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The story of William A. Lavalette is one absent of many details, though brilliant and inventive, he like other Black inventors of the 1800s could not conceive of a way to escape the ever-present cruel realities of their time.
Not only did some Black inventors have to resort to hiring Whites to represent their companies, many others were illiterate while somehow genius enough to create something where nothing once existed. Despite their ability to overcome, the life and legacy of Black creators were often disregarded in real-time and have yet to be rectified and recognized to this day.
While White inventors are praised for their ingenuity, Black inventors such as Lavalette were barely visible while alive and have become even more undiscoverable posthumously. Not much is known about Lavalette, not even a verifiable photograph remains or a date of birth.
At the time his patent was published he is said to have resided in northeast Washington during 1878, yet very little discoverable details exist about his life before or after.
William A. Lavalette was awarded patent number 208184 for his improvements in the printing press and 208208 for his variation of a printing press
Lavalette clearly used his talent to contribute to the betterment of our world as a dedicated and detailed inventor, furthering our capacity and efficiency to print and inform the public.
William A. Lavalette died later on January 9, 1914 at the age of 73.
The printing press has influenced culture and norms since the 1430s
In the late 1430s, a German man named Johann Gutenberg made a dramatic impact when he originally invented the printing press. At first, the noble classes looked down on it. To them, hand-inked books were a sign of luxury and grandeur, and it was no match for the cheaper, mass-produced books.
Thus, press-printed materials were at first more popular with the lower classes. When word spread about the printing press, other print shops opened and soon it developed into an entirely new trade. Printed texts became a new way to spread information to vast audiences quickly and cheaply. Academics benefited from this dissemination of scholarly ideas and even politicians found that they could garner the public’s interest through printed pamphlets.
An important side effect was that people could read and increase their knowledge more easily now, whereas in the past it was common for people to be quite uneducated. This increased the discussion and development of new ideas.
Another significant effect was that the printing press was largely responsible for Latin’s decline as other regional languages became the norm in locally printed materials. The printing press also helped standardize language, grammar, and spelling.