I'm a French journalist writing a book, whose main character of is also a journalist working in the 1890's, but I lack some background.

I wonder when typewriters started to get used in British national newspapers? I know they were invented in the mid-century, and that after WWI journalists commonly used them, but was that the case in 1890? Would it be unlikely to find such an invention in The Daily Telegraph or the Daily News in that year?

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    Welcome to HistorySE, @Emilie! What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and help center. You may improve your question to comply with site guidelines with an edit and the help of How to Ask. Thanks!
    – MCW
    Sep 5, 2019 at 13:38
  • Is this homework or an assignment given this question as well? See history.stackexchange.com/q/54486/25535
    – Solar Mike
    Sep 5, 2019 at 16:10
  • Not at all, I'm writing a book as I explained in the first draft of my question, but it was edited. I'm a french journalist myself and the main character of my story is also a journalist working in the 1890's, but I lack some background.
    – Emilie
    Sep 5, 2019 at 16:13
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    Looking at the edit history, I understand why the previous editor (@sempaiscuba) made the changes he did, but it did cut away all of the context. Using your comment, I've put back some of it. I hope it's enough enough to explain the question's context a little better. Going forward, you'll find yourself regularly editing your posts so that they can stand by themselves, flow better, and also make it possible for people to answer them without a lot of duplication of effort.
    – Spencer
    Sep 5, 2019 at 21:25
  • @Spencer Last time I looked, I just corrected the grammar in the title. Sep 5, 2019 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


Judging by Jenson (1988), Using the typewriter: Secretaries, reporters and authors, 1880–1930 (author's Twitter), and assuming similar developments on both sides of the Atlantic, the answer would be yes:

The first claim, that the typewriter was deployed when it "made sense," is sup- ported by the rapidity with which the typewriter was adopted in American life in the 1880s, even though at least sixty writing machines of various sorts had been invented and patented since 1830. The first commercial machine was engineered in 1873; by the 1880s, a matter of a mere decade, Scientific Amen'can reported that over 40,000 machines were in regular use. Salesmen even claimed that the machine "sold itself" as a necessary business tool. During the same period, judges complained about the increasing wordiness of typewritten legal briefs, and would-be authors were advised that typewritten manuscripts were more readily saleable.I°

The author even has a section about the Newsroom specifically:

Typewriters in the Newsroom

Typewriters entered the newsroom without the fanfare and consternation that accompanied their arrival in the business office. One contemporary observer credits the advent of the linotype with forcing the widespread adoption of the typewriter. His claim is that typesetting was so much faster that printers required longer, more legible, less bulky "takes. ''18 He views the adoption of the typewriter as part of a more general (and natural) process of newsroom mechanization. [...]

Copy produced via the typewriter was considered more legible and thus more appealing to editors, so outside contributors were urged to submit typewritten copy. In 1894, Shuman claims that "the outside contributor is almost compelled to have his article typewritten if he wants it to have the fullest chance of acceptance" in a newspaper. 2° Shuman also notes that "The machine is rapidly coming into general use in news- paper offices and the time has already come when the reporter who can manipu- late the typewriter has a decided advantage in securing a position. ''21

I didn't read the entire article, but it also includes discussions on the preoccupations of the time, such as how typewriters introduced more women in the workplace as secretaries. (The latter gets echoed in this other article, which is about the UK more specifically.) Methinks it'll give you plenty of context for your book.

The linotype reference in the quote is almost certainly about the Linotype machine.

Some of these related scholarly articles might also be useful in your research.

  • Are these long quotes from a book still under copyright meeting a "fair usage" constraint? Sep 8, 2019 at 2:47
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    @PieterGeerkens: axed. Sep 8, 2019 at 3:01
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    +1 Nice find, even if it doesn't directly answer the question about London. I did a lot of googling on this and came up with nothing. Sep 8, 2019 at 4:46
  • @DenisdeBernardy Thank you very much for you answer ! Indeed, it does not answer the question about London newspapers but will offer a lot of useful background ! The article about the women employed as secretaries is particularly interesting, as my main character is a woman ! Thanks again.
    – Emilie
    Sep 20, 2019 at 14:24

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