Mount Vernon, Michigan was the home of the man who invented the typewriter: William Austin Burt. The town, which barely exists in Macomb County's Washington Township, was indeed named after the home of George Washington.

The post office began operated from 1832 to 1905. The town’s first postmaster was Austin William Burt, who just happened to be the inventor of the first typewriter in 1828-29.

Born on June 13, 1792, Burt was not just an inventor, but legislator, surveyor, and millwright. He is called “the father of the typewriter”, which he called a 'typographer' for lack of a better name. The typographer was basically a wooden box with a lever on one side for pulling down to print. The letters were inserted under the lever, which, when pulled, imprinted words and letters onto paper. When a page was full, it would be ripped off a large roll - just like you would rip off a sheet off a roll of paper towels.

99.1 WFMK logo
Get our free mobile app

William Austin Burt died in 1858 before he ever saw his invention reach any success. His great-grandson Burt built a makeshift model of his great-grandfather's invention, taken from the original patent, and submitted it for display at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. Afterward, it sat in the patent office until 1903. The "typographer" was then shipped to a relative, Hiram A. Burt in Marquette. Later it was sent to the Smithsonian.

The typographer simply did not become successful. It was way before its time, and it never became marketable during William Burt's lifetime. Other printing machines popped up, even some before Burt's typographer...but Burt's was the first to be officially noted and patented. The first successful typewriter was the Sholes and Glidden typewriter in 1868 followed by the Hammond typewriter in 1884. By this time, many others were invading the market...all inspired by the 1828 typographer, an early typewriter prototype invented by a Michigan man: William Austin Burt.

William Burt, the Michigan Man Who Invented the Typewriter


Flypaper: Created in Grand Rapids, Michigan

WHIRLPOOL, Created in Michigan

Michigan Man Created the Four-Way Traffic Light, 1920

Included is a gallery of vintage traffic lights

More From 99.1 WFMK