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Yesterday's Headlines: 1941

Yesterday's Headlines: 1941

June 1941. "Mr. Cary Williams, editor of the Greensboro Herald Journal, a newspaper in Greensboro, Georgia." Spitting hot lead at an ancient Linotype machine. Note the custom-fitted ergonomic back support and whittled-down chair. Medium format negative by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Both The Printing Museum in Houston and the Baltimore Museum of Industry have full print shops on display, and if you hit 'em on the right days a retired operator (from The Houston Chronicle or Baltimore Sun) will be there to make them sit up and talk for you.

etaoin shrdlu

I still have-and use regularly-a Linotype machine. Also, the metal is melted and used at around 535 to 545 degrees. Less than that it won't melt properly, and much above that is when you are apt to get squirts.

Not dead yet

There's a movie: and the Linotype is so loved that there are at least two organizations in my immediate area (Waltham and Haverhill, Mass.) with one or two working units:

I love old, well built, intricate and obsolete machinery. And Real Computers have switches and blinking lights.

Family Tradition

Carey Jones Williams, April 6, 1901 - July 9, 1991

Carey (with an "e") later served on the University of Georgia Board of Regents. His son Carey Jr. is the current editor (and owner) of the Greensboro Herald Journal.

Spitting Linotype

I have a documentary on the Linotype. ( Apparently, experienced operators could hear a warning sound to back off quickly to avoid getting hit by a bit of hot lead. I got a chance in the 1960s to see a room full of them at the News Call Bulletin in San Francisco. You don't forget a mechanical wonder like that.

A Blast from the Past

When I was a high school senior in Chicago I took a print shop class, where we were taught to operate a Linotype machine just like this one. It always scared the hell out of me; we were warned that if we mistakenly left an open space in one of the lines of brass keys we were assembling, molten lead at 700 degrees Fahrenheit would "squirt" in our faces. Our machines were old and cranky, and I could rarely type out more than three lines before something would jam. Now I see them on display as museum pieces ... yikes!

Ah, yesterday

In the 1960s when the Comanche (Texas) Chief was still a hot-type operation, I used to hang out in their print shop, watching Bob Carpenter set type (he was good enough as a reporter AND printman that he would sometimes compose his articles directly on the lino) and Minor Taber and Woody Ormsby run the jobbing presses.

If I hit at the right time on Thursday afternoon, I could watch the crew wind up the big rotary press to run the week's edition of the Chief; that was a special treat.

The aroma is unique

I worked in the office of a hot lead Hearst paper in Baltimore in the '70s. The building’s back stairs included a landing that was open to the pressroom, and the odor of molten lead poured into stairwell. Nothing else smells quite like that. Shorpy brought it all back to me!

Hot Leadville

In Saguache, Colorado, there's a newspaper called the Saguache Crescent that is still produced daily on an old linotype machine.

Printer's Devil

This reminds me of one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes starring Burgess Meredith as the devil masquerading as a reporter who promises to salvage a failing newspaper in exchange for the editor's soul.

Amazing technology

In the late 1970s I was studying graphic design, and our instructor took a group of us to the offices of Sunset Magazine to see a linotype in action. The publication was just weeks away from going computerized, but the operator put on quite a show for us. There's nothing like moving parts to make work seem entertaining.


I believe Etaoin Shrdlu was Lorem Ipsum's grandpa.


A well-known "phrase", but I followed Dave's LMGTFY link, and was surprised not to find the reference that first came to mind -- "Etaoin Shrdlu" is the title of a 1942 short story by Fredric Brown about a sentient Linotype machine.


Earlier this week, I ran across a story of an 8 monitor, 18 million pixel custom workstation with a sling chair that is like a modern incarnation of Mr. Williams' rig.


Over my head this morning.

[Google it. - Dave]

Etaoin shrdlu

It had to be said.

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