On July 25, 1888, Frank McGurrin of Salt Lake City, UT beat Louis Traub of Cincinnati, OH in the first speed typing competition. And the QWERTY keyboard age began…
Towards the end of the nineteenth century as people began developing typing skills, there were many debates over which method of typing, and what size keyboard should be used. One technique was touch-typing, which involved learning the location of the letters and typing without looking at the keys. Another was based on a double key layout, and involved using two or four fingers while looking at the keys. The double key layout had twice the number of keys, with the capitals above and lowercase below. Advocates for both techniques claimed their way was the fastest, and after years of debate, the dispute was finally resolved when Frank McGurrin of Salt Lake City, UT and an advocate of touch-typing and the QWERTY key layout, challenged Louis Traub of Cincinnati, OH and an advocate for the double key layout, to a typing competition.
The challenge took place at the Palace Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 25, 1888 and attracted worldwide attention. The winner was Mr. McGurrin who beat Mr. Traub with ease, and at the same time established a method of typing that has been used by typist in various forms for the past 124-years.
F. E. McGurrin: “Still Another Challenge”, The Typewriter Operator, Vol.I, No.10
(January 1888), p.51, l.1-2.
Salt Lake City, Utah, Dec. 13, 1887. Editor the Typewriter Operator.
In view of the large number of typewriter operators now in the country, the various kinds of typewriters in use, and the conflicting statements as to what speed can be and has been attained by different operators, and on different machines, it seems to me the question of speed on typewriters should, if possible, be determined in some way. To this end, therefore, I desire to make, through your valuable paper, the official organ of typewriting, the following announcement:-
I hereby challenge any one or more typewriter operators to a speed contest in typewriting, for a purse of not less than five hundred dollars, which shall be contributed pro rata by those competing, proper provision as to forfeits being made; to take place in the city of Chicago, or any city in the United States west of Chicago, at any time during the months of July or August, 1888; provided, that, so far as I am concerned, if it take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, the purse need not exceed fifty dollars, and the contest may take place at any time; the writing to consist of copying, for not less than two hours, of ordinary court proceedings, new to the operators; the writing to be done in full English longhand, on any machine having both capitals and small letters; and the contest to be decided by three competent and disinterested judges. Any suggestions will be thankfully received.
F. E. McGurrin.
Frank E. McGurrin: “A Challenge for Speed”, The Typewriter Operator, Vol.I, No.11
(February 1888), p.56, l.1.
Salt Lake City, Feb. 24, 1888.
Gentlemen, – Your challenge in The Typewriter Operator being slightly different from mine, I suggest that we combine the two, and thus have a fair test for the best all-round operator, as follows:-
A contest for the purse you mention, each operator to choose his own machine (provided that it write both capitals and small letters), the writing to be, say thirty minutes from dictation, and thirty minutes copying; the matter written to be entirely new to the operators, and the person dictating to be a stranger to both. On receiving notice from you that you accept this, I will deposit one hundred dollars or more with Wyckoff, Seamans, & Benedict as a forfeit; you to deposit a like amount. We can then arrange upon a suitable time and place for holding the contest, as well as judges and other details.
Frank E. McGurrin.
To Messrs. Snyder & McLeod.
“A Speed Challenge”, The Cosmopolitan Shorthander, Vol.IX, No.5 (May 1888), p.123.
Frank E. McGurrin, of Salt Lake City, challenges the world to a special test on the typewriter, and especially challenges Snyder and McLeod (through the Typewriter Operator of February, just out,) as follows:
A contest for the purse you mention, each operator to choose his own machine (provided it write both capitals and small letters) the writing to be, say thirty minutes from dictation, and thirty minutes copying; the matter written to be entirely new to the operators, and the person dictating to be a stranger to both.
On receiving notice from you that you accept this, I will deposit one hundred dollers or more with Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedit as a forfeit; you to deposit a like amount. We can then arrange upon a suitable time and place for holding the contest, as well as the judges and other details.
Cannot some of the many expert typewriter users, readers of the Shorthander, accomodate Mr. McGurrin? Come, let’s have a real live typewriter contest!
“Typewriter Operators”, The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, [The Cincinnati Commercial, Vol.XLVII, No.293] and [Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Vol.CXVI, No.208] (July 26, 1888), p.5, l.2.
Contest for a Prize of $500 – The Remington Operator Wins the Battle.
Two young men sat yesterday morning before two white-keyed writing machines in a cool, breezy room way up in the Palace Hotel Building. The young men’s fingers flew over the white-keyed instruments with the rapidity of a Hans Bulow improvising a staceato composition. The clicking of the two machines made a metallic chorus, the tinking bell on each machine doing a solo before a line was finished. The rooms were crowded with stenographers, typewriter operators and reporters. For a long time there has been an intense rivalry between the expert operators who work upon the two standard types of writing machines, the Remington and the Caligraph. The rivalry culminated last fall in a challenge issued by Mr. F. E. McGurrin, a marvelously rapid operator on the Remington machine, to any typewriter operator in the world.
Mr. McGurrin is a celebrated stenographer from the breezy West, hoding an official position in the Salt Lake City Courts. Mr. Traub accepted the challenge, and the stakes, $500, were promptly posted. Yesterday morning the two young men met to fight their battle in a room in the Bradford Building. Mr. McGurrin operated a Remington machine, a brand new instrument, with glistening mountings that worked with the rapidity and precision of a chronograph. Mr. Traub worked on a caligraph. Both young men removed their coats and sat down before their instruments. The test of speed was rapidity of writing from dictation and copying. The material used was a legal report of testimony. Dictation was the first test. At the word go, the young men started and the keys clicked at a marvelously rapid rate of speed, while their nimble fingers sped over the keyboards with bewildering rapidity. From dictation the two contestants wrote forty-five minutes each. Copying they each wrote forty-five minutes. Mr. McGurrin in copying did not look at his instrument at all, and his fingers flew over the keyboard with the precision of blind Tom at a piano. Mr. Traub worked rapidly also. In ninety minutes on the Remington machine Mr. McGurrin wrote 8,709 words, his average speed being ninety-seven words a minute. On the caligraph Mr. Traub wrote in the ninety minutes allotted, 6,938 words, his average speed per minute being seventy-seven words.
Mr. McGurrin’s copy was clean and neat, there being but one or two letters struck wrongly. In the five minutes rest allotted Mr. McGurrin swung a pair of Indian clubs merrily, and when he returned to his work it was with renewed vigor and nimbleness of fingers. The judges, Messrs. Dean, Cook and Perin, stenographic Court reporters, awarded the contest to Mr. McGurrin. It was a very pretty test of speed, and the amount of work done was marvelous. The contest will settle once and for all a long-disputed question as to speed. Manuscript has never before been turned out from writing machines at such a rapid rate as yesterday, and the copy was clean and neat enough to satisfy the most exacting type-setter.
Mr. McGurrin will give an exhibition this morning at 11 o’clock in the Palace Hotel Building Room 21, writing blindfolded on the Remington from dictation.
“Rapid Type-Writing”, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vol.XLVI, No.208 (July 26, 1888), p.8, l.2.
The First Professional Contest on Record.
F. E. McGurrin, of Salt Lake City, Beats Louis Traub, of This City.
The Winner Writes Nearly Nine Thousand Words in One Hour and a Half.
The first professional type-writing match that has ever taken place in this country occurred at Graham’s Cincinnati Phonographic Academy in the Bradford Block yesterday morning. The contestants were Frank E. McGurrin, of Salt Lake City, Utah, who is the official stenographer of the Federal Court there, and Louis Traub, of this city, who is considered the most expert caligraph operator in this locality. The question as to the speed which could be attained in type-writing has never been fully decided until yesterday, and type-writers all over the country are interested in the result of this contest. The match was for a purse of $500, onehalf of which was put up by each contestant. The conditions of the match were that the whole time to be occupied in writing was an hour and a half, forty-five minutes of which was devoted to writing from dictation and forty-five minutes to writing from copy read by the operator. It was forced that the matter to be written should be the ordinary Court proceedings, selected by the Judges and new to both operators.
JUDGES CHOSEN TO DECIDE THE RESULT
Of the contest were Norman F. Dean, Edwin M. Williams and Buchanah Perin, well-known Cincinnati stenographers and type-writers. The struggle began at ten minutes of ten o’clock yesterday morning. Mr. McGurrin won the choice and chose dictation first, while Mr. Traub, who was in a separate room, wrote from copy. The Judges also acted as time-keepers. Mr. McGurrin used a Remington machine, while Mr. Traub operated the caligraph. It was a brilliant performance on the part of both men. It was evident that Mr. Traub could operate faster than his machine would respond, and he was to that extent placed at a disadvantage. Owing to the compactness of the Remington keyboard, Mr. McGurrin was enabled to copy without looking at the keyboard at all, and he could have taken the dictated matter nearly if not quite as well blindfolded. He displayed marvelous speed and won the purse, although Mr. Traub proved himself a worthy competitor. During the contest Mr. McGurrin rested fourteen minutes, and Mr. Traub fifteen minutes, the full time allowed by the conditions of the match. The men finished at twenty minutes of twelve. At the end Mr. McGurrin had written from dication 4,294 words; or 95.55 words per minute; from copying 4,415 words, or 98.11 words per minute, making a total of 8,709 words. Mr. Traub wrote from dictation 3,747 words, or 83.26 per minute; from copying 3,191 words, or 70.91 per minute, his total being 6,938 words. Mr. McGurrin beats Traub on the whole time 1,771 words, or 25.38 per cent.
AN ANALYSIS OF MCGURRIN’S WORK
Shows that he made over seven and one-half strokes per second on the average. Traub’s matter contained a considerable number of mistakes, while McGurrin’s was comparatively free from errors, the majority of them trivial. The extent of McGurrin a wonderful performance will be better understood when it is stated that he wrote in an hour and a half as many words as would compactly fill four columns of The Enquirer. The report of the judges was computed as follows: Each operator was credited with 54,000 points. From this, deductions were made for leaving but a letter, character, space or capital; striking a letter or character oftener than necessary. Mr. F. E. McGurrin, the winner of the contest is probably the fastest type-writer in the United States. He is twenty-seven years of age, and a native of Grand Rapids, Mich. He began type-writing about eleven years ago and is also an expert stenographer. His next trial of skill will be at a contest under the auspices of the Metropolitan Stenographers’ Association at New York City, the 1st of next month. He is also entered for the International Type-writing Tournament at Toronto, Can., on August 13th next. Mr. Louis Traub, who made such a credited his showing has only been in the United States five years, and when he came here did not understand a word of English. He has not only mastered the language, but he has already attained distinction as a stenographer and type-writer. It is probable that no man in the West except. McGurrin can beat him in a contest similar to that of yesterday. Mr. McGurrin will give an exhibition this morning for the benefit of the typewriters of the city, at ten o’clock, in Room 21 Bradford Block.
“Fast Type Writing”, The Fort Wayne Sentinel, Vol.XXVIII, No.177 (July 26, 1888), p.1, l.2.
Cincinnati, July 26. – At the time match contest of speed in the use of the type writer, made here yesterday between Frank E. McGurrin, of New York, and Louis Traub, of this city, the time occupied was one hour and thirty minutes, in which, the report of the judge says: McGurrin scored 8,709 words, Traub 6,987 words, half from dictation and half from manuscript.
“Type-Writing Contest”, Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio), Vol.II, No.21 (July 27, 1888), p.1, l.5.
Cincinnati, July 27. – The first professional type-writing contest in this country, at Graham’s Phonographic academy, between Louis Traub, of this city, and Frank E. McGurrin, of Salt Lake City, Utah, resulted in a victory for the visitor. The match was for $500. At the end of the contest, which lasted one hour and a half, McGurrin had written from dictaion 4,294 words, or 95.55 words per minute; from copying 4,415 words, or 98.11 words per minute, making a total of 8,709 words. Mr. Traub wrote from dictation 3,747 words, or 70.91 per minute, his total being 6,938 words. Mr. McGurrin beats Traub on the whole time 1,771 words, or 25.38 per cent.
“The Typewriters”, The Standard (Ogden, Utah), Vol.1, No.175 (July 28, 1888), p.1, l.1.
A Contest at Cincinnati in Which a Utah Reporter is the Victor. Mr. Frank E. McGurrin, the stenographic reporter of the third district court has returned from Cincinnati, whether he had gone to compete in a typewriting contest. He wrote over 8,700 words in 90 minutes while his opponent, a Mr. Louis Traub, barely reached 6,700. The writing was half from manuscript and half from dictation. Mr. McGurrin returns with honors and $500 in his pocket.
“Local Pickings”, The Utah Enquirer, Vol.XII, No.60 (July 31, 1888), p.3, l.3.
Mr. Frank E. McGurrin, the stenographic reporter of the Third District Court, has returned from Cincinnati, whether he had gone to compete in a typewriting contest. He wrote over 8,700 words in ninety minutes while his opponent, a Mr. Louis Traub, barely reached 6,700. The writing was half from manuscript and half from dictation. Mr. McGurrin returns with honors and $500 in his pocket.
“Typewriting Contest”, The Deseret News, Vol.XXXVII, No.29 (August 1, 1888), p.1, l.4.
The following Associated Press dispatch from Cincinnati, received today, is of some local interest:
“A typewriting contest took place here yesterday, between Frank E. McGurrin, of Salt Lake, and Louis Traub, of Cincinnati. The time occupied was one hour and thirty minutes, in which the report of the judges says McGurrin scored 8700 words and Traub 6938 words, half from dictation and half from manuscript.” We understand the premium for which the contestants competed was $500. Mr. McGurrin, who is official reporter for the Third District Court of Utah, scored an average of 97 words a minute. This is marvelous speed, although he is reputed to have run as high as 108 in this Territory. He is said to be the latest typewriter in the world, although that has probably not been thoroughly proved. The way he left Louis Traub, another expert, in the rear, would, however, bear out such an assumption. He is also a rapid shorthand writer.