Rochester, NY Newspapers

Many thanks to Bill Westland for sending in these great photographs. They were taken at the Rochester Times-Union and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspapers before computerisation.

Linotype operator wearing shirt and tie

A well-dressed Linotype operator

Bank of Linotypes, with a female operator in the background

Bank of Linotypes, with a female operator in the background

Another well-dressed operator with visor and cigar

Another well-dressed operator with visor and cigar

Close-up of copy and keyboard

Close-up of copy and keyboard

Operator having a smoke

Operator having a smoke

A bank of linecasters

A bank of linecasters

Between editions

Between editions

Between editions

Linecaster with guards

A quiet corner

A quiet corner

Democrat and Chronicle article with a photo of Bill himself!

Democrat and Chronicle article with a photo of Bill himself!

Women Linotype operators and a proofreader

Women Linotype operators and a proofreader

A Ludlow Typograph

A Ludlow Typograph

More Ludlow action

More Ludlow action

Ad makeup. My father at left.

Ad makeup. My father at left.

Page make-up

Page make-up

First computer system to convert

First computer system to convert “idiot” TTS tape into justified tape for Linotype Electrons

A Linotype Elektron

A Linotype Elektron

Elrod material caster

Elrod material caster

Stereotype

Stereotype “mat roller”

Hand type cabinet

Hand type cabinet

Tools I took home: Page chase, pica gauge, type stick, chase crank, Xacto knife, chicken pluckers and makeup tools

Tools I took home: Page chase, pica gauge, type stick, chase crank, Xacto knife, chicken pluckers and makeup tools

Slug cutter

Slug cutter

Various galleys

Various galleys

Page chase

Page chase

Pages from a Font book used for character count for ad markup

Pages from a Font book used for character count for ad markup

Pages from a Font book used for character count for ad markup

Farewell etaoin shrdlu

The date is Sunday, July 2, 1978, the last time that the New York Times was printed using hot metal.

David Loeb Weiss, then a proofreader and Carl Shlesinger a Linotype operator filmed and narrated this film to record the occasion.

Retirement Day

As well as a detailed look at the production process there are interviews with workers including a lucky man whose retirement coincided with the end of the era.

Towards the end of the film we take a look at the “clean area” where the new technology was already in use producing the vast majority of the paper.

Paper Ruling

Part of Metal Type’s Printing Advice section, here Phil discusses the long-lost art of paper ruling.

PAPER RULING was my Dad’s first trade. He apprenticed to this at the age of 14 and worked a good part of his life doing this. Dad eventually had to get into printing as it turned out to be impossible to earn a living in small town Regina doing paper ruling only.

Dad established our small shop as a partnership with his brother, Joseph in 1929. Just in time for the Great Depression.

Regina had a population of about 40 thousand at that time and there were 16 commercial printing companies here and one multigrapher at this time.

There was also a total of 5 ruling machines here in our small town. We eventually acquired all of these machines and I wrecked all of them. I saved all of the ink and all of the pens, but the rest got salvaged to build work benches and such like. I did sell all of one machine to a home handyman for use in his workshop.

My Dad and his brother ran our machine and incidentally, our machine was in a good many locations. It was down two different house basements and in two locations in our shop. Then the partnership broke up and my uncle bought our machine and moved it into two different printing shops here in Regina and ended his career doing paper ruling.

My cousin was the hand feeder for this machine and hand fed many thousand sheets of paper. One job that they got until the end was a records keeping sheet for the Land Titles Department of Saskatchewan. This was a sheet on high quality rag paper called Krypton Extra Strong and it was made in two styles; glazed and unglazed.

I still have some samples of this and other forms including some 30 column synoptic sheets and some smaller ledger sheets. Much of the work done was for records keeping and as such was on good to very good paper and there really was no room for error, so make-ready was done on plain bond paper.

One of the plumb jobs of paper ruling and subsequent printing was the main daily record book for the Regina Light and Power Company. Regina made it’s own electricity at that time in a (large for it’s day) power house that was built especially for the purpose just four blocks down the street from where I currently live.

This power house used high pressure steam to spin turbines to make all the electricity that Regina used. The heat was produced by steam coal and this was delivered by a special trunk railroad line from the main cross Canada CPR railroad. This line ran right down the center of the street some two blocks east from my house and coal was delivered several times a week.

I can’t now remember how much coal, as I was only a small boy at that time, but the coal was delivered in bottom dump rail cars and these would have held about 30 tons each.

But to get back to ruling . . .

The main record keeping ledger of this power house recorded all the temps and pressures of all the furnaces and boilers. I seem to remember that there were four main boilers.

This record book was huge. The sheet size was 22 x 28 inches and it was ruled and then later imprinted with all of the column heads and was on No. 2 ledger of thicker than regular weight. Ledger at that time commonly came in one standard weigh and was available on order in the heavier weight.

As this was filled out every day, a sheet was naturally required every day. This job cost a fortune and took a fully equipped shop two weeks to turn out. The sheets were custom punched to fit the very heavy binder and round cornered and green edged. But memory is frail here. The sheets may not have been round cornered, but I think they were.

My Dad tried for years to get this job as it was so expensive and profitable that it would have counted for half a year’s business at least and maybe more. But it was not to be. Even though my Dad had the ruling machine and a 24 x 36 inch cylinder press, to imprint the column heads, the job went to the biggest printing shop in Saskatchewan and that was that.

Eventually the City of Regina sold this electricity generating plant to Sask. Power who now make all the electricity in Saskatchewan and these recording ledger sheets were no longer required.

I still have several ruling pen catalogues and cherish them. These are amongst the very few books that I will take to the retirement home when and if the time comes.

Paper ruling was a pretty big part of my life and pretty much all of this took place before I was old enough to be of much help as a hand feeder nor did I ever have an opportunity to set up the pens. I did however spend a lot of time inking the felts as my Dad hand fed the machine.

These machines were inked with a liquid and water based colored ink that was applied to the felts (read here ink fountain) with a common ordinary paint brush. Dad showed me how to do this and I was mostly a quick study and it really was not hard.

The machine mostly ran slow especially if one was ruling a ”strike,” job. And the machine was pretty quiet anyway.

Looks Like A Horse

An anecdote sent in by Bob Turner.

BACK IN MY DAY as a typesetter, among other things, the first rule of typesetting was to “follow copy” – even if somebody threw it out the window.

Failure to do so usually resulted in unemployment.

One of the newsside operators on the Cleveland Plain Dealer, an avid follower of the Sport of Kings and a gambler on same, was setting a column-and-a-half feature entitled “The Consensus” wherein some so-called expert would render his opinion on what a horse’s chances were in a certain race.

Our intrepid hero came to an entry on which he had lost considerable money and, when he noticed there was no comment on this entry, supplied one of his own. “Looks Like Horse, Runs Like Duck!”

The sports department got calls. Lots of calls. A check of proofs and the incriminating “take slug” and the culprit was identified and fired for not only not following copy but, heaven forbid, altering copy.

If you liked this story you may also like Printers’ Tales a compilation of similar stories, available in ebook and paperback formats.

A Kick in the Clutch

The sixth in a series of stories sent in by Greg Fischer (aka Linofish).

Says Greg: “All the incidents happened at the Trenton NJ Trentonian, between 1958 and 1965. This was at the old Front Street building. In 1965, we moved to a brand new plant with a new Hoe Colormatic letterpress. Much improved from the old building which was said to be used at one time by the Mercer Automoble Company.

Greg has previously supplied Metal Type with a large selection of Letterpress Limericks.

WE HAD a comp/Lino operator who mostly did comp work, but occasionally used one of the machines for a correction line or such.

He was quite an interesting individual. He was a guest for an extended period of the state of NJ for bank robberies and a bar room fight killing and also in the state of Maryland where he provided long-time assistance in the construction of the Conowingo hydroelectric dam.

Anyway, one evening he needed a line and sat down at one of the Linos to set it. After the line cast, the machine stalled at ejection. So he began tugging at the clutch handle to get it around. No luck.

“You %$##$^*&(&%%” he yelled, and he sprang from his seat went around and kicked the drive clutch forcefully. Well, there was a “CRAAAK!” as the iron ejector lever broke off.

So the Linofish found a spare in the graveyard of parts and installed it. It was a job, because you had to remove the second elevator arm on the old machines.

The bottom of the ejector lever was too wide to wiggle out of the machine frame. Later, they made it narrower and used a pipe spacer. I later checked it out, and found the liners were loose.

He should have backed the machine up,opened the knife block and tried again, If no luck, release the ejector lever pawl and let the machine cycle. Then remove the slug, liners etc. I asked why he just didn’t call me.

He said “I didn’t want to bother you” He was really a nice guy! 🙂 Later on we installed the breakable ejector link pins which would shear before the lever broke.

If you liked this story you may also like Printers’ Tales a compilation of similar stories, available in ebook and paperback formats.

Three’s A Crowd

The fifth a series of stories sent in by Greg Fischer (aka Linofish).

Says Greg: “All the incidents happened at the Trenton NJ Trentonian, between 1958 and 1965. This was at the old Front Street building. In 1965, we moved to a brand new plant with a new Hoe Colormatic letterpress. Much improved from the old building which was said to be used at one time by the Mercer Automoble Company.

Greg has previously supplied Metal Type with a large selection of Letterpress Limericks.

WHEN the old head machinist who was my first boss retired, the company promoted one of the operators to day machinist because he was night M.O. and had been to Intertype school many years before. He was good, and taught me a lot. But was kind of weak in the electrical end of things.

One day as I was comfortably in the arms of Morpheus (I worked the night shift) the phone rang and wifey dutifily awakened me. “Its Maurio,” she said. “He has a problem.” “Mglxpg” I mumbled, reaching for the phone.

“Gregorio” a harassed sounding voice said. “The motor went on number four, and I have a problem with the spare. There are three wires coming out of the motor and only two from the switch!” he lamented.

It seems not all the machines were completely wired for three-phase motors, which the spare was. I told him to hook up two and put a wire nut on the extra motor lead. And to give it a push to start it. He didn’t ask for explanations.

That night, I simply ran the extra wire from the new panel that was installed on all the machines when we moved. Panel to switch to motor and all was fixed. We then added the necessary wiring to the other machines as required so any type motor could be used on any machine.

In another incident, we got an ancient Miller saw (I still have it) for the ad row and it needed rewiring and a switch. So I mounted a toggle in a box near the table and ran a piece of metal hose down to the motor for the wiring. It was getting near quitting time, and just on a whim, I got some scraps of different colored wires and stuck them in so they hung out of the switchbox and at the motor end. There were about eight different colored pieces at each end. I left a note. “Maurio, please finish hooking up the Miller if you get a chance.”

The next evening, all was as it was before, but the note now also said “Had many problems, could not get to Miller.” He did not elaborate. 🙂 He had a saying he would quote with a laugh, “Wires three, let them be!”

And yet another thing I have to be thankful for are the great memories from working with those wonderful people over the years! “Those men are the salt of the earth!” I heard the publisher once say.

The Lights Came Down Low

The fourth a series of stories sent in by Greg Fischer (aka Linofish).

Says Greg: “All the incidents happened at the Trenton NJ Trentonian, between 1958 and 1965. This was at the old Front Street building. In 1965, we moved to a brand new plant with a new Hoe Colormatic letterpress. Much improved from the old building which was said to be used at one time by the Mercer Automoble Company.

Greg has previously supplied Metal Type with a large selection of Letterpress Limericks.

THE COMPANY bought a rebuilt Monotype material maker from Hartzell Machine works and it was delivered to the back platform of the old building. There was no place ready yet at the new plant being built. (Typical planning). So it was decided to bring it inside the mail room and cover it up until its new home was ready.

The mail room which had the overhead door to the platform was itself located in front of the newsprint storage room and the tables and other mail room equipment would be moved out the way when newsprint was delivered.

They had an ancient Clark fork truck to unload it. It was gasoline powered and I don’t believe it had any piston rings left judging from the huge quantities of blue smoke that emanated from it.

It would even seep upstairs into the composing room at times if the wind blew wrong. So they got one of the kids from dispatch who supposedly knew how to drive the thing to come down and fetch the Monotype. He went into the roll room and fired the Clark up and came speeding out into the mail room.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t lowered the forks all the way down. Part of the fork frame was telescoped upward. Suddenly there were tremendous crashing sounds, sparks flew and glass rained down as he took out about six fluorescent fixtures hanging from the ceiling. He somehow missed getting hurt and luckily wore glasses which probably kept him from getting glass in his eyes but what a mess!

Well, the noise brought everybody down, including the publisher and the business manager. As usual, the publisher immediately ripped into the manager. (He loved doing it because it was his brother-in-law.)

“Hells Bells, Jules!!” he sez. “What on Gods green earth’s th’ matter with you lettin’ a boy try to bring that caster in! Lucky he didn’ get ‘holt of it an’ drop the day-um thing off the platform! You know what that machine cost me? Day-um people ’round here ain’t got a grain of sense ‘t all!!”

The machinist and I picked up the fixtures and we triaged them and made three usable ones out of the injured. The manager sent out to an electrical supply house and got some new ones to make up the for the rest. They were just hung from chains and were plugged into outlet boxes, so restoring everything was easy. Like shop lights.

They called the night janitor in who also unloaded the newsprint trucks to bring the Mono in. (Should have done that in the first place.) That Clark was so old it had a gearshift and clutch pedal, like a car, not your one pedal foot control.

At least we didn’t have to sweep up, though.

Monotype fan? Don’t miss the Monotype Chat section of the Metal Type Forum.

Condemned

The third in a series of stories sent in by Greg Fischer (aka Linofish).

Says Greg: “All the incidents happened at the Trenton NJ Trentonian, between 1958 and 1965. This was at the old Front Street building. In 1965, we moved to a brand new plant with a new Hoe Colormatic letterpress. Much improved from the old building which was said to be used at one time by the Mercer Automoble Company.

Greg has previously supplied Metal Type with a large selection of Letterpress Limericks.

THEY used to repig the Lino metal early every morning and had an ancient gas fired furnace and a four over four water cooled flip mould on the second floor.

Well, one day I arrived for work and there was great consternation and confusion around the furnace, which was right in the composing room.

Seems that during the re-pigging session, something happened to the control valve in the pot and the metal flow couldn’t be shut off.

It was said that everyone was frantically looking around for any kind of container to catch it in, but it ran all over the floor and some seeped thru a crack which resulted in a shiny typemetal stalactite hovering over the press downstairs.

We pried and broke up what we could and then they called a welder in with a torch to melt off the metal from all around the furnace and moulds.

To add insult to injury, Public Service Gas came in to check out the burner and the serviceman took one look, hung a big red “CONDEMNED” tag on it, shut off the gas supply and walked out shaking his head and mumbling to himself.

They got a plumber and he had to repipe the whole thing and install some kind of a valve before PS declared it fit for duty.

Worst part was, that night they cast pigs in the old iron single moulds downstairs in the stereo department and I had to carry them up!

If you liked this story you may also like Printers’ Tales a compilation of similar stories, available in ebook and paperback formats.

Just A Utility Boy

The second in a series of stories sent in by Greg Fischer (aka Linofish).

Says Greg: “All the incidents happened at the Trenton NJ Trentonian, between 1958 and 1965. This was at the old Front Street building. In 1965, we moved to a brand new plant with a new Hoe Colormatic letterpress. Much improved from the old building which was said to be used at one time by the Mercer Automoble Company.

Greg has previously supplied Metal Type with a large selection of Letterpress Limericks.

A RUN IN with the “Old guy.” Seems he didn’t get the word that I was hired as an apprentice. He thought I was the new utility helper, the previous one finally getting a comp apprenticeship.

So about the third day of my tenure, I was tending the Monotype material maker, hanging pigs, removing material, and something started to go wrong.

The pusher blade screw had loosened and disconnected from its actuating arm. So I threw the pump out and shut off the motor. I corrected it quickly and started the machine up again.

Just at that time, around the corner comes the old machinist. “I heard the caster stop! What happened?” I proudly related my accomplishment and he blew his top.

“You aint supposed to TOUCH the machines ‘ceptin’ plungers and bands! You keep yer hands off! Yer just a utility boy! You got no RIGHT to do things to the machines. You come git me when sumthin’ happens!” A little vein jiggled on his forehead.

I just turned on my heel and went up to the foreman and explained that there was a misunderstanding, I was hired as an apprentice and if that meant being a utility helper for a year which would have been an extra year of “time” and lower pay, I didn’t want the job.

The foreman says “Let’s go upstairs” to see the general manager who happened to be talking to the publisher by the stairway at the time. I was on good terms with him as I worked in dispatch for five years and he straightened things out fast.

He says “Why shore, Slim here’s th’ machine (sic) apprentice. Day-um it, Jules, cain’t anybody git nothin’ straight ’round this day-um place! There’s a day-um note downstairs but there’s so day-um much junk nailed up on it you cain’t hardly see th’ board! DAY-UM! (He was a Texan.) 🙂

Man, the old machinist was protective, I don’t know if it was a union thing or an ego thing. He apologized. I rewired the death trap of a test panel he had built and we were buddies again.

If you liked this story you may also like Printers’ Tales a compilation of similar stories, available in ebook and paperback formats.

Taking Care of Business

The first of a series of stories sent in by Greg Fischer (aka Linofish).

Says Greg: “All the incidents happened at the Trenton NJ Trentonian, between 1958 and 1965. This was at the old Front Street building. In 1965, we moved to a brand new plant with a new Hoe Colormatic letterpress. Much improved from the old building which was said to be used at one time by the Mercer Automoble Company.

Greg has previously supplied Metal Type with a large selection of Letterpress Limericks.

THIS one goes back decades to when the Linofish was just starting out. The head machinist was pretty old and nearing retirement. He also was president of the Moose Lodge.

Anyway, it was decided that the budding apprentice should get some serious hands-on experience and the project planned was to completely remove the mould disc, slide, all of the ejector mechanism, disassemble completely, wash in solvent, re oil and reinstall. We had about 10 machines at the time.

There was no Sunday paper, so most of the ad work and non-news features had all been put to bed Saturday. The place was empty. So the Linofish arrived bright and early Sunday morning (on overtime) and we went through the procedure which takes quite a bit of time.

As we were working on the third machine (third Sunday), me sloshing ejector blades and links around in Varsol, the machinist came over and said he had some business to take care of at the Moose Lodge (he had a key), which was just up the street. “You jus’ keep goin’ he said. I’ll be back and check in an hour or so.”

Well, the business at the Moose consisted of enthusiastically lowering the level in the Old Overholtz bottle at their bar, as the old guy tended to become “Powerful thirsty.”

He never returned that day. Here I was left bordering on panic with a bucketfull of parts to put back together, mould disk and slide on the floor and the night shift arriving at 5 pm. Somehow I muddled through and with a few prayers to Ottmar, got the Lino together and running. You learn fast when you are young.

“Good job” he said next day. “I got tied up. Yer gotta sink or swim sometimes, heh, heh!” After that, every Sunday afternoon until all the machines were done, “business” had to be attended to at the Moose around 1pm. I never said anything to anyone, I really liked the old guy, and I think the super knew what was going on.

He had the most wretched set of tools I have ever seen. So I took $200 out of the bank and went across the street to Sears and bought a slew of new ones and a couple of Kennedy tool box units to keep ’em in. That was a lot of money in those days, but it bought a LOT of tools! I still got ’em. Job was tough enough without having to put up with junk tools.

If you liked this story you may also like Printers’ Tales a compilation of similar stories, available in ebook and paperback formats.