Thomas Hall, a Brooklyn engineer, invented this first index typewriter. A typewriter with no keyboard that requires one to use a selector (the black handle) to choose the characters when typing. It is housed in a handsome mahogany case with a beautiful brass handle and latch (see below).
Hall’s goals in the design of his typewriter are clearly stated in his patent. ‘The object of my invention is to simplify the structure and reduce the number of parts in type-writing machines; to reduce the size and cost, as well as to render the machine durable and serviceable.’
The Hall originally sold for $40, an economical alternative to the $100 keyboard machines; a good horse-drawn carriage could be bought for $70. At a time when few people knew how to type efficiently with both hands, it would have seemed reasonable to the operator of the Hall to pick out the characters using one hand.
To select a character, the black handle is moved freely over the little white holes. Each hole is a different character. A stylus, on the underside of the handle, is then pushed down into the hole of the selected character. Inside the square carriage a rubber plate, with all the characters molded on its surface, has moved into position and the selected character is pushed through a small hole onto the paper.
The rubber type could be quickly changed for different fonts and languages.
“THE BEST STANDARD TYPEWRITER IN THE WORLD. Cheap, Portable, No Ink Ribbon, Interchangeable Type in all Languages, Easiest to learn and rapid as any. Agents wanted everywhere.”
“Weighs seven pounds, handily carried like a satchel, can be operated anywhere, in the hotel parlor or on your lap as you travel by rail or steamship.”