Sholes & Glidden Typewriter, 1874
The first commercially successful American writing machine, this typewriter was manufactured by E. Remington & Sons from a design patented by Christopher Sholes and Carlos Glidden. The keys were specially arranged to prevent them from jamming and to promote faster typing, creating the “QWERTY” keyboard still used today.
As the nature of office work changed in the late 19th century, the introduction of the typewriter created new job opportunities for women. Unlike the male clerks whom they replaced, however, female office workers had far fewer chances for advancement.
Machine for Making Paper Bags, 1879
Margaret Knight of Springfield, Massachusetts, invented this machine for making paper bags. She patented numerous inventions, from factory machinery to household improvements, leading some to celebrate her as a “female Edison.”
While many women had innovative ideas, 19th-century societal norms and a legal system that favored male inventors made it difficult for women to secure patents under their own names. Knight’s patent is widely celebrated because it demonstrates women’s participation in the important American process of invention.
Harvester and Self-Raking Reaper, 1877
William Whiteley of Springfield, Ohio, submitted this unusually decorative model along with his patent application.
The Museum’s holding of about 10,000 patent models (originally submitted to the Patent Office in the 19th century) are a prized treasure of the collection. While most inventions, like Whiteley’s reaper, are simple incremental improvements, the models illustrate the dreams of individuals who hoped to advance American industry, make their fortune, prove their genius, and demonstrate their value to society.