer was a carpenter and carpenter by profession. The third model, that was almost entirely made of metal, he was allowed to tinker and forge the parts with his friend, the village blacksmith . "

Subsidy of the emperor

Mitterhofer was not the first to try a mechanical writing aid. But no other device came so close to a modern typewriter. He had put a lot of time and work into it - now Mitterhofer needed money. And so he marched across the Alps to Vienna to ask Emperor Franz Joseph I for support. On December 18, 1866, his 15 kilogram model was handed over to the Polytechnic Institute for testing.

"For the practical usability of this invention, the undersigned must remark that an actual application of this device is unlikely to be expected," says an otherwise thoroughly positive report, on the basis of which the Kaiser granted him a "subsidy" of 200 guilders with a pencil note. Mitterhofer returned to Partschins - only to be presented again in Vienna in 1870 with an improved model. There they were still not convinced of the practical use of their invention.

"In any case, the result is worthy of recognition, and the present model, which is exemplary in all its details, would be a welcome enrichment for the collection of a technical school, and could serve aspiring students as stimulating examples of how far the thinking and hardworking person can get . "

Ewald Lassing: "Peter Mitterhofer made the mistake of going to the bureaucrats and not the precision mechanics. He should have had his invention patented and protected. Unfortunately, he trusted the bureaucrats, trusted the Kaiser. And so actually his invention has not been evaluated. "

Washing machine instead of typewriter

Mitterhofer left his machine in Vienna against payment of 150 guilders.

"He gave up. He didn't actually build any more typewriters."

Meanwhile, the American journalist Christopher Latham Sholes had developed his first "typewriter" with two friends. In 1873 he sold his patent to the Remington arms and sewing machine factory. The triumphant advance of the typewriter began in the mid-1880s, with Remington alone selling around 50,000 units a year. Peter Mitterhofer, who died in 1893, got by as a small farmer with a few goats and was ridiculed as the "fool of Partschins". When his wife was bedridden and he had to take care of the house by himself, he invented a washing machine in his old age.