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Linotype

"It has been understood for some time that the Omaha papers have been preparing to replace their printers with typesetting machines," said the Nebraska State Journal of February 2, 1894. "The change has at last been made by the Bee and it is understood that the World-Herald will follow in due course of time. The Bee is using machines as yet on only three or four pages, but in a few days the old style type will disappear from its pages entirely except in the advertisements.

"The machine, the Mergenthaler linotype, is as yet the best of the many devices for doing away with hand composition that have been brought to perfection in the last few years, but others promise to equal if not to surpass it in a very short time. The linotype is about the size of two sewing machines piled one on top of the other. The operator copies the matter he wishes to set just about as a typewritist does his work. Every time he touches a key a mould of a letter drops into place. When a line is finished the machine automatically carries the moulds to one side, pumps a jet of molton type metal against the face of the moulds, and the result is a line of bright, sharp, new type all ready to be made up in the pages of the paper.

"The operator has nothing to do but strike the keys. The machine does the rest, even to distributing the moulds or matrices back to their proper receptacles ready to be used again. The lines of type are put back into the melting pot after being used once. A paper composed by machine, therefore has a 'new dress' every day. The cost is less than hand work by far. The machines cost about $3,000 each, but one man and a machine can do the work of three or four men working at the 'case' in the old way. A page printed from linotype composition can usually be recognized at a glance by a printer. The type is small and sharp and there are no small capitals in use."

By the mid-1890s there were one thousand linotypes in operation in the nation, most of them on daily newspapers. "Typesetting machines will soon be brought to Lincoln," concluded the State Journal. "The JOURNAL postponed a contemplated purchase some months ago because of an intimation that improved machines would soon be on the market." The first linotype in Lincoln was purchased by the Evening News in 1895; the Journal followed in 1896.

(June 2005)

 

 

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