Inventor of the electric typewriter born

February 12th, 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.

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

Share this article

Share the Texas Day by Day

Get a Piece of Texas History in Your Inbox

With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
Get your Texas Day by Day delivered straight to your inbox:

Calendar

Archive

  • Discover what happened on any date in Texas History.

  • View Now!

Send an eCard

Personalize a piece of Texas history. Share a Day by Day article with friends.

eCard image Send Now

Become a TSHA Member

Get insider access to the most exclusive Texas history club in the nation.

tsha logo Join Today!

Archive

  • Discover what happened on any date in Texas History.

  • View Now!

Send an eCard

Personalize a piece of Texas history. Share a Day by Day article with friends.

eCard image Send Now

Become a TSHA Member

Get insider access to the most exclusive Texas history club in the nation.

tsha logo Join Today!

Inventor of the electric typewriter born

February 12th, 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.

«   Previous Next   »

Related Handbook of Texas Articles

Share this article

Share the Texas Day by Day

Get a Piece of Texas History in Your Inbox

With more than 27,000 articles about Texas history, the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas is the largest online encyclopedia about all things Texas. Now you can celebrate the history of Texas every day by activating your free subscription to Texas Day by Day. Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles. It's one of the best ways to learn more about Texas history — in only 15 minutes a day!

Activate your free subscription to Texas Day by Day and you can:

  • Explore Texas history each day in bite-sized pieces conveniently delivered to your inbox each morning
  • Astound your friends with your Texas history prowess
  • Get in-depth looks at some of the overlooked events and landmarks in Texas history
  • Discover new places to explore in the Lone Star State
Get your Texas Day by Day delivered straight to your inbox: