October 21, 1918: Margaret Owen sets World Typing Speed Record

As a Daily Newspaper Reporter Viewed It:

Business colleges held their annual athletic meet at the 69th Regiment Armory last night. Crouched behind their trusty Underwoods, Remingtons, et al., two-score stenographers, male and female, raced for the professional, amateur and novice championships of the world, hammering off more words to the minute than even Mr. Bryan could speak in an hour. When the flying sheets of paper had cleared away and the last click of the typewriters stilled it was discovered that Miss Margaret B Owen had driven her Underwood at a pace unequaled even in ancient Olympic times.

Miss Owen is to-day professional champion of the world and holder of the record in keyboard calisthenics by seven words to the minute. The former title holder, Emil Trefzger battered off 129 words per minute for an hour Miss Owen’s slim agile fingers dickered over the keys of her machine at the rate of 136 words per minute. When her 60 minutes were up she had written more than 8.000 words.

The weather was perfect and the track fast. At the west end of the armory gallery, crouched over their machines, the girls and men waited. The Business Show on the floor below faded away into insignificance, while parents, sweethearts and friends of the competitors crowded upstairs to see the start. Trainer Simmons, of the Underwood team, rushed from charge to charge, giving them final directions.

“Keep your eyes on the copy, and hit the keys hard,” he whispered. “Don’t try to pocket that Remington entry; you can run her off her chair. That Monarch filly looks good, but she will blow at the half. She has speed, but no stamina.”

A whistle shrilled. A roar of racing machines responded. The classic of stenography was on.

At the quarter, the field was bunched with Miss Owen just hitting her stride. At the half she led by a comma and two letters, closely pursued by Miss Rose Fritz, holder of the title in 1907 1908 and 1909. Miss Owen then stepped on the throttle. Miss Fritz was game, and the pair swept into the third quarter, word and word. In the stretch a semicolon caused Miss Fritz to waver, and she was lost. A full sentence ahead of the ruck, Miss Owen breasted the typewriter ribbon, and the race was over.

Haggard from the ordeal, the contestants left the arena and were greeted like prodigal children by breathless relatives. No Brickley, spattered with the blood of the bulldog, ever was accorded such a reception. Mothers cast themselves upon the bosoms of their sons who had wrestled with the speed demon.

The starter madly waved his recall flag. He thought another race had started without official sanction. But it was the rattle of rapturous kisses and not typewriter keys that resounded through the armory.
The athletes then repaired to a private room and were given the pleasing task of deducting from each other’s papers five words for each mistake made. Whatever errors got past them weren’t worth missing. Meanwhile, in the booths of the various typewriter concerns on the floor below, palefaced relatives and friends waited for the result. Trainer Simmons insisted that his chief entry had won and predicted that she had broken the record. She had, and the reception accorded her when the final results were known rivaled ancient France in its pomp and ceremony.

With the hair, eyes and skin of a Stanlaws magazine cover, but with much, much more clothing, the Champion of the World took her honor lightly.

“It is simply a question of nerve,” she said. “It is not physically tiring. If I were to lose a few days from my practice my work would fall off. Every morning and afternoon we are put through trial heats. We do nothing else. Every typewriter concern has its string of racers.”

Source: Business Equipment Topics

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