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Let Me Compose Myself: 1942

Let Me Compose Myself: 1942

September 1942. Richwood, Nicholas County, West Virginia. "Lois Thompson, printer's devil on the Nicholas Republican newspaper, operating Linotype machine." 4x5 inch acetate negative by John Collier for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Dress Sense

Wearing a white shirt and open sandals in a printing works is asking for trouble.
Thank you to all comment contributors in this post for the informative and fascinating knowledge about the printing trade of past.

Lots of long gone professions

Once there were typesetters. First manually, picking lead type from type cases, and returning them to the cases after printing. Then the Mergenthaler company came along and mechanized typesetting line by line.

By the way, the typesetters were also one last line of defence against weird grammar and typos. Long one, and it tells. Proofreaders too. Yes, they were humans. Not read red and blue lines on a computer screen.

They also had machines to sort first the lead type and later the dies mechanically after casting / printing. The dies and the type had grooves on the side which mechanically indexed them.

Lois: A Life

Lois Ionne Thompson (1917-1991)

1940 - Resides in Richwood, West Virginia, with her father, Benjamin Earl Thompson, whose occupation is newspaper editor. His 1942 draft card has employer listed as Woodyard Publications.

27 June 1946. Lois enlists in the WACs at Fort Knox, Kentucky, with rank of Technician 3d Grade -- equivalent to Grade 4: Staff Sergeant. (This might be a reenlistment, as her grave includes "Tsgt US Army World War II)

17 July 1949. Her marriage to Sgt. Paul D. Williams in Heidelberg, Germany, is announced in the Daily Oklahoman. The bride and groom honeymoon in Cannes, France. She now holds the office of civilian research analyst, Department of Military Intelligence.

14 Sept. 1950. Her first child is born at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

13 June 1955. Her second child is born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

8 June 1960. She returns from Frankfurt, Germany, with her children.

My grandfather's Mergenthaler

While visiting relatives in south Georgia recently, I came across a promissory note my grandfather signed to the Mergenthaler Company in 1928. He promised to pay $50 per annum until he paid off one of their linotype machines. That machine operated at the Ham Printing Co. in Cordele, Georgia, until about 10 years ago. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Lead Me Tell You

I worked in a printing shop in the mid-'70s and they still had a linotype they used for letterpress jobs. It was quite a piece of machinery. One other item of interest is the calendar from Central Ohio Paper Company. Thirty years later, they were still one of the paper suppliers used by the place where I worked.

The Beautiful Machine

is a Mergenthaler Model 14 Linotype, with 34 channel side magazine(s). Not quite as beautiful as the operator, but a really nice workhorse in the newspapers of the early 20th century. Kinda dangerous though with the shoes she's wearing, in case of a squirt of molten lead. Those didn't happen often, but when they did, move back quickly. This machine appears to be what was called a 72/90 channel machine, was shipped new in early 1921.


Fredric Brown

"It was rather funny for a while, the business about Ronson’s Linotype. But it began to get a bit too sticky for comfort well before the end. And despite the fact that Ronson came out ahead on the deal, I’d have never sent him the little guy with the pimple, if I’d guessed what was going to happen. Fabulous profits or not, poor Ronson got too many gray hairs out of it."

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