"Clang, clang, clang" Went the Lino . . .

“Clang, clang, clang” went the Lino…type
“Ding, ding, ding” went the bell
“Zing, zing, zing” slid the copy
At the moment I typed it, it fell

“Chug, chug, chug” went the motor
“Bump, bump, bump” rang the lead
“Thump, thump, thump” went the matrices
When it molded, I could see the type fed

“Buzz, buzz, buzz” went the buzzer
“Plop, plop, plop” went the gears
“Stop, stop, stop” went the typesetters
The moment the chapel meeting nears.

The romance of Linotype was filled ups and downs, thumps and plops. Linotype was the crazy Victorian machine that somehow overcame its industrial age-Rube Goldberg clunkiness and was the fact of typesetting life for decades before phototype emerged.

On Friday February 3, Douglas Wilson’s new film, Linotype: In Search of the Eighth Wonder of the World will premiere at the SVA Theatre – 333 West 23rd St and 8th Avenue.

Linotype was called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by Thomas Edison, it revolutionized printing, communication and society. The film tells the surprisingly emotional story of the people connected to the Linotype and how it impacted the world. Because of advances in technology, most Linotypes were scrapped and melted-down by the thousands. Today, very few machines are still in existence. Interviewed for the film are:

Matthew Carter – type designer & former Linotype employee
Frank Romano – preeminent Linotype historian
Bill Boarman – Head Printer of the United States
Carol Knopes – former editor at USA Today
Otmar Hoefer – director of typography at Linotype Germany
Carl Schlesinger – former New York Times Linotype operator
Nadine Chahine – type designer & Arabic specialist at Linotype
Klaus Trefzer – curator of German Linotype museum
The illustrations here are from The Linotype News, one of many publications issued by Linotype to keep its customers and fans abreast of the hot metal.

7 thoughts on “"Clang, clang, clang" Went the Lino . . .

  1. Joe Schwartz

    Around 1985 while still at SVA, our typography teacher took us on a field trip to Merganthaler and we got to sit down at one of the last operating Linotypes in NYC.  We got to typeset anything we wanted – I chose my name.  I can’t remember if we were supposed to return the slug to the shop for smelting, but I didn’t.  I still have it and show it to my students at Spotswood High School, along with a very brief description of how the machine worked.  I can’t wait to show them this when it becomes available on DVD!

  2. Timothy Trower

    Part two (and it’ll be short!)  One of my machines, a Model 5 built in 1948, is featured in Linotype: The Film, and footage of my father and myself also appear in interviews and showing the machine in operation.  The stories we could tell about filming in 110 degree heat!

  3. Timothy Trower

    As the owner and operator of two of these mechanical marvels, only wish that I had more room to store additional machines.  One of my very earliest memories was watching my father compose type on a Linotype in the mid-1960s, and I remember well wanting to run a machine some day.  Although born sixty years too late to make this a vocation, we still use the Linotypes in my commercial letterpress trade shop, White Star Service Company, in Springfield, Mo

  4. Karen

    I went to art school in the early 1970’s. Phototype was the wonderful new technology then. I don’t think anyone realized then that, 40 years later, kids who weren’t even born yet would wax nostalgic about these Rube-Goldberg-esque contraptions. I’m glad some have survived and that someone is telling their story.

  5. Jorge Brunet-Garcia

    I worked at the Gainnesville Sun newspaper in Gainesville, Florida in early 70’s, when it transitioned from Lino to computer type. Some of the Lino operators made the transition to punched paper typesetting but a lot of the old guys could not make the change. We still had a couple of machines in the back that would be used for ads flyers and the like. In the ceiling above them were always bits of lead from when the pigs were dropped into the pots. Most everyone that worked there had little burn holes in their clothes and burn scars — and it smelled like crap!

  6. DMcCunney

    The San Jose Mercury News established a Page on the Google+ service.  One of their early posts had a “What is it?” picture from thier front lobby.  “It” was a Linotype machine.  A followup to a question from me revealed that they finally took theirs out of commission in the late 80’s.  They didn’t specify what they shifted to, though I’d bet on the ATEX system.
    I wonder if Linotype has any records of the last one in production use to be decommissioned by the customer, and when that occurred.  I assume Linotype provided factory service, and had a crew of specialist mechanics dispatched to fix one when it broke.

  7. Jenny McChesney

    Oh, very cool piece. I actually bumped into a Linotype in action, soon after I moved to the San Antonio market (early 1980s). It had been reduced to setting slugs for business cards, filling in the blanks housed by the printer for big companies in the area. The Linotype was like a museum exhibit even then, a metal monster occupying a big piece of floor, its dedicated operator making it sing. Completing the time capsule of a work station, a well-worn wood swivel chair, tanker desk, and well-thumbed Webster’s on a stand.