The typewriter trade in Scotland, from the 1870s to 1920s
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This thesis explores the typewriter trade in Scotland from the 1870s to the 1920s. It analyses the businesses and individuals involved in the marketing, sale and use of writing machines, revealing the processes by which typewriters went from little known novelties in the mid-1870s to essential technologies for commercial and professional work by the early twentieth century. Alongside conventional archival and print-based sources, this thesis makes use of typewriters held at National Museums Scotland and the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre. These collections shed light on the leading figures in Scotland’s typewriter trade, while strengthening our understanding of the reasons why typewriters were designed, advertised, sold and used in the way that they were. Throughout the variety and diversity of businesses involved in the commercialisation of typewriters is revealed, demonstrating that in addition to the buying and selling of writing machines, Scottish businesses profited from producing typewritten transcriptions on demand; providing typing tuition; selling typewriter supplies; repairing typewriters; and dealing in second-hand machines. The focus on these customer facing businesses constitutes an entirely fresh approach to the history of typewriters. To date, scholars interested in the historical significance of these technologies have concentrated on either manufacturing and technical developments or on the expansion of typing as an area of employment. However, there has been hardly any analysis of the businesses that mediated between manufacturers on the one side and users on the other, in Scotland or anywhere else. The lacuna in the historiography has implied that the businesses which sold typewriters and typewriter services played a trivial role in commercialisation. In reality, the businessmen and women in Scotland’s trade were active agents in the sale and promotion of typewriters. Through advertising, exhibitions, lectures, canvassing, typing classes, sales and a whole host of other promotional methods, they introduced typewriters to the Scottish public and demonstrated the potential that these devices had for streamlining office work and transforming the production of written documentation.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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