Tuesday, February 20, 2007

His Typist Was A Whig

I heard on NPR yesterday, in honor of President's Day, about how the Maryland State Archive was unveiling a speech by George Washington.

This is fabulous and exciting and all, to have on display and preserved for future generations an important historical document. And I do quite admire George, especially this particular speech where he retires from the military after the Revolutionary War, rather than grabbing absolute power as many revolutionaries have done, then and since.

The NPR announcer was very excited about this document, too. But what really caught my ear is how he chose to impress upon the listeners the uniqueness of this document. He actually said that it was a "handwritten document."

Umm, we're talking 1783. Were there any options other than handwriting? I mean, I know there's scribes and all .... but that doesn't seem very democratic.

According to wikipedia, a patent was filed in Britain in 1714 for something that sounds similar to a typewriter, but nothing else is known about it. The next significant date in typewriter history is 1829.

I would agree that, in our current era, saying something is "handwritten" is significant. But I'd have been much more impressed if George's speech had been typed. I heard Washington chopped down the cherry tree with a chainsaw, too.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Well, as opposed to "handwritten," it could have been a typeset broadside, as seen on the Web site of the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History: "His Excellency General Washington's Last Legacy," 18 June 1783.

Just sayin'.