The Classic Typewriter Page

Yost

Yost 4
The Yost is a remarkable machine which was quite popular in the late nineteenth century. It can be recognized immediately by its distinctive design features: the typebars are housed in an enclosed black cylinder, and the double keyboard emerges from a forest of long key stems.

Yost ad When we look more closely, we find that the Yost's method of typing is no less distinctive. There were many double-keyboard understroke typewriters, but no other machine used such a complex linkage. On most understrokes, the typebars are straight rods that simply swing up to the platen. But the type of the Yost rests in a circular ink pad just under the carriage. In order to reach the platen, a typebar must jump down and in, away from the ink pad, and then up to the platen, passing through an alignment guide. This "grasshopper" action works amazingly well.

The ink used on the ink pad was no less well-engineered: the ink on my century-old Yost No. 4 is still fresh, yet dries as soon as it touches paper! Since the typewriter uses a direct-inking system (no intervening ribbon) and has such good alignment, it can produce beautiful work.

The inventor of this typewriter, George Washington Newton Yost, was a very important figure in the early days of the typewriter industry. He was a persuasive salesman who helped to convince the Remington Arms Co. to produce the Sholes & Glidden. He then formed the American Writing Machine Company, which produced one of the Remington's main competitors, the Caligraph. The first typewriter bearing the Yost name came out in 1887. Later understroke models include the New Yost (1889), No. 4 (1895), and No. 10 (1902). A bar sometimes appears over the O in the name "Yost" on the typewriter's decals, probably to indicate that it should be pronounced as a long O.

G. W. N. Yost Collector Bob Aubert has discovered an obituary for G. W. N. Yost (New York Times, September 30, 1895) which shows that the inventor saw typewriters not just as practical machines, but as possible connections to the spirit world. Maybe this is why he engineered them so carefully! The obituary reads, in part:

Although a shrewd man of business, Mr. Yost had a tendency in his nature which led him into abstract speculation and made him a devoted Spiritualist. With a Chicago Spiritualist named Dr. Rogers, he formed a great friendship, believing that the doctor was able to communicate with the spirits of the dead and to record these conversations and interviews upon the typewriter. In spite of the conviction of his friends that Dr. Rogers imposed upon him, Mr. Yost maintained his intimacy with Dr. Rogers in particular and his belief in Spiritualism in general to the last moment of his life.
By the way, the idea that typewriters can connect us to the spirit world is not an uncommon one. John Kendrick Bangs used it in his comic novel The Enchanted Typewriter (1899), and the idea has made an appearance in the Weekly World News.

The Yost company and its typewriters survived into the era of visible writing. Frontstroke Yosts (No. 15 or "A," 1908; No. 20, 1912) look rather like ordinary modern typewriters, but still use an ink pad and a grasshopper action. According to author Paul Lippman, these visible Yosts were almost all exported, and are found more often in England and Spain than in the U.S.

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