Who had linotypes in the early twentieth century?

Hi folks!

Is anyone familiar with the spread of hot-metal type in the early twentieth century in regards to small town weeklies (or aware of any sources to reference)?

We have copies of a weekly six-page paper from 1920-21 Ukiah, CA and I’m trying to determine if they would have hand-set or machine set type.

Could a small-town weekly afford a linotype/monotype etc circa 1920?


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By 1920 Linotypes had been on the market for over 30 years, and would have been the work-horse of virtually every small newspaper. Even if they couldn’t afford a machine and hand-set a portion of their type, much of their type for printing would have been supplied from subscription agencies in slug form or stereotypes made from Linotypes. Being as close to San Francisco as Ukiah is, I have no doubt that second hand machines were readily available from larger shops in the city. The headlines and much of the advertising might have been hand-set. By comparing the type-faces used in the paper with Mac McGrew’s book you might be able to determine exactly what types were used, and what method was used to cast it. For example, if the text type is consistant throughout the paper, the chances are that they had an in-house machine. If the text type varies considerably, then they relied on outside sources for their type or plates.


Two clues that may indicate linecast composition (and not the highest quality) are hairlines between characters, and occasional characters that have inconsistant baseline alignment. On the other hand, if there are any characters that are upside down, or word-space workups, it would have to be individual types.

If composed with spacebands that are all alike (the norm), Linotype composition is ordinarily evenly word-spaced. Hand compositors often would not bother to get in or drive out the line with exactly even spacing in rushed or ephemeral work, taking care only to alternate lines in which extra spacing had been added: if at the beginning of one line, then at the end of the next. In narrow measures, such as newspapers, spacing tends to be irregular anyway, but this may still help you distinguish between machine and hand composition.

You may also find “sorts” used in the setting which are or are not available on the Lino, as a clue.

Hope this helps, Brian