A Print Devil can be any age
I was a 8 year old kid who knew nothing about printing.
Walked down a dirt road, stopped at this print shop
where they printed some kind of weekly newspaper that was nailed
onto ‘lectric poles and given away at the Gamble store,
MarCouliers food store plus the post office.
[one red chip + 3¢ got ua’ a ¼ lb. of butter.
for family of 6. [food rationing early 1940 era plus gasoline rationing]
Had to be in line by 0600 hrs. Store didn’t open ‘till 0700 hrs. 50 – 1/4 .lb size available.
Temps in winter months: 0° to -15° . . . Below -15° ‘ma dint’ have me do this...
some times three feet of snow – other times . . . only 4”.
Niagara had only one snowplow.
1942 – 1945 food rationing [red - blue] chips & stamps
it was gettin’ near end of summer vacation and
I knew ‘ma wasn’t gonna’ let me spend any time at
the farm `kuz school was starting in a week.
. . .
I wanted to earn sum coins, so . . .
I stopped at the “telly-graff” office. Just one person
worked there and he told me to try the print shop.
Wasn’t far —
‘bout 100 fence posts away.
“no sidewalks – dirt streets — fields lined with barb wire and posts”
Women in pioneer communities often did "men's" jobs.
Emily Johnson (in the doorway) was telegrapher in the
Northwest Territories, ca. 1897.
barbed wire cattle fencing attached to posts, trees etc.
. . livin’ the “real life! . . . ‘till I slid down from straw pile
into pile of cowpoo – Mom got pretty wild when I got home
next stop . . . .
Sat down on print shop backdoor step – ‘n watched. .
‘Bout an ‘hour went by —
Asked this guy wearin’ a ‘sorta’ funny lookin green
thing on his head with a hole in the top,
‘hangin’ over his eyes. [just like the guy at the Telly Graph place.]
Hi! . . .
‘need any help sweepin’ floors or somthin’?
‘mon in. Grab a ‘sody water’ – from ice cooler over in corner.
Another worker, with long blue apron, saw me . . . walked over . . .
— “don’t ua’ work for Mayor Phil at milk barn?”
Yup. just got done shovelin’ and sweepin’ alleys (area behind cows).
the Guy with “funny hat” asked sum questions.
Hows ur’ spelling?
We do 10 new words a day in school.
Get ‘em all correct?
Yup. Last year I got 4
Someone tole’ me ua’ wash them there glass bottles on
a steam spittin’ spinning brush?
Yup. ‘bout 20 cases (240 bottles) each day [Quarts - Pints - 1/2 Pints]
How hot’s the steam doin’ the wash ?
. . . one of the Tappy boys, [13 kids in family], tole’ me the
steam is 215° to 220° [coal fired - I got to carry small chunks]
Why ua’ wanna’ work here?
Washin’ bottles, feedin’ cows and collecting eggs - 2 summers of that
- tired of that.
Had fun riding Peanuts rounding up cows - 5 p.m. milking.
dog Shep came with every day.
Cows saw Shep and me ‘n started moving toward barn.
Really, Shep couda’ done it alone. I just rode along for the ride.
Those cows would get off the trail a bit – Shep never chased after cows.
Just a couple barks, all was back to normal.
Headin’ towards the barn. The six ‘Tappy brothers’ had chopped sileage
and grain ready for the cows.
The five cats sat behind the cows when being hand milked
and waited to get milk squirted on/into their mouths.
Does Farm owner, milk delivery person,
Mr. Phil know ur’ tired of doin’ this?
Yup. He tole’ me about the Tele Grapher might want help
and that person sent me here.
OK. ‘comon. I’ll show ua’ where the broom is –
OK. ‘comon. and don’t get near those printin’ machines.
OK. ‘comon. They sometimes get hungry when ‘ua walk by ‘em.
OK. ‘comon. Sorta’ reach out n’ grab a shirt sleeve. They ain’t fussy.
OK. ‘comon. Like to chew fingers off!
• • • • and life went on . . . at the print shop . . . ‘till we moved
down Menominee river, 60 miles, Marinette, Wi.,
dad obtained new employ.
Peanuts = Pony I rode to herd cows to barn for milking time.
Shetland Pony look-a-like = Peanuts.
below - Peanuts shedding winter[fur]coat.
Printers don’t talk everyday words like normal 8 year olds speak
No S-I-R R E E E E E E E E . . .
I talked farm words like hay bales, corn cobs, oats, glass milk bottles, halters, reins, tugs, double tree, hitch pin, clevis, horse shoes, ice corks, milk pails, saddle, cinch ring, milk crates along with a spinning brush that spit [200°±] steam inside of bottle.
Printers used words like picas, points, didots, cicero, line rule, leads, coppers, brasses, mutt, nut & thin spaces, slugs, hell box, type notch, reglets, quoins, leaders, galleys, gutters, turtles, quoin key, space bands, vice jaws, hot metal, matrices, distributor box, metal pot, 1st elevator, 2nd elevator, clutch leathers, quadders, distributor box, mixers and on and on.
I was telling mother about all these words and mentioned the word “hell box” which caused her, while pealing potatoes, to turn around and point a knife at me and exclaim “their ain’t no such thing as a hell box!” You better get back to milk bottles, oats and that pony.
Next day my dad stopped at this print shop and did in fact find out there was a “hell box.”
[U never threw a broken part or bent matrix away. Those things went into the hell box. Never know when u’ might need a bent or broken part to get a print press or hot metal linecasting machine or press running again.]
For a kid who knew “gee” and “haa” to get horses to turn left or right and how horse apples got from stalls to the pile in the farm yard, this Print Devil thing was a whole new world!
. . . from Print Devil to ? ? ?
First exposure to graphics and printing was hand setting newspaper headlines for a
North Eastern Wisconsin Newspaper. It was different than sweepin’.
This time I got to assemble “type characters” onto a galley that became column heading in the newspaper. The next day I got to distribute those letters back into the wood box (california job case) so they could be used another time. I’m still called a "printer's devil", just doing different stuff.
What are Leads & Slugs?
All Foundry Type had a NICK on the front edge of each character.
After setting the first line and before inserting any lead (space between lines) the compositor would make a quick check to see that all characters in the line were set correctly. If one character showed up with no nick - it’s time to turn the character around so the nick shows before inserting a “lead” space strip of lead material – thickness of 1, 2, 3 points thick which are precut in many different lengths.
Also used for spacing between lines of type are “slugs” – that are cast in long strips then precut to lengths desired for line spacing.
Thickness = 6, 12, 18 & 24 pt. thick.
‘bout this time, 1948, I delivered milk bottles from a horse drawn cart to customers door steps, raised “squab” for sale, sold fresh eggs
from my two chickens, learned how to swim in Menominee River (Michigan/Wisconsin border), delivered 98 papers to homes - tossin’ ‘em
from my bicycle, made ice cream at a dairy, worked as helper in a Mobil Gas- 2 bay - Station, learned a lot of mechanical stuff about cars,
worked at Radio WMAM, Marinette, wi., helped with installation of WMBV-TV, ch. 11, Marinette, Wi. (now in Green Bay, next to Lambeau Field.
FOX broadcasting owns station.) and all of a sudden it was 1955. Out the High School door in June and onto one of those iron boats that
picked up iron ore in Duluth, Mn. and hauled it to Inland Steel, Indiana. Then back to Duluth for another load. July, Aug. & Sept. E’nuf of that.
Back to the Mobil station. . . then into U. S. Navy – Nov. of ‘55. Some of my Navy days consisted of building another TV station on Adak,
Alaska, operating a garbage barge for U.S. Navy, converting a Navy Picket boat into a sport fishing boat for Navy dependents in San Diego.
Winnecone Wi. newspaper/print shop, after U.S. Navy, was next stop . . .
other activities will be filled in — later. . . . much later.
‘Bout 1960 I got back to basics of printing at Milwaukee Vocational School.
Linotypes, Intertypes, Ludlows and more.
What’s a point?
What’s set width?
What’s % of ink color reduction?
United States uses a measurement system based on inches, feet, yards etc.
For typesetting, 72 points = 1 inch. 1 point = .01387 thousandths of 1 inch
rounded up to .014 thousandths of 1 inch.
Aril & Arial Narrow typeface used in examples below.
6 pt. type = ..084 thousandths of an inch.
Sample left is
6 pt. type = .084 thousandths of an inch. It’s used in advertisements, usually at the bottom, items that advertisers are required by law to reveal/publish BUT don’t want you to read nor understand. Also used in legal forms requiring signatures and Credit Card Co. rules about the use/payments etc. that You agree to before using the service.
Technology for type composition
using computers, 1973 era. allowed
composition of text to “squeeze” the
set width of characters - by
selecting a “Narrow” typeface.
Around 2009, technology offered commands to auto-squeeze
any type face to desired width.
Some states have a minimum point size
for classified and legal documents
type, however, no state has
established a minimum set width that
this author is aware of.
“squeeze” the set width of characters.
to make sure –
/\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\
you can’t read certain
type – 100 % black ink – 60 % = 40 %
for black. If still readable – reduce
it another 10% or 20%.
Below line = 7 pt. Arial typeface.
Example of how things work in publishing world - legal forms, magazines and newspapers.
Example of how things work in publishing world - legal forms, magazines and newspapers.
Example - ^ above = 7 pt. Arial Narrow typeface. Publishers (2001) also have another tool
@ their fingertips. The ability to “squeeze” spaces between words.
Most difficult to read where one word stops and the next starts. No - I don’t have that
feature on my internet page.
8 pt. type = .112 thousandths of an inch.
10 pt. type = .140 thousandths of an inch.
12 pt. type = .168 thousandths of an inch.
14 pt. type = .196 thousandths of an inch.
Composing (composition) Stick
Above is Capital Letter “B” Foundry type — See “NICK” on character.
Composition “stick” was designed for persons – “right handers” - therefore held composing stick in left hand. Usually held in left hand
allowing right hand to pick type characters from the type drawer (down page) one character at a time. I’ve seen a good typesetter pick two or
three characters at a time. Note: in between the word “Art and” is a space, then after the word “and” a word space is being held with the left
thumb. Possibly this line will get blank spaces inserted to fill out to upper edge (above thumb) top end of composing stick. Typesetter will
then choose a “lead” or “slug” of desired thickness and length and inserts next to the type and spaces. The next line will start next to the
adjustable measure guide. (under the Cap letter “A”
Adjustable line length clamp is adjustable to desired length of line required.
Lifting a lever allows movement to longer measure, then re clamping lever down again.
Adjustable Composing Stick
This shows how adjustable guide is operated plus how “hand stick” is held.
Note spaces between each word plus a “lead” between the bottom of top line and second
line (typesetter’s thumb). This process continues until “stick” is full. Type will be
transferred onto metal galley tray – typesetter will continue with more typesetting
from type case below. With completion of typesetting accomplished a proof of type
in galley will be created on proof press. (down page) Proof read for errors. Correction
performed right on galley and then type can be placed into square iron frame known
as a “chase” – type will be held in “chase” by block of wood “furniture” then “quoins”
inserted between the furniture and “chase” frame - “keys” will be expanded with
“quoin key” – then chase placed onto platen press.
Each letter in the headline was an individual character molded from lead, more commonly known as foundry type. The process was called
"hand stickin’ type." You set the characters of foundry type, side by side, upside down for the headline in a long metal tray referred to as a
stick or type galley. (metal tray made of heavy steel with 1//4” sides on 3 sides – leaving the end of the tray open so type could be slid off of
galley tray into a form. If the line of characters were too long for the space intended in the newspaper you would distribute those characters
back into the type drawer and go to the next smaller size type face and reset the line again.
After a couple days of this, you got to know which type would fit into a given space.
The makeup person would determine the length of line and typeface that should fit. He would place a white chalk mark on the metal galley
where the line should end.
The foundry type (above) came in many different sizes – from 5 pt. (like classifieds ads in newspapers) to 148 pt (like 2” high headlines in
The average size of text in news stories appearing in a newspaper is 8 pt type – 8 pt type.
§ § § § § § § § § §
The next lesson to learn is were all these characters were stored in the below drawer. Capital letters were easy BUT lower case, ligatures, punctuation were a total mess.
(see California Job Case below:)
I never got a real explanation on why they were all mixed up.
I did find out that the “e”, being the most used vowel, required a larger space for storage.
California Job Case Type drawer(below) has 89 separate spaces for storage of characters
Some spaces for lower case letters were larger — used more often in
Larger type sizes were divided into two drawers — with larger spaces.
When selecting a drawer of type, you always pulled the drawer directly below your selected type drawer 1/2 way out. Then if you had to get to numbers in the top row of your type drawer and pull the drawer out too far – it would fall to the next drawer – not all the way to the floor,
creating one hell of a mess – which was called “pied type.” Those who pied a drawer got the opportunity to clean (redistribute) the
characters to the correct square storage area within the drawer
On Their OWN Time!
Type (fonts) characters were stored in large drawers called California Job cases. These drawers were 32"
wide x 17" deep x 1.5" high which were divided into many different size spaces. Larger spaces for vowels
and spacing materials. Smaller spaces for consonants, numbers, ligatures, punctuation and special
characters. Most drawers of type had 89 separate spaces. The larger type was divided between 2 drawers
. Caps in one drawer and lower case, the other. You would stick all caps required for the headline, close
that drawer and select all lower-case to complete the headline. As many as 60 drawers were in a type
Above the 2 columns of type drawers are vertical stacks of 1 and 2 pt. leads use as space between lines
of hand set type. Many different lengths - from 6 to 24 picas. Above them, the angle storage squares held
different brass spaces used for spacing between characters within the words - to justify the lines of type
in a composing stick when required
This print devil had to stand on a stack
of three CoCa-Cola cases to reach the top 4 drawers.
(That's when a short bottle of Coke cost 5¢.
The cooler for the Coke was a large square tin box w/ folding covers.
¼ chunk of ice was delivered, via horse drawn wagon,
every other day for 10¢.
(Print Devil automatically got elected to empty pail of water from cooler every 2 days)
“Hand set” type is composed up-side-down on a type galley. (picture right)
Place the galley onto a proof press, roll ink on face of characters with brayer (roller), place sheet of paper on type then move (large roller) impression roller across paper.
Large roller in Proof Press picture (below)
Type will read correctly – (upper half of picture - right) > > >
Proof press (left) was invented around 1810
Type shops in the country used them until photo composition
arrived in the 1960’s
Present day hot metal type shops still use them
(believe it or not– hot metal typesetting is alive and well)
The trade is taught at
located in Denmark, Ia.
§ § § § § § § § § §
What the hell is a “HELL BOX” ?
The Hell Box keeps track of lost type and broken parts.
Never know what you’ll find in there!
§ § § § § § § § § §
Cold Beer Here!
Another print devil daily duties was take two empty pails to the corner pub,
(Ye' Olde’ Oak Tavern on square – Marinette, WI.) and have them filled with beer.
A ritual performed each day when the newspaper was "put to bed." (Placed onto the press)
[Print Devil was automatically elected to get the pails filled.]
All comp room personnel would locate their mug, gather around this huge flat stone table (below)
where pages were "made up" (imposed/assembled) and partake in “swilling” of beer.
The barkeep traded 2 pails of beer for 2 FREE newspapers —
compliments of the newspaper publisher.