25 things vanishing in America, part 2: Professional typists


The first practical typewriter was invented by Christopher L. Sholes in 1868, launching an industry that would provide work for millions of the nimble-fingered, primarily women. He was also responsible for the QWERTY keyboard, which slowed the typist so that the typebar did not jam. Sadly, with the advent of the computer, the job of typist has all but disappeared from the American want ads.

For decades, large corporations employed typists by the thousands, all-but-anonymous key wranglers who worked in typing pools turning scrawls into professional letters, memos and reports. In 1960, for example, one in ten Americans worked as a secretary, stenographer or typist. An important landmark in any executive's career was the day he (and it was almost always a he back then) was assigned a personal secretary, rather than share use of the pool.