Handwriting Matters!

In many of my Fandom of the Opera lectures and some of my other writings about media technology and opera, I’ve made reference to two people who are candidates to be called the first person to use electronic home entertainment. I cannot yet tell which had priority.

The year was 1880. The month was likely November. One person was Edward Plunket Fry in New York City.  I’d been calling the other William Hearden of Plymouth, England, for that is the way his name was printed in The Era when they published his letter to the editor on the subject. From the 1901 census, I confirmed that there was, indeed, a William Hearden living in Plymouth and that he was an electrical engineer. But there wasn’t.

I recently learned that his name was actually Hearder, which is how he was listed in earlier censuses. Neither The Era nor the 1901 census recorder, apparently, was able to decipher the spelling of his last name.

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