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Electrical Typesetting, 1889

Started by Mechanic, January 11, 2014, 12:50:40 AM

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The Electrical Typesetting machine is not named in this story but I'm betting it is the "Blower Linotype" You can tell the speaker is a politician by the way he describes the Tribune.

Launceston Examiner
May 13, 1889
People who travel can tell many tales. Thus it is that Mr. Samuel Storey, M.P., on his return from his trip to the States, is able to give an interesting account of electric type-setting in the Newcastle Chronicle -

"Good fortune (says he) threw me across Mr. Hart Lyman, one of the principals of the literary staff of the Tribune, the great Republican organ of Democratic New York. And I availed myself of his courteous offer to examine the inner workings of that mighty organ. Of much, the machines, the telegraphic and telephonic and literary arrangement-, ete., I need not speak. We can equal these at home. But imagine my surprise when, on entering the composing room, I found — no type. None; except a very limited quantity of large, odd sizes. How. then, is the paper set? By machine, electrical machines. 'There they stood in a row - thirty grim, silent demons. At the turning of a little handle they are instantaneously full of life. Each has a keyboard like a piano, and in front of the operator a series, 105 in number, of oblong tubes, like the attenuated reeds of a miniature organ. These hollow tubes are about two feet in length, as broad internally as type is high, and with a frontage as large as the type is thick. Each is fitted with brass squares, with a section cut out. Each letter has its own series of nicks on the inner edge; and there is a square-edged space it is the side where is the matrix or reverse of the letter. The operator, sitting with the copy before him, touches the keys, and each letter falls in due order till the line is complete. Two steel fingers seize this, push it along, space it, and justify it. Again two fingers seize it and push it in front of a little cistern full of molten lead. As it reaches its place the machine pushes out from the cistern a layer of lead line long and type-thick. The faces of the cooling lead and the brass edge come into contact the matrix-letters are impressed as positives on the lead, and there remains a solid line of type. This goes in due course to the galleys and columns. and pages are made up and stereotyped in the ordinary way. Meanwhile the machine whisks the brasses up to a series of little waggons, running on an endless wire above the tubes, and as each brass reaches its own nick it drops into the tube, and is ready again for use. It has only been out of its nest one third of a minute at the utmost. As a consequence few brasses are needed. The letter oftenest used, e, has only sixteen. 'And What will a machine perfect ?' said I. 'One machine with one man will set 5000 ems in an hour,' said Mr. Lyman, ' and do its own distributing. And there is no waste of type, no wear and tear. It is equal to six men.' Do other papers use it?' ' None in New York a few in the country, where they don't compete with us, and are owned by our own friends.' And England?' ' None in England as yet.' ' Bad news for compositors, eh?' 'Not a bit of it, my friends. I saw a copy of the Tribune the other day of twenty-four full pages. The Introduction of electrical setting will only end in making existing papers bigger and fuller of interest to the public, whilst it will make new papers possible in scores of places where now they can't be made to pay.'
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast


Had they produced anything besides the blower up until that point?

This is probably well known on these forums, but the Tribune was the first newspaper to use the Linotype, and they took delivery on the first production machine.  The editor (owner?) of the Tribune was Whitelaw Reid, Mergathaler's problematic business partner.

It's my understanding that Merganthaler was making design changes so fast that every single machine produced in those days was an improvement on the previous.  This would mean that none of the Tribune's machines would be the same even if they are historically all considered the same model.

Here's an article by the Tribune in 1889 about the Linotype.  Certainly intended to advertise given the business relationship, but also pretty informative.

By 1892 there were quite a few papers using the Linotype, as indicated by this ad:

And according to a blurb here (partway down the first column) there were at least 3650 sites using the Linotype by 1897.



QuoteHad they produced anything besides the blower up until that point?

You might find the following of interest.

Click on the URL and scroll to the top of the page.,9.msg16.html#msg16

If you are interested in Mergenthaler, try searching for Mergenthaler in the search pannel at the top of the Forum page.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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