Christopher Latham Sholes (February 14, 1819 – February 17, 1890) was an American inventor who invented the first practical typewriter and the QWERTY keyboard still in use today. He was also a newspaper publisher and Wisconsin politician.
Typewriters had been invented as early as 1714 by Henry Mill and reinvented in various forms throughout the 1800s. It was to be Sholes, however, who invented the first one to be commercially successful.
Sholes had moved to Milwaukee and became the editor of a newspaper. Following a strike by compositors at his printing press, he tried building a machine for typesetting, but this was a failure and he quickly abandoned the idea. He arrived at the typewriter through a different route. His initial goal was to create a machine to number pages of a book, tickets, and so on. He began work on this at Kleinsteubers machine shop in Milwaukee, together with a fellow printer Samuel W. Soule, and they patented a numbering machine on November 13, 1866.
Sholes and Soule showed their machine to Carlos Glidden, a lawyer and amateur inventor at the machine shop working on a mechanical plow, who wondered if the machine could not be made to produce letters and words as well. Further inspiration came in July 1867, when Sholes came across a short note in Scientific American describing the “Pterotype”, a prototype typewriter that had been invented by John Pratt. From the description, Sholes decided that the Pterotype was too complex and set out to make his own machine, whose name he got from the article: the typewriting machine, or typewriter.
For this project, Soule was again enlisted, and Glidden joined them as a third partner who provided the funds. The Scientific American article (unillustrated) had figuratively used the phrase “literary piano”; the first model that the trio built had a keyboard literally resembling a piano.