Monday, April 25, 2011

Newspaper Story

Made in 1914, this painting shows newspaper consumers at their task.

{Caption: Subway riders, New York City, 1914, by F. Luis Mora, The Sun Printing & Publishing Assoc., Sunday, Dec. 13, 1914"; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

When I was in elementary school we'd be taken on field trips once or twice a year. One memorable time the yellow buses drove thirty miles south to Manhattan and deposited us at the building where men wrote, printed, and published the New York Times. I recall highlights of the visit. We saw the huge, noisy Linotype typesetting machines, the paper matrices from which the curved printing plates were made, the gigantic rolls of paper and the even more gigantic presses into which they were fed, and we saw the assembled, cut, and folded stream of newspapers flowing out of the press to the circulation room. It was mind-boggling to my ten-year old eyes. I loved to see men working at big noisy machines and loved the transformation of text from typed sheets of paper, first to lead slugs, then to the big, curved printing plates, and ultimately to printed newsprint. It was pretty clear how the miracle was accomplished, but my new knowledge of the stages of production didn't take away my sense of awe in what the men and machines were able to do.

A little before then, in 1950, Encyclopedia Britannica Films brought out a short documentary called "Newspaper Story" which might have been seen in classrooms like the one I occupied that year (but not ours, since we had filmstrip projectors, but never, that I can recall, saw motion pictures in class). The sixteen minute film is hokey in a pleasantly 1950ish way, but what it shows about newspaper printing is clear, accurate, and just as fascinating to observe now as was the awesome field trip of some six decades ago.

The video brings back not just the sights, but the sounds of the newspaper enterprise in full operation: ringing phones, clicking typewriters, chattering telex machines, clanking Linotype typesetters, screeching stereotype plate trimmers, and the dramatic acceleration of the press cylinders. I recommend you give it the six minutes it takes to watch it:

{Alternative source: Newspaper Story (1950) on Internet Archive. Here's the description given in IA: "Steps in the completion of a newspaper story from recording the incident through the taking & finishing of pictures, writing, editing, setting in type, printing the paper & distributing it are depicted. Produced by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, Inc. in collaboration with Kenneth E. Olson, LL.D, Northwestern University."}

I wrote about the class trip once before. In that post I showed photos taken in the New York Times building in 1942. The post is NYT Sept 1942.

Here are some photos from an earlier time. It's surprising that the manufacture of newspapers changed so little in the years between the 1890s and the 1970s.[1]

1. This shows the New York Herald Building in the early nineteen hundreds. I've written before about its location on Herald Square.[2]

{Herald Building, New York, N.Y., Detroit Publishing Co. taken between 1900 and 1910, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

2. The Herald's press room took up most of a city block along Broadway from 35th to 36th Streets. It was on ground level and large Italianate windows looked in on it.

{Herald Building, looking into press room, New York, N.Y., Detroit Publishing Co., taken between 1900 and 1910, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

Here are some close up details of the people watching the giant presses at work.

3. This one is not a detail from the previous image, but taken by a Bain photographer at the same time.

{New York, N.Y., watching the Herald presses, Herald Building, Detroit Publishing Co., taken between 1900 and 1910, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

4. This shows the rotunda at the front of the Herald Building, where people came to place ads and transact other business.

{Newspaper publishing - N.Y. Herald: The rotunda, N.Y. Herald Bureau Office, 1902, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

5. This shows the Herald's City Room.

{City room of the New York World, taken between 1900 and 1910, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

6. This shows the composing room with its Linotype machines.

{Newspaper publishing - N.Y. Herald: Composing room and linotype machines, 1902, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

7. This shows the machine on which the Linotype operators worked. It's an 1896 Mergenthaler. Continually improved, this equipment was used until the 1970s when photocomposition began to replace it.

{source: MuseumVictoria}

8. As the video shows, the type slugs produced by the Mergenthalers were locked together to make up a page of type (plus headlines, illustrations, and elements that the Linotypes couldn't produce). This forme, as it's called, is used to make stereotype printing plates that can be mounted on the rotary presses. This photo shows men making the plates. It's called the "electro" department because the making of stereotype plates was called electro-stereotyping or electrotyping for short.

{Newspaper publishing - Electro Dept., N.Y. Herald, 1902, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

9. This is a paper mat from which the stereotype plates are made. The mat itself is created by pressing a wet cardboard onto the forme. The mat is dried and bent into a casting drum.

{Newspaper Publishing - A mat, N.Y. World, ca. 1902, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress }

10. This postcard illustrates the manufacturing of stereotypes for the printing of newspaper pages at the Philadelphia Record.

{Making stereotype plates; source: Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City}

11. This photo shows one of the massive presses in the New York Herald press room. The Herald, like most big papers, would have half a dozen of these. For example, by 1909 the New York World possessed a couple of 32-cylinder presses (16 paired cylinders for printing on both sides at the same time), plus two smaller presses for color work, and 11 other presses. Not counting the color presses, the capacity of the World operation was well over half a million 16-page papers an hour.[3]

{Newspaper publishing - N.Y. Herald: Corner of press room, 1902, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

12. This Double Octuple perfecting press is a smaller version of the pair of 32-cylinder presses at The World.

13. In the 19th-century newspapers evolved from sheets of type on paper, to complex layouts of graphics and type. First came simple engraved line drawings in black ink, then half tone images from drawings or photographs, and, as the century came to an end, full color work. This image shows the photo department of the New York World in 1909.

{Newspaper Publishing - Photo Dept. N.Y. World, 1909, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

14. By the end of the 19th century advertising was as important to a paper's success as were its sales to readers. This photo shows part of the advertising operation of the New York Herald in 1909.

{Newspaper Publishing - Advertisement Bank in Composing Room of N.Y. Herald, ca. 1909, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress }

15. This shows part of the Herald's advertising department in 1902.

{Newspaper publishing - N.Y. Herald: Where the advertisers reply to the advertisements - the advertising dept., 1902, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress}

16. Newspapers were sold by subscription, by newsagents at subway stations and other strategic locations, and of course by newsboys -- and girls. This photo was taken by Lewis Hine as part of his extensive campaign to establish and strengthen child labor laws.

{2 newsgirls. Location: Wilmington, Delaware, taken by Lewis Wickes Hine, 1910 May, George Grantham Bain Collection; source: Library of Congress }


Some sources:

Newspaper Gallery Nieman Reports, Nieman Foundation, Harvard University

Mergenthaler Linotype Company on wikipedia

Linotype machine on wikipedia


The new Herald Building presented a very rare and, in some respects, a unique architectural opportunity, of which, upon the whole, Mr. Bennett's architect has taken admirable advantage.


THE WALTER PRESS; OUTLINE OF ITS PRINCIPAL FEATURES. THE NEWEST AND MOST PERFECT METHOD OF NEWSPAPER PRINTING--THE PROCESS OF STEREOTYPING--THE WAY IN WHICH THE MACHINE PERFORMS ITS WORK. New York Times, March 10, 1875. I propose in the following pages to offer some account of the newest and most perfect method of newspaper printing, with such observations as may occur regarding the influences which it is having, and is likely to have, upon the press and the people.

A NEWSPAPER AT HOME; "THE TIMES" AT LAST IN ITS NEW QUARTERS. THE ROOMS WHERE ITS BUSINESS IS TO BE CONDUCTED AND EDITORIAL AND MECHANICAL WORK PERFORMED. New York Times, April 8, 1889 More or less accurate descriptions of the new building of THE TIMES appeared last Winter in difference publications. As the descriptions were obtained, generally, from the plans rather than from the building, perhaps none of them did the building justice.

What Printing Has Become; Marvels of Newspaper Making Nowadays, The Sun, New York, March 7, 1909

Printing in the Nineteenth Century by Theodore L. De Vinne of the De Vinne Press, The Evening Post, New York, January 12, 1901.

Many Details Involved in Making a Modern Newspaper, Geneva Daily Times Thirtieth Anniversary and Industrial Edition, 1925

NOTABLE EDITION MARKS TIMES BUILDING OPENING; Story of Great Structure Told in Special Supplement. AN ENGINEERING MARVEL Total Weight, 82,923,000 Pounds -- 80,000 Field Rivets Used -- 74 Miles of Electric Wire. New York Times, December 31, 1904. THE NEW YORK TIMES, to commemorate its removal to its new building in Times Square to-morrow, will publish one of the most notable newspaper editions on record.

The Newspaper Workshop, Special Supplement to the New York Times, January 1, 1905

Stereotype plate making

Photography and the Black Arts

The Old Grey Lady: The Way It Was by Robert D. McFadden (This article first appeared in Ahead of The Times, an in-house Intranet site of The New York Times.)

The Penny Press, 1830-1860

History of the printing press: The nineteenth century from The Great Republic By the Master Historians, Vol. IV, edited by Hubert H. Bancroft (1902)

"Printing and Publishing" in Six thousand years of history , Volume 10 (E. R. DuMont, 1899)

"Evolution of the Printing Press" in American printer and lithographer Volume 17 (Moore Publishing Co., 1893)

"The Physical Basis" in The Daily Newspaper in America: The Evolution of a Social Instrument Alfred McClung Lee (Psychology Press, 2000)

"Story in a Newspaper" in The wonder book of knowledge: the marvels of modern industry and invention, the interesting stories of common things, the mysterious processes of nature simply explained by Henry Chase Hill (New York, J. C. Winston Co., 1921)

Rotary Printing Press and Autographic Printing History

Printing press

Linotype History: 1900—1927

Ottmar Mergenthaler

Typesetting Machine - Mergenthaler Linotype Model 1 Line Casting, 1896

"Marvels of the World Pressroom" in The World almanac & book of facts (Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1909)



[1] Compare the EBF video to this description of the New York Times operation in 1905: The Newspaper Workshop, Special Supplement to the New York Times, January 1, 1905

[2] Here are links to the three Herald Square posts on this blog:

[3] From an account published in 1909:
The World's two latest improved double octuple, duodecuple and quadriquadruple combination presses, with central folders, are not only the two largest presses The World pressroom ever received, but they are also the largest in any pressroom in the world. Each of these presses is practically four quadruple presses in combination, yet they can be operated as four units, or separate quadruple machines independent of each other, or as a double octuple or two separate octuples, or two sextuples with color.

These presses are 37 feet long, 12 feet wide, 10 feet 6 inches high and weigh 160 tons. They are from entirely new designs, and each press contains more than 75,000 pieces. The two presses (have 32 pairs of plate and impression cylinders, which require a complement of 256 plates, weighing 12,600 pounds. They carry 32 rolls of paper 73 inches wide. As each roll weighs about 1,500 pounds, twenty-four tons of white paper are required to start both presses The composition rollers, 560 in number, weigh fourteen tons. The two presses have 32 ink fountains, each containing 100 pounds of ink, a total of 3,200 pounds, or one and three-fifths tons. Twenty-four paste fountains paste the papers.

At a running speed these monster presses will produce 400,000 four, six or eight page papers an hour; 200,000 ten to sixteen page papers, all inset and delivered folded, pasted and counted in lots of fifty; 100,000 eighteen to thirty-two page papers, all inset or composed of two uneven sections, at will, as one paper, or 50,000 thirty-six to sixty-four page papers, composed of four even or four uneven sections, all delivered as one paper. In addition to this the presses will print in color.

To The World's pressroom a new color press has been added, a duplicate of the eleven-cylinder, multi-color, half-tone, electrotype web press already used to print the color magazines and comic sections of the Sunday World. These two presses, representing an outlay of $120,000, have a running speed per hour of 100,000 twelve-page magazines, with covers, printed in three colors and black, or 50,000 twenty-page magazines with a four-page comic. Many other combinations are possible. These color presses are 40 feet long, 12 feet wide and 16 feet high, and run from electrotype plates only.

The immensity of the combined capacity of the presses in The World's pressrooms may be judged by the fact that they will print 1,300,000 four, six or eight page papers an hour; 725,000 ten or twelve page papers; 675,000 fourteen or sixteen page papers, or 361,000 eighteen, twenty, twenty-two or twenty-four page papers, and the larger number of pages in proportion. To this must be added the product of the two large color presses.

-- "Marvels of the World Pressroom" in The World almanac & book of facts (Newspaper Enterprise Association, 1909)

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