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Downtown in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Linotype Model 31

Line-Casting Machine

 
 
Linotype Model 31 Marker image. Click for full size.
By Tom Fuchs, April 3, 2010
1. Linotype Model 31 Marker
Inscription. The Linotype was introduced in Baltimore in 1883 by Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German-born inventor. By replacing hand-set type with machine-set type, the speed of composition was vastly increased by this important advance in printing.

This machine saw more than a half century’s service molding lines of type from molten metal in the Washington Post’s composing room. It is representative of the very heart of the “hot type” newspaper production process which was used at the Post from 1888 to 1980.
 
Location. 38° 54.267′ N, 77° 2.067′ W. Marker is in Downtown, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 15th Street, N.W. north of L Street, N.W., on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1150 15th St NW, Washington DC 20005, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Saint Augustine Catholic Church (here, next to this marker); Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Metropolitan AME Church (about 500 feet away); Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church
Linotype Model 31 and Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
2. Linotype Model 31 and Marker
Brass plaque is mounted on the wooden platform.
(about 500 feet away); Major General George H. Thomas (approx. 0.2 miles away); Major General James B. McPherson (approx. 0.2 miles away); United Mine Workers of America Building (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Presidents' Church (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Downtown.
 
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. This link is to a marker for a the Ottmar Mergenthaler house in Baltimore.
 
Also see . . .
1. The Linotype — What it is. “As the name implies, the Linotype is a machine that produces a solid ‘line of type.’ Introduced about 1886, it was used for generations by newspapers and general printers. It is a one-man machine: the operator sits in front with the copy to be set at the top of the keyboard. Having adjusted the machine for the required point size and line length, the metal heated to the correct temperature—about 550 degrees Fahrenheit—he commences setting.

“A light press of the key buttons actuates a mechanism that releases the matrices. These
Linotype Model 31 On Display image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
3. Linotype Model 31 On Display
are small pieces of brass in which the characters or dies are stamped. The matrices travel from the magazine channels where they are housed, by means of a miniature conveyor belt, into the assembler box. This assembler box is the composing stick of the Linotype. After each word the operator touches the spaceband key which allows a spaceband to fall before setting the first letter of the following word.” (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.) 

2. James O. Clephane, the Father of the Linotype Machine. Wikipedia entry. “ ‘I want to bridge the gap between the typewriter and the printed page’ he declared in 1872, and began to pursue the invention of a machine for typesetting. Along with Charles T. Moore, he devised a machine which cast type from papier-mâché matrices indented by mechanically assembled characters, but it had numerous defects which they were unable to rectify. Moore approached August Hahl in 1876, with whom Ottmar Mergenthaler was working at the time. Mergenthaler immediately suggested casting the type from a metal matrix instead, and set to work on a typesetting machine, spending a year redesigning it until in the summer of 1877 he felt he had a working prototype.

“It produced print by lithography, which was
Linotype Model and Serial Number Plate image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
4. Linotype Model and Serial Number Plate
problematic. Clephane made the suggestion of using stereography instead, and Mergenthaler began to research this approach, for which Clephane provided financial backing. By 1879, it was still in development. Mergenthaler designed a line casting machine, but then tore up the plans in frustration. Clephane encouraged him to continue; he remained confident in the value of the invention despite all the scepticism and financial embarrassments that accompanied it.

“By 1883, the machine was perfected and patented in 1884. Meanwhile Clephane had formed the National Typographic Company for manufacturing it, with a capitalization of $1 million and named Mergenthaler as manager of its Baltimore factory. The company became the Mergenthaler Printing Company in 1885. It had its first ‘commercial demonstration’ on July 3, 1886, before Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune, who exclaimed ‘Ottmar, you’ve done it again! A line o’ type!’ from which it got its name: the Linotype machine.” (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.) 

3. Eldon Meeks runs a Linotype machine. “October 16, 2007 — Eldon Meeks, 82, runs a Model 8 Linotype machine, vintage World War II, for
Linotype Keyboard and Copy Holder image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
5. Linotype Keyboard and Copy Holder
the Wapsipinicon Almanac at Route Three Press in rural Anamosa, Iowa, in October 2007. Eldon was born deaf, and is also mute. Video shot by The Gazette’s Dave Rasdal.”

“This is a video of my deaf father at the linotype machine. Many years ago he used to work for the local Anamosa, Iowa newspaper. His former boss used to say Eldon would always know in advance when one of the machines was going to break down. With being deaf, he could feel the change in the vibration that the machines were producing.” (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.) 

4. A Place of Their Own. 1989 book by John Vickrey Van Cleve and Barry A. Crouch on Amazon.com. “As satisfying as it may be, however, the story of deaf people’s success in the printing trade is a cautionary tale as well. The nature of printing changed rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century, altering its status and reducing its importance as lucrative urban employment for deaf men. The introduction of computers and the phasing out of the old linotype machines meant fewer workers—and workers with different skills—were needed in the printing business. Although the Washington
Linotype Model 31 image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
6. Linotype Model 31
Post,
for example, and the Government Printing Office still employed deaf printers in the 1980s, their numbers were dwindling.” (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.) 

5. Washington Post and Union issues 1973-1975 that contributed to the end of the linotype. (Submitted on December 4, 2013, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.)
 
Categories. CommunicationsIndustry & CommerceLabor Unions
 
<i>Washington Post</i> Front Pages Composed with Linotype image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
7. Washington Post Front Pages Composed with Linotype
Displayed behind the Linotype machine. 1962: “Kennedy Orders Blockade of Cuba as Reds Build Nuclear Bases There; U.S. Will Sink Defiant Arms Ships” 1933: “Nation Celebrates Repeal; Roosevelt Wars on Illicit Trade and Return of Saloon” 1944: “Allies Land in France, Eisenhower Announces” 1937: Hitler Seizes Full Powers In Reich; Army Backs Him; Nation Mourns Hindenburg”
<i>Washington Post</i> Front Pages Composed with Linotype image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, April 3, 2010
8. Washington Post Front Pages Composed with Linotype
Displayed behind the Linotype machine. 1963: “President Kennedy Shot Dead; Lyndon B. Johnson is Sworn In” 1963: “Mammoth Rally of 200,000 Jams Mall In Solemn, Orderly Plea for Equality” 1927: “Lindbergh Wildly Hailed at Paris for 3,800-Mile Flight in 33½ Hours; Airman Tells Own Story of Trip” 1924: “Johnson is Hero as Nationals Win Decisive Game of World Series 4–3; City in Carnival, Celebrates Victory” 1918: “Armistice Signed; Fighting Ceases; Reds Rule in Berlin;” 1941: “Phillippines Fierecely Raided; Guam Reportedly Captured. War Declaration Signed by Roosevelt” 1898: “Maine Wrecked and Burned” 1906: “On a Sun-Kissed Day in Room Abloom, the Eyes of the World Beholding, Alice Roosevelt, the President’s Fair Daughter, Becomes Mrs. Nicholas Longworth”
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 24, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 4, 2010, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,877 times since then and 72 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on April 4, 2010, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland.   2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on April 10, 2010, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.   8. submitted on April 11, 2010, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.
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