[Spridgets] California fires

Robert Bruce Evans b-evans at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 18 19:17:00 MST 2007

Jim Johnson wrote:  "My last year of high school...I got a part time job with the local newspaper as a Linotype operator.... Does that count as being from the days of "hot type"??"

Do you have splatter marks from the hot lead too?  

Most people today have never heard of a Linotype machine, let alone the name Ottmar Mergenthaler.  Ottmar, a clockmaker by trade, ranks right up there with Johannes Gutenberg, for in 1886, his new machine that produced a "line of type" was the first new printing improvement in over 400 years.   It was his machine, the Linotype, that gave publishers for the ability for first time to produce books and newspapers for the masses.  It was the machine that at the time made the United States the most literate and informed society in the world.  While they began to pass from the scene with the introduction of cold type in the 1970's and then by computers, because of their unique abilities, they are still found in job shops across the country.

Although he actually designed the machine in 1883, he nearly went insane trying to figure out how to make the correct spaces between words so that the line would be "right justified".  The day (and his sanity) was saved when he devised the wedge-like spacebands that did the job automatically, and the first machine from the Mergenthaler Linotype Company was used at the New York Herald in 1889. 

Although Mergenthaler died a decade later, many of you still use products from his company:  http://www.linotype.com/ .

That concludes today's lesson.  Snap quiz on Tuesday.

Silas P. Gumbody
Professor of Printing History
Bald Knob, Arkansas

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