My Linotypes

My interest:

I am the Historian for the Yamhill Volunteer Fire Department. While we have some evidence that our Fire Department was founded in September, 1896, very little written material has survived. As we approached our centenial in 1996, I started researching and documenting the history of our department.

My primary source was microfilms of local newspapers. In the late 1800's and early 1900's there were many small weekly newspapers and they seem to have started, flourished (or not), died, restarted, combined, split apart and changed names and/or owners fairly frequently. My initial research was with the North Yamhill Record which became the Yamhill Record in 1908 when the town dropped the "North" from it's name. I also read several others including the Carlton Sentinel from Carlton, a town 3 miles south of Yamhill.

In the July 9, 1926 issue of the Carlton Sentinel there was a front page announcement "Here Is 'That Surprise' We Promised You" accompanied with a drawing of a Model 5 linotype and a two column article describing their new machine. A week or so later, the Yamhill Record ran a small article congratulating the Sentinel and possibly expressing a little jealousy. On March 17, 1927, the Yamhill Record published a three column story on page one with a picture of a Model 8 linotype.

I was amazed that in the early years of the 20th century, there was a machine with a keyboard which was capable of casting in lead type, whatever was typed on the keyboard. Not yet hooked on linotypes, my interest was piqued enough that I recorded the announcement along with my fire department notes.

My attempts to acquire one:

At some point for I don't remember what reason, I did an internet search on "linotype" and discovered to my amazement that linotypes seemed to be available for the hauling.

I found Tom Conlon's HOT METAL HOME PAGE and started watching it. Unfortunately it seemed to me that all the machines were on the East coast or South Eastern US (or Hawaii). From Tom's HOT METAL HOME PAGE, I discovered the Briar Press web site as well as a couple of interesting lists to subscribe to: LETPRESS and BOOK_ARTS-L.

[Acquire C&P 10x15 press August 1998]

I saw John Hern's announcement in LETPRESS in October, 1998 that he had a working Model 14 available for sale in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Because of advice I had received from several knowledgeable people, I was looking for a "simple" machine - a single distributor machine without an auxiliary magazine - like a Model 5 or a Model 8 or a Model 31. Several advised me to skip Linotypes altogether and just get an Intertype. However, it was Linotypes that I was interested in and after having watched for several months, this seemed a rare opportunity. I exchanged e-mail with John a couple of times and decided to buy his Model 14.

A couple of days before I was to leave for Coeur d'Alene I received e-mail from John saying that the machine had been damaged in moving, so bring a big trailer because he had a second Model 14 "parts" machine that he was going to give me. I had been cautioned that if I acquired a non-working linotype there was a good chance I would never get it working. I relayed that to John. He agreed, but said the part that was damaged was the intermediate shaft and I simply needed to swap it with the one from the parts machine. The auxiliary magazine wouldn't work but few people used that anyhow. I probably should have backed out at that point but I didn't - I was pretty anxious to get a Linotype.

In Coeur d'Alene, I saw my first Linotype, John's Model 31. I was surprised at how large the cams were - much larger that I had expected from looking at pictures in Linotype books. When we had loaded both machines on my trailer, I started comparing them (the 2nd and 3rd linotypes I had ever seen) and noticed that the intermediate shafts were not the same length. I pointed this out to John who measured them and agreed that they were different, although the intermediate brackets looked the same. He suggested I could simply swap the brackets and straighten the shaft.

When I got them back to Yamhill and unloaded, and examined them I realized the "parts" machine was a 28 channel auxiliary with an auxiliary keyboard. The "good" machine was a narrow 34 channel auxiliary with the "bail box" behind the key reeds so it uses only one keyboard.

The "good" machine was damaged more than John (or I realized). The intermediate shaft was bent 6", the intermediate bracket was broken and the frame for the auxiliary magazines was broken in half-a-dozen pieces.

I started removing the parts and found out that the casting above the intermediate bracket, the one to the right of the magazines was also broken. No problem I thought; I'll swap the one off the "parts" machine. I spent pretty much a weekend getting the corresponding parts off the machines. I set them on the garage floor, admiring my work. My wife was the one who actually noticed that they were different. Because of the space required for the bailbox. the frame part on the "good" machine was not of the same height as the corresponding part on the "parts" machine.

Finally, I had a machine shop weld up the intermediate bracket, and the other casting and fabricate a new intermediate shaft. They did an excellent job, the parts are newly cleaned, painted and re-installed. The pins between the castings line up, its nearly back together.

The Saga Continues

I had jury duty starting in October, 1998. On Tuesday, November 3, when I was on lunch break, I went past Bennet & Miller Printing in McMinnville. There in their window was a Model 5 linotype on display. After lunch, I went back and stopped in and asked if I could look at their linotype. The receptionist said "Sure. You can have it if you want it." Well, guess what I said.

It took a couple of days of playing tag, but I finally got to talk to the owner. He said he had bought the business in July; Goal: get rid of the linotype by August. He said that he was young enough that it had no sentimental value for him and he needed the space. He had already talked to a scrapper who said he could cut it up and carry it out the front door. That was going to happen in 2 or 3 weeks. I begged him to not destroy the machine, I said I would remove it within his time frame. When the machine was initially positioned in the window twelve years earlier, the plate glass window was removed and the linotype was moved on a pallet fork and shoved into the window opening. Then the plate glass was re-installed. My plan was to do the reverse, remove the window, use a tow truck to lift the linotype out through the opening and onto my trailer and replace the plate glass window. The catch on the deal was that I had to take "everything" in the previous owners little print museum which included a New Style 10x15 C&P press, a 5x8 kelsey without rollers, an addressograph, a paper folding machine, and a small file cabinet on legs full of addressograph labels.

I took one day of vacation on Friday, November 6, and removed the Kelsey, the addressograph machine, the small addressograph cabinet, the paper folding machine and an antique 3 hole punch. Also removed on that day the extra empty magazine, the pi stacker and tube, the cast iron storage box, The full magazine.

That afternoon it was determined that removing and replacing the plate glass window was not an option. They couldn't legally remove and replace the plate glass window now because it would have to be replaced with safety glass, which would be costly.

I returned the next day with my copy of the "Linotype Machine Principles" book which has the section on "How to take down a linotype" and some tools. I worked for a couple of hours that day removing parts down to loosening the face plate casting. I had lots of trouble being unfamiliar with linotypes and their parts nomenclature. I had the catalog #22, Catalog #30, "Linotype Instruction Book", "Linotype Machine Principles" books with me but the instructions on disassembly were for a multiple magazine model 8 so the parts referred to were not clear.

I worked on disassembly, Wednesday Nov. 11, Veterans Day which I had off. I returned the following Saturday with my son Tristan and a friend, Kevin McLaughlin. At that time we removed the face plate, key reeds, keyboard, intermediate bracket and shaft, motor, motor support, and distributor shaft bracket. I returned Wed Nov. 19 to remove the machine with my son Tristan. It was stripped down to 39" width, jacked up, with skids bolted to the feet. We put it on a pallet jack and hauled it out. Tony the owner arranged for a local company to bring a fork lift and put it on the trailer. On moving day, it was pouring rain. Tony suggested we could shrink-wrap the entire machine. We did, it worked - almost no water on the machine despite a pretty heavy rain.

I had a chance to talk to the previous owner. He bought the Carlton-Yamhill News newspaper which was a descendant of the old Carlton Sentinel paper, when he came back from the Korean War. When he started Bennet & Miller, he moved the linotype from Carlton to McMinnville. That Model 5 linotype was the exact one that I had read about in the microfilms of the newspapers that I read when researching Fire Department history. That is the linotype that sparked my interest in linotypes. It was delivered to Carlton in July 1926 and now its in my garage. The previous owner said that when the machine was shut off, it was still working. It took me 6 hours over 3 days to take it apart. It took about 6 days over the next month to put it back together.

[linotype step, C&P miterer, pied type]

Initially since I had cut the wires to the motor when I disassembled it and it was cloth covered spliced 14 gauge wire, I added a box below the motor mount with a master on-off toggle switch, a convenience outlet.

I am slowly trying to get the Model 5 back into adjustment. I would be surprised if it really worked when shut off because it is so far out of adjustment. When I first powered it up, the cams just started turning. The automatic stopping pawl and the safety stopping pawl were so far out of adjustment that the automatic stopping pawl was missing the stopping lever. Rather than being 15/16" as called for it was around 1 5/16" clearance from the edge of the cam. Lots of other adjustments off similarly. The clearance between the collar on the drive shaft and the machine frame which was supposed to be 15/32 when the clutch was engaged was around 1/16. The only adjustment for that is leather clutch friction pads. When I looked at the square block, I noticed that the screw was on the bottom when the machine was at the "normal" position. Since the book explicitly stated that the screw should be "up" in the "normal" position, I removed it, removed the gear with the square block attached and re-installed it correctly. Now however when I turned the machine over by hand, I detected a distinct thump when the square block passed the hardened shoes on the cam. After fiddling with the adjustment for a while, I decided to remove the square block and look at it a little more closely. On inspection I discovered that someone maintaining the machine in the past rather than adjusting the hardened shoes on the cam as is called for in the instructions, had obtained the proper clearance by inserting a shim under one hardened face on the square block. I removed the shim, re-installed the mold turning gear in its correct orientation and adjusted the hardened shoes on the cam.

I was glad I had gotten the "parts" machine and it came in handy. When I had a question about something, I had 3 different machines to look at and it supplied some parts for both machines. John had said when I was done with it he wanted it back, not to scrap it out. It was in pretty poor shape, was stored outdoors - John said he was told "for a few months", but I suspect a year - it had vines growing all the way up through the column, mud dauber nests in the magazines, was vandalized by someone, had most levers broken off, top magazine frame broken, face casting broken, keyboard frame broken, Cam 10 broken, was frozen with rust although I have it freed up now.

Fuller Printing Linotype

In January, I saw email on the LETPRESS mailing list indicating that a linotype was available in Eugene Oregon.

After much discussion, I picked up a Model 31 linotype from Fuller Printing on Saturday Feb 20, 1999. After watching the weather forcast for several days and finally seeing a projected break in the rain, we had scheduled the trip for Saturday February 20. Return

At some point I received a call from a local Heidelberg sales person as I had earlier filled out some Internet form with my name, address and phone number as being interested in Heidelberg products. They are the owners of Linotype. I had a nice visit with him and explained that I was just a hobbyist interested in Old Linotypes. He mentioned to me that there was a company in Portland still using Linotypes. He gave me the name. In a few days, David Gardner and I went on our lunchbreak over to that company in South East Portland. They explained that they had had a linotype but had sold it a few months earlier to Advanced LetterPress in Portland. As far as they knew it was still being used. A few days later, again during our lunch break, we visited Advanced LetterPress where I met Bill Washburn, the owner. We talked about linotypes and he showed us his setup. He mentioned that he had a Model 31 that he was going to scrap n a week or so and that I could have it if I wanted it. Guess what I said. I told him that it would be several weeks before I could come get it but that I definitly wanted it. It was covered with a plastic tarp and sitting outside,

[Pickup model 31 Hydraquadder]

The Garage "Sale"

In February, with my garage pretty full, I decided to offer the extra equipment that I had picked up in McMinnville to whoever could use it. I posted the following announcement to the LETTERPRESS list on the internet:

Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 09:14:14 -0800 (PST)
From: William Spurling
Subject: Free C&P Press and Addressograph

I was recently given a linotype with the stipulation
that I remove everything from the former owners
little printing museum.

The following items are available to anyone who wants them:

Chandler & Price 10x15 New Style press SN: C65413
  with a counter and some form of automatic feeder.

>From the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation:
  Multigraph paper folder Model 1522 SN: 329367

  Graphotype Addressograph machine Model 6381 SN: 483303

  File cabinet for Addressograph labels approximately 36" tall
  18 small drawers

All are located in Yamhill, Oregon about 35 miles SW of Portland.

Bill Spurling
Yamhill, OR
I was immediately inundated with requests from as far away as Utah. I responded to each request indicating where they were in the queue and that if everyone before them turned it down, they would get it. One person, Norman McKnight from Philoxenia Press sent a suggestion about donating it to the Oregon College of Art and Craft. His email:
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 13:46:15 -0800
From: Norman Mcknight
To: William Spurling
Subject: your offer of a press

Hello Bill: I don't need a press, but I recently
came to Portland to get a printer's saw, a Portland
(ME) Punch and a number of other things; he had
several presses and a linotype model 31 in perfect
I told him to call the Oregon College of Art and Craft
which has a graduate book arts program. they knew
people interested in getting a press, but I don't
know if anyone followed through. OCAC is located at
8245 SW Barnes Rd Portland 97225. 800 390 0632;
Good luck, and thanks for sharing the information.
Norman McKnight.
Eventually, the equipment went to a printers cooperative in Olympia, Washington. As I thought about Norman's message and the "linotype model 31 in perfect condition", I decided to try to find it.

I sent e-mail to Norman asking if he had information on the linotype:

Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 10:36:54 -0800 (PST)
To: Norman Mcnight
From: William Spurling
Subject: Re: your offer of a press


I ended giving the press and the other miscellaneous
stuff to a printing co-op in Olympia Washington.  The
Addressograph and folding machine are destined for a
future printing museum in Olympia.

In your original response you made mention of a Model
31 linotype.  Was that something that was going to be
available?  If so, do you have any contact information
on whoever has it?

Bill Spurling
Yamhill, Oregon
Norman responded:
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 1999 20:23:16 -0800
From: Norman Mcnight
To: William Spurling
Subject: Re: your offer of a press

I can't believe I have been so remiss as to misplace
the name and address of the shop and its owner; I
gave the information on the Linotype to a California
man who owns 113 (yes, 113) working Linotypes; I
don't know if he went up to retrieve it. It was what
he called the Rolls Royce of Linos (Model 31), and in
perfect condition.
I have contacted a friend in Portland who first advised
me of this shop, and I have asked him to send me the
name and telephone to relay to you. I can't believe
it's still available, though, because the shop was
rented, and he needed to get it cleared out by the
first of the year or thereabouts. If the man from
Stockton didn't come up for it, it is probably debris
by now; I know he wasn't really in a hurry, so there
is still a chance. It's a big machine, after all.
I'll keep after my friend and hope we can put you
successfully in touch.
My response:
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 10:23:07 -0800 (PST)
To: Norman McKnight
From: William Spurling
Subject: Re: Model 31 linotype contact



Who has 113 linotypes?  Are they set up in a
museum situation?  I can't imagine someone still
using them for production type of work.

From Norman:
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 21:19:50 -0800
From: "norman mcknight"
To: "William Spurling"
Subject: Re: Model 31 linotype contact

Bill: the name of the heavy metal man is Lee Flood;
he is one of the numerous really eccentric characters
in letterpress, and probably stretches that definition
quite a bit. He has, I think, seven acres near
Stockton CA, and he houses his collection in a barn
on the property, and he calls the collection Lee
Flood's American Printing Museum.
He tells me he has some quite rare Linotypes,
including an extremely wide one used by the State
of California in ledger printing; I believe it
is unique.

 Lee Flood
 PO Box 5361
 Stockton CA 95205
 (209) 465 8891

I met this man once: he retrieved a very old Little
Giant from my shop, which I, under bad advice (my own),
accepted without a clue how to restore and operate it.
He removed it for another printer, and proceeded
to tell me, briefly, about his collection. I had this
verified by two others who know him.
I'll keep after my friends in Portland for the address
of the Linotype 31; they aren't real effective
at answering mail, but I'll try. nice talking to you.

The Watson Printing Company Linotype

Eventually, Norman gave me the phone number of his Portland friends and I was able to call them and talk about the linotype. They thought that it had been sold to City Liquidators in Portland. My friend David Gardner and I visited City Liquidators one noontime and wandered about their square block sized showroom of used office equipment and furniture, sure that if there were a linotype lurking among the file cabinets and desks that we would spot it. After several minutes of wandering, a salesperson asked if he could help us. I asked about a linotype, but drew a blank. I described the machine we were looking for and he said it must be in the print shop catty-corner to City Liquidators. We walked over to the print shop and there in their window was a Model 31 linotype. There was a sign in the window "Watson Printing Company closed due to death in the family. For information contact Michael White."
I returned to work and phoned Michael.  He indicated that his father had died unexpectedly in August, 1998.  We discussed the linotype which he thought was a Model 31.  He wanted it put into a museum. I offered him $100 for the machine and reluctantly, he accepted. I went over and met him.  The machine was still connected to the power, the pot was still hot.  Michael hadn't been able to turn his fathers machine off.
I shut the machine off and turned off the circuit breakers.  Later I disconnected and removed the flex conduit.  After measuring the door - approximately 40" (with the door jamb and casing removed,) I decided that I needed to partially disassemble the machine.  I removed the magazines, keyboard, elevating crank, vise, faceplate, the 2nd elevator.  I learned about the clock springs which support the magazines on this machine and how to adjust them.  Also had the experience of dumping a magazine onto my chest.
On removal day I got several friends, David Gardner who has done lots of carpentry to handle removing and replacing the door casing and jambs. Tristan, John Yates, Eli Goldman-Armstrong, Tom Hofland, Andrew Huot and my son-in-law Rafael Gaeta.  I had jacked up the Linotype and bolted 2x12 skids onto the legs.  We rolled to the door on 3/4" iron pipes. David was forced to use a reciprocating saw to cut a notch in the remaining door casing wood to allow the second elevator shaft support arms to pass out the door.  The trip back to Yamhill was uneventful.  I cleaned and painted each part as it was re-installed.  I had the Yamhill-Carlton High School shop prepare a 2x5" heavy brass plaque to install on the machine. It says
Don White
Owned, operated and maintained
this linotype for 50 years
August, 1998
Watson Printing Company
Portland, Oregon

At some point, I saw an advertisement in "The Printer" where someone was looking for a Model 14 with the narrow auxiliary to use as a parts machine for a model 18 or 19 that they were restoring for a museum in North Dakota.  I sent a letter to Leonard Spencer in California mentioning that I had a model 14 parts machine that might have useful parts for him. I received a nice letter back indicating that he may be interested in it. He also included pictures of the machine the was restoring and a copy of a talk he gave at the 1998 American Typecasters Fellowship conference. Leonard

[call from Lee Flood]

[took Model 14 to Lee Flood]

[Picked up Model 29 2 magazine mixer]

[purchased 3 Intertypes at Forest Grove]

[saw linotype on ebay]

[bid, won, picked up Model 29 Blue Streak]

[sold model 31 to Bill Hartman]

[gave Lee Flood 2 intertypes]

[Lee Flood gave me Model 8]

To Be Continued