The Automatic Paige Typesetter

The Automatic Paige Typesetter

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The Automatic Paige Typesetter
     Many people believed that the Paige typesetter was printing of the nineteenth century. One person who literally put everything he had into it was Samuel Taylor Clemens better known as Mark Twain. Mark Twain was the principle money investor of the automatic Paige typesetter. Twain thought that his investments in the machine would make him richer, but it turned out that the typesetter did the exact opposite.
     James Paige invented the automatic Paige typesetter around 1877. The typesetter was said to have the power of four men’s jobs. It was not only going to be the greatest invention of the nineteenth century, it was going to make publishing companies a fortune by cutting down on time and initial printing costs. In 1877, Dr. George F. Hawley signed a contract with Paige to use his typesetter and the Thompson distributor, another machine that sorted printed papers, to combine them into one machine.
     The “Chicago Herald” tested the combined machine, or Paige compositor. The machine was roughly eleven feet long, three and one half feet wide, and six feet high. It weighted nearly 5000 pounds, and the power it needed was transmitted through a round belt to a grooved pulley 14 inches in diameter. The machined used about 1/4 to 1/3 horse-power and it could be started and turned up to speed with one finger at a 7-inch leverage. The compositor was particularly made for newspaper printing work. It did all the work of distributing, setting, justifying, and had mechanisms that were adjustable to any width of column desired for newspaper or bookwork.
     Although the compositor seemed like a good idea it had many defects and over 18,000 mechanical parts that were not always in working order. James Paige put a great deal of time, effort, and money into his great invention. Mark Twain himself invested and lost 50,000 dollars in the machine. Despite the efforts of everybody involved with the compositor, the Linotype machine hit the market earlier and was more cost effective.

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     Mark Twain took a big gamble on the typesetter when he invested his fortune into it. James Paige and Mark Twain had a great deal of pride and confidence into the invention. Even though the invention failed it did provide ideas for printing machines to other inventors of that time. Mark Twain may have lost a big amount of money on the machine, but he gained it back elsewhere. Altogether the typesetter was a good effort by James Paige.


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