Gutenberg’s movable type was fine in the older, slower days, but by the late decades of the 19th century, the printing systems based on his invention were hardly suited to the production of hundreds of copies of a paper every single day. No newspaper in the world at that old pace could assemble more than eight pages in any single issue. German machinist named Ottmar Mergenthaler stepped up with a solution – a machine that cast entire lines at a time in bronze, allowing quick print production and replication.
On this day, July 3, in 1886, in the Park Row composing room of the New York Tribune, Mergenthaler debuted his linotype machine. Tribune’s Editor Whitelaw Reid saw the first slug come out from the machine and was said to have exclaimed “Ottmar, you’ve cast a line of type!”, thus forming the machine’s name.
The first linotypes used by the Tribune had 90 keys total, with the black ones on the left in uppercase, the white ones on the right in lowercase, and in the middle blue keys with fixed-with spaces, symbols and numbers.