U.S. # 4801e
2013 46¢ Linotype Operator
Made in America: Building a Nation
The invention of the linotype machine revolutionized the printing industry. A newspaper that took a week to produce using hand composition could now be printed in a day.
Before 1884, printmakers produced a page of print by placing one letter at a time into a form. That year, a new print machine was invented which produced a line of type all at once. The linotype keyboard had 90 keys that, when pressed, allowed a brass letter to be released to form words. When a line was completed, a metal “slug” was cast from the line. The slugs were then used to form a page of print.
Experienced operators produced from four to seven lines each minute. In addition to knowing how to run the machine, the position also required a knowledge of English because long words had to be divided correctly when they were at the end of a line. In the early 1900s, a linotype operator was one of the few occupations at which women worked alongside men and earned the same wage.
Before the linotype machine, newspapers were produced weekly and had no more than eight pages. With the help of linotypers, longer newspapers were printed daily, and knowledge became more accessible to the average citizen.
Derry Noyes designed all of the Made in America stamps using early 20th century photographs. The linotype operator stamp features a photograph taken by Lewis Hine. Hines’ photos were used for 11 of the 12 stamps on the full pane. His photos were also the models for two stamps in the Celebrate the Century series. In 2002, Hines was honored on the Masters of American Photography stamp pane.
Value: 46¢ 1-ounce first-class letter rate
Issued: August 8, 2013
First Day City: Washington, D.C. – at the Department of Labor Frances Perkins Building
Type of Stamp: Commemorative
Printed by: Avery Dennison
Method: Photogravure printing in sheets of 60 in 5 panes of 12
Perforation: Serpentine Die Cut 10 ½ x 10 ¾
Quantity Printed: 2,500,000 stamps
Birth of Ottmar Mergenthaler
Inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler was born on May 11, 1854, in Hatchel, Kingdom of Württemberg (in present-day Germany). Mergenthaler invented the Linotype, a machine which made it quicker and easier to set complete lines of type for printing presses, revolutionizing printing in the 19th century.
Mergenthaler’s father was a schoolteacher and received little formal education after primary school. Yet he was a very bright child – his siblings called him “whiz kid.” When he was 13, he fixed a church clock that had been deemed unfixable by local watchmakers. The following year, Mergenthaler began an apprenticeship with a watchmaker (who was also his step-uncle). He was a quick learner and well-disciplined, able to draft technical drawings and patent applications. In fact, he so impressed his step-uncle, that he began paying him a year before his apprenticeship ended, which he had never done before.
In 1872, Mergenthaler was part of a wave of German immigrants that relocated to America. He secured a job in his step-cousin’s electronic equipment workshop, though he had no previous experience with it. He was a fast learner, however, and within two years rose to the rank of a manager. Mergenthaler became a US citizen in 1878 and his step cousin’s business partner in 1881, after the company was moved to Baltimore.
Mergenthaler then opened his own workshop in 1883. A few years earlier he had become interested in the printing industry. At the time, the printing process was slow and inefficient, and many sought a way to improve on this. Mergenthaler began creating a mechanical means for setting printing type, which would eliminate the time-consuming chore of setting it by hand.
Mergenthaler accomplished this task by inventing the Linotype, a keyboard-operated machine that assembled metal molds of letters to create entire lines of text in a single unit. When a line was completed, the operator pressed a key which sent it to be cast in molten metal, usually lead. When the metal cooled, it formed a line of type with raised letters called a slug. Both the slug and the molds were automatically sorted by mechanical means. After it was used for printing, a slug was melted down and used again. He patented his machine in 1884 and the following year he was honored at a special event promoting his invention. Among the guests was President Chester A. Arthur.
The first 12 Linotype machines were installed at the New York Tribune in 1886. Linotypes quickly spread throughout the industry, reducing printing costs greatly, and lowering consumer prices for newspapers, books, and magazines. Mergenthaler’s machine was featured on the cover of Scientific American and by 1889, patent rights for it had been sold in Great Britain and Ireland.
Mergenthaler continuously re-worked and improve on his machine. Reportedly, Thomas Edison called his Simplex Linotype machine “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” By the mid-1890s, Mergenthaler’s health began to decline, suffering from tuberculosis. He moved to New Mexico and worked on his autobiography, before dying on October 28, 1899. Mergenthaler’s company continued after his death until it was taken over by a German firm in 1987.
US #3062 – Fleetwood First Day Cover