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Inventor of the electric typewriter born

February
12
1888

On this day in 1888, James Field Smathers was born near Valley Spring, Texas. In 1908 he became a typist, accountant, and credit manager for a firm in Kansas City, Missouri. He soon realized the need for some means to increase the speed and decrease the fatigue of typing, and the use of electric power seemed to him the obvious solution. By 1912 he had completed a working model and applied for a patent, which was issued the next year. In 1914 he built an electric typewriter that performed perfectly. In 1923 the Northeast Electric Company of Rochester, New York, entered into a royalty contract with Smathers for the production of electric typewriters. However, private industrial acceptance of the electric typewriter did not come until 1930, when a subsidiary of Northeast Electric put the Electromatic model on the market. This company was purchased by the International Business Machines Corporation in 1933, a step which marked the beginning of the IBM Office Products Division. In 1938 Smathers joined the Rochester staff of IBM as a consultant and worked in development engineering at Poughkeepsie until his retirement in 1953. He died in 1967. Smathers was one of a number of Texas inventors, such as Gail Borden Jr., John Wesley Carhart, Carl Crane, Bette Graham, Ole Ringness, Ned Barnes, and Robert Munger, whose ideas spread far beyond the borders of the state.

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