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Paige Composing Machine

Started by Mechanic, August 07, 2009, 05:19:32 AM

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AlanB, suggested that the Monoline mystery machine, might have been the Paige machine.

The story of the Paige  composing machine and Mark Twain's involvement is interesting and in some ways tragic. Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) became a printer's apprentice when he was 12 years old on the Missouri Courier. In 1851, he began working as a journeyman typesetter and a contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper owned by his brother, Orion. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

After having accumulated a substantial fortune from royalties as a writer and guest speaker. He started to take an interest in the typesetting technology then evolving in the printing industry. Twain's initial $2,000 investment occurred around 1880. He inspected the machine as it was being built by Paige at Colt's Patent Firearms factory in Hartford. After seeing the machine perform, he invested an additional $3,000 in stock. Perhaps his training as a compositor is why he warmed to the concept of the composing machine James Paige was developing and so he buys a half interest in the invention and continues to invest money into a machine that Paige told him was only weeks away from completion. Although the prototype of the machine in a test run at the Chicago Herald in 1894 proved to be faster and more accurate than Linotypes working in the same plant, Clemens estimated that the machine would have to be in use for almost 24 hours a day in order to afford having it.

During development of the Paige composing machine, the printing industry had moved from continuously recycling foundry type toward casting new type for each print run. Samuel Clemens  one of several promoters who lost money on the venture,  declared bankruptcy.

The surviving machine, in the Mark Twain House and Museum, owes its existence to the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. This machine was purchased by the Mergenthaler Company from the Cornell University Museum for $20,000 in 1897. Then in 1958 Mergenthaler loaned the Paige machine to the Mark Twain House. In 1964 the company donated the machine. So maybe this important part of typesetting history has been preserved thanks, in part, to Linotype.

For a more detailed account visit:-

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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