A Look Back at 20th Century Typing Classes Through Fascinating Historical Photos

The history of typing classes is intrinsically linked to the evolution of the typewriter, a machine that revolutionized written communication in the 19th century. As typewriters became more prevalent in offices and businesses in the early 20th century, the demand for proficient typists grew. This demand sparked the inception of typing classes, initially seen as vocational training primarily for women, who were entering the workforce in administrative roles.

These early classes focused on mastering the QWERTY keyboard layout, a design still used today, named for the first six letters in the top row. Instructors emphasized accuracy and speed, with students practicing on mechanical typewriters. These devices required considerable finger strength to press the keys and a carriage return lever to start a new line. The tactile and auditory feedback from these machines was a significant aspect of the learning process.

The Golden Age: Typing in Education and Business

By the mid-20th century, typing classes had become a staple in both high schools and business schools. The curriculum was rigorous, with a strong emphasis on touch typing, where typists learn to type without looking at the keys. This method was taught using various drills and exercises designed to build muscle memory in the fingers. Speed and accuracy tests were common, with the goal of reaching a certain number of words per minute, a standard still used to measure typing proficiency.

Typing classes were not just about the mechanical act of pressing keys. They also included lessons on proper posture, finger placement, and ergonomics to prevent strain injuries. Additionally, students learned the layout of business letters and documents, as typing was a critical skill for secretarial and clerical work.

Technological Advancements: Electric Typewriters and Early Computers

The latter half of the 20th century saw significant advancements in typing technology. The introduction of electric typewriters in the 1960s and 1970s made typing faster and less physically demanding. These machines offered features like automatic carriage returns and key functions to streamline the typing process. Typing classes adapted, incorporating these new technologies and teaching students how to utilize these additional functions effectively.

The emergence of personal computers in the late 1970s and 1980s marked a pivotal shift. Typing classes began to include computer keyboards, which differed slightly in key sensitivity and layout from typewriters. This transition also brought about changes in the curriculum, with a growing emphasis on digital literacy. Students were not only learning to type but also to navigate the basic functions of a computer, a skill that was becoming increasingly vital in the workforce.

As the 20th century ended, the landscape of typing education had transformed significantly. Typing was no longer a skill confined to secretaries and typists; it had become a fundamental aspect of general education. The proliferation of computers in homes and schools meant that typing skills were essential for students of all ages.

While the mechanics of typing have remained relatively unchanged, the context in which these skills are taught has evolved dramatically. In the contemporary digital era, typing is a gateway skill, foundational for navigating the vast landscape of digital technology that defines modern communication and information management.

#1 Women employees of Westinghouse Company attending typewriting class at Westinghouse Technical Night School.

#2 Typing class at Business High School, Washington DC, 1900.

#3 Photo of a Western Union messenger school typewriting class.

#4 Typing class at a secretarial school in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

#5 Students learning in a one-room schoolhouse, Wisconsin, early 1900s, including sewing and typing.

#6 Typing class at Bryant School, New York City, 1906.

#8 Typewriting class at Hammersmith Commercial Institute, London, 1913.

#9 Women’s typewriting class at Blackheath Road Evening Institute, London, 1914.

#10 Typewriting class for London and North West Railway staff, circa 1917.

#11 Blind teacher with blind pupils learning braille and typing, 1917.

#12 Business course for convalescent patients, Camp Pike, Arkansas, 1917.

#13 Typewriting class at L and N W Railway school for staff.

#14 Typewriting class in commercial department, Base Hospital, Camp Pike, Arkansas, 1920.

#15 Typewriting class at Bow and Bromley Commercial Institute, London, 1924.

#16 Boys from London Homepaper Offices in typewriting class, circa 1930.

#17 Typewriting class at Pigier school, Paris, circa 1935.

#18 Unemployed women learning typewriting in Berlin, 1930s.

#19 World champion typist Albert Tangira teaching typing class on a beach, 1920s or 1930s.

#20 Students practicing touch typing at Hutchinson Central High School, Buffalo, New York, circa 1930.

#21 Typing contest at Boston University to test efficiency with music.

#22 Typewriting instruction at Southwestern University, Georgetown, 1931.

#24 Newspaper messenger boys typing to rhythm of a record, Keeley Street Evening Institute.

#26 Typing class at Licensed Victuallers School, Slough, Buckinghamshire, December 1935.

#27 Clerical skills practice in a classroom at Minnesota Business College, May 1936.

#28 Typing Class at a German Army Profession School, Berlin, Germany, circa 1935-1940.

#30 Class learning to key telephone calls to automatic exchanges, Telephone House, Salford, February 1937.

#32 Typing Class in Session, Olyphant, Pennsylvania, 1940

#33 Student Working on a Linotype Machine, Gallaudet College, 1940

#35 Outdoor Typing Lesson at East London Day Continuation School, Clacton, 1940

#37 Teacher Overseeing Typing Class, Olyphant, Pennsylvania, 1945

#38 Cpl Jerret D May Instructing a Typing Class, Kitzingen, Germany, 1949

#39 Typing Class for Inmates, San Quentin State Prison, California, 1949

#42 Secretarial Skills Class, Crandon Institute, Montevideo, 1955

#43 Typing Lesson at German Armed Forces College, Stuttgart, 1958

#47 Typing Students at Ingleside Women’s Guidance Centre, Canada, 1964

#48 Typing Class at The Post House, Arcueil, France, 1964

#49 Typing Class at Eastern High School, Baltimore, Maryland, 1965

#50 Students Learning to Increase Typing Speed, New York City, 1965

#51 Touch Typing Class with Videomatic Tutor, UK, 1965

#52 Sister Marie Noel Instructing Personal Typing Class, 1965

#53 Secondary School Typing Class, Birmingham, England, 1966

#54 Project SEESAW Typing and Secretarial Skills Class, Louisiana, 1967

#56 Unidentified Women Students in Typing Class, 1960s-1970s

#59 Typing and Nursing Skills Class, Chicago Resident Center, Illinois, 1972

#65 Women in Typing Training, Paris, France, November 1975

#66 Women in Typing Training, Paris, France, November 1975

#68 “AZERTY” Keyboard in Typing Course, Paris, 1975

#70 Summer Special Education Typing Class, Littleton, 1977

#71 Typing Workshop with Cortez Peters, San Francisco, California, 1980

#73 Typing Class at Lycée Cocteau, Miramas, France, March 1987

#74 Typing Class at All-Black School, Joza Township, Grahamstown

#75 Learning to Type and Write Shorthand, United Kingdom, February 6, 1937

Avatar of Kevin Clark

Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *