Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Word Processing, 1893

Word Processing, 1893

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 11, 2014

The typesetting staff and machinery of the Juvenile Instructor in 1893 (names unknown). Everything must have been inky — can you imagine wearing long white sleeves to do this work??





  1. That machine they are standing around is a Unitype machine which was the greatest thing going in typesetting for a few years until the Mergethaler Linotype came out around the same time this picture was taken. The Linotype used a matrix of letters that were arranged by the operator at the keyboard, into which hot lead was poured to make a complete line of type that could then easily be arranged for printing. Before this each letter had to be arranged by hand. The Unitype was a short window of development between these two methods. It still used individual foundry type (single letters) but they were loaded into the machine which could drop them into the tray in order, by entering it on a keyboard. The arranged letters could then be locked into place along with some shims for line justification, ready for print. The remaining difficulty of this system is that after the printing was done, all these letters would be unlocked and dumped all at once into a box called a “Hell Box”. Then the lowest apprentice on the totem pole, sometimes referred to as the “Print Devil” had to sort them all out and reload them to be used again. By contrast the Linotype slugs of cast hot lead, post printing were simply melted down and loaded back in the casting machine to make new type. You can see why Linotype won out in popularity. Probably more than you wanted to know.

    Comment by Carl C. — February 11, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

  2. Egads – typesetting! What a forgotten world.

    Comment by David Y. — February 11, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

  3. I did a search to see if I could find another picture of a Unitype and found that they were also marketed under the names Symplex, and in its earliest form as The Thorne Machine, having been developed and patented by Joseph Thorne in 1880. Here is a link to an incredible article all about it with lots of photos and illustrations.

    Comment by Carl C. — February 11, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

  4. Probably more than you wanted to know.

    I can’t speak for any others, Carl C., but Not at all! Thanks for helping me make sense of the photograph.

    Comment by Mark B. — February 11, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

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