Mysteriously deep historical impression…

At the frame shop where I work someone brought in a raggedy old piece of press board or blotter with the front page of a newspaper from 1939 printed so deeply that you can see all the shoulders of the type and the spacing material and stuff. The impression sticks way out on the back of the board. It looks like the worst possible thing you could do to type.

The woman who brought it in said that they found it inside the walls of their house and that there had been more of them, so it wasn’t just some kind of one-time mistake. She also said she thought the person who built the house had been in charge of offset at the local paper.

All I could think of was that it was some kind of stereotype thing or they were trying to clean the type somehow.

Can anyone enlighten me?

(the little scraps I have do not represent the entire piece very well, but give an idea…)


image: scrap1.jpg


image: scrap2.jpg


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Back in the late 60’s when i worked for a daily newspaper we would set the linotype and make up the pages then roll a mat (which this is) then the mat would go to the stereo dept. where they would curve it and fill it with lead to make a curved stereo plate which went on the press. Hope this helps. Dick G.

Absolutely! Thanks! I think the woman who brought it in will be pleased to know just what it is.

Stereotype was my second guess but I thought that the paper mold might somehow be destroyed during the process (or at least marred in some manner). Also I thought stereotypes were made with paper mache, not just thick paper. I think this was hand set.

The thing itself is really quite lovely as an object of aesthetic interest (at least to those of us who’ve never seen such things before). It has a wonderful textural (“text”ural) flakiness and has just the right amount of ink residue. And you can still read it. I think it will look quite nice framed. At the same time I chuckle to think what the old guard would think if they came across such a thing framed…

Technical name a ‘flong’ - now there’s a word for the Scrabble enthusiasts!

yep. looks like a flong.

Flong is the raw material for stereotype. Once it is rolled it is a mat. And after it is cast, somebody takes it for insulation!
Stereotypes weren’t just used for newspaper pages. They were also used for ad matter sent nationally; cheaper to send a light mat than a plate, and it allowed customization at the end: set the new matter, cast the stereotype and cut in the new matter and a local ad is ready to put in the form. It wass the clip art of its day, and the reason for ITU “bogus” work rules.
I have a pile of mats for office machine ads; ad slogans and halftones and specs of typewriters and adding machines, pressed into pnkor gray paper. There is a space for the local distributor’s information to be cut in, and the mandatory ISEU bug so it can be handled at a union shop. Quite a different world from today’s web marketing, and only 40 years ago.