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  • 6/9/2004

John Robert Gregg

(June 17, 1867_)

John Robert Gregg was born in the Irish village of Rockcorry, County Monaghan. He was the youngest of five children.
An old friend of the family dropped in casually one Sunday and accompanied the Gregg family to church. In so small a place, a stranger was always an object of curiosity, and when he began taking shorthand notes of the sermon, the congregation was agog.
The incident made a great impression on John's father, who promptly decided that all his children should immediately start learning shorthand. The lessons in shorthand began when John was but 10 years old. He chose the Odell version of a system by Samual Taylor, published in 1786, "Because it was contained in a very small pamphlet." He mastered the Taylor system with astonishing speed, and then tackled the Pitman system.
When his parents moved toGlasgow, Gregg mastered the Sloan-Duployan adaptation of the method invented by the Abbe Duploye of France. He studied other systems, among them the Pernin adaptation of Sloan-Duployan, and he explored the systems of other countries, among them those of Gabelsberger and Stolze of Germany. Here he found a new enthusiasm in the discovery of the cursive, as opposed to the geometric, basis of shorthand writing.
By 1888 Gregg had established his own shorthand school, and during the same year published his new shorthand system in a 28-page pamphlet. Its title was Light-LinePhonography. In 1893 he sailed for the United States. He taught Gregg shorthand at his "school," which consisted of one rolltop desk on the top floor of the oldEquitable Building in Boston. It was this year that the first American edition of Gregg shorthand was published.
In 1895 Gregg went toChicago, where he established another school. The teachers of rival systems demanded proofs of his claims by challenging him to put his system to the test of high speed. In 1910 Frederick Gurtler, a young Gregg writer, entered the contest for the Miner Medal and won it with a net speed of 173 wpm. Two other Gregg writers, both 17 years old, won places at 163 and 139.4 wpm. In 1911 at NSRA's National Speed Contest in Buffalo, N.Y., Charles Lee Swem, 18, established records on solid matter and jury charge. In the following year he defeated three former champions and 18 older contestants, all experienced reporters. In 1923 and 1924 he took first place. In 1921, Albert Schneider won the championship in the NSRA contest. Then in three consecutive years, 1925-27, Martin J. Dupraw won the championship. These successes attracted nationwide attention, and soon the system was taken up by teachers and schools across the country. Over time, Gregg shorthand supplanted Pitman shorthand as the dominant system, retaining its position until the steno machine gained popularity.


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