- Robert C. Vitz
Pitman, Benn (24 July 1822–28 December 1910), phonographer and teacher of decorative arts, was born in Trowbridge, near Bath, England, the son of Samuel Pitman, a manager of a cloth factory, and Mariah Davis. Home life was strict for Benn and his six brothers and four sisters. Trivial conversation was discouraged, and younger children were required to stand silently while eating at the dinner table. His parents, however, supported education, subscribed to a local lending library, and encouraged a liberal view toward religious and intellectual issues. His early schooling, gained from the parish rector, from the poet George Crabbe, and through instruction at home, provided Pitman with a solid middle-class education. At the age of fifteen he learned a system of phonography, or shorthand, just developed by his older brother Isaac, and he assisted in the publication of Isaac’s first manual. For a brief time Benn Pitman trained with the city architect of Bath, a situation that provided his first exposure to functional design. In 1842 he returned to the promotion of phonography, and for several years he lectured and taught, often with his brothers and other young enthusiasts, in the principal cities and towns of Great Britain....