The Burleson Linotype is the last surviving piece of equipment from the Burleson News (later Burleson Dispatcher), which served Burleson, Texas from 1900 to September 25, 1985.
The Linotype sat undisturbed in the vacant newspaper building until 1999, when the City of Burleson moved the machine outdoors to restore the historic structure. Robert Griffith, who knew nothing about printing, found the Linotype in July 2005 and accepted the task of preserving it. The City of Burleson moved the machine into a city warehouse on January 27, 2006, and restoration took place from March 3, 2006 through early 2009. In the process of restoring the machine, Griffith learned the heritage of Burleson's first newspapers and came to appreciate the history of his hometown.
The Indelible Ink
Historical Narrative of
Burleson's First Newspapers
June 21, 1895
So, what is a Linotype?
The Linotype revolutionized print communication in 1886 when Ottmar Mergenthaler’s aptly named contraption (Line-o-Type) made its debut in the composing room of The New York Tribune. For centuries, “printer’s devils” had hand-set type by plucking individual letters, numbers, and characters from cases. The Linotype allowed a single operator to set and cast type with ease.
On a Linotype, small molds called matrices are released with the press of a key. Assembled, the matrices move across the machine to a pot, where hot metal is squirted across them to form a solid, legible line of type. Once the line has been cast, the matrices move further up the machine to a distributor which reinserts them into a specific slot in a magazine, ready for reuse.
Linotypes were standard in composing rooms for a century. The Mergenthaler Linotype Company manufactured and sold tens of thousands from its factory in New York City and from agencies around the world. As the Industrial Revolution forever changed transportation with the automobile, the Linotype ushered in the golden era of letterpress printing.
Replaced by a series of technological advancements beginning in the 1950s, the Linotype all but disappeared from newspapers by the late 1970s. The Burleson Dispatcher was one of six newspapers still utilizing the “hot type” method of printing when it closed on September 25, 1985. Linotypes are still found in Texas, some in museums, but many are hidden in the shops and garages of men and women who learned a respect for an old way of printing.
Linotypes, when cared for, will run forever. Can we say the same for our automobiles, computers, or cell phones? In a world in which technology seems outdated the moment it leaves the factory, Linotypes were dependable, efficient machines.
Special thanks to Dan Williams, Gary Haas, Tim Coursey, Rick Roper, Walter Moten, Mike Beard, Michelle Griffith, and Ken Shetter for their assistance, support, and steadfastness in the restoration of the Burleson Linotype.