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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Densmore, James 1820 - 1889


lawyer, newspaperman, typewriter promoter, b. Moscow, N.Y. He settled in Crawford County, Pa., in 1836. He attended Allegheny College briefly, studied law, and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. In 1848 he moved to Wisconsin, where he founded and published the Oshkosh True Democrat (1849-1853). In 1854 he met Christopher L. Sholes (q.v.), the inventor of the typewriter. He collaborated with Sholes in issuing the Kenosha Daily Telegraph, and from 1855 to 1857 edited the Elkhorn Independent. During the 1860s he returned to Pennsylvania, where he engaged in the oil business and patented the first tank car for shipping petroleum. Returning to Wisconsin, he purchased a quarter interest in Sholes's typewriter invention (1867), assumed leadership of the enterprise, and coined the name "typewriter." Densmore secured patents, tested models, and from 1870 to 1872 manufactured the machines in Milwaukee. In 1873 he negotiated a contract with E. Remington and Sons of Ilion, N.Y., for the manufacture of typewriters, and with several partners organized a New York firm to wholesale them. After losing control of the business to the Remingtons, he tried, with the aid of Sholes and other inventors, to develop a competing machine. Gradually acquiring the patent interests of Sholes and others, he sold his rights to the Remingtons' successors shortly before his death, realizing a fortune. Wis. Mag. Hist., 30, 32; R. N. Current, Typewriter (Urbana, 1954).

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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