Why exhibit a Linotype in a museum?
By Robert Griffith, February 2009

While the term "printing press" is somewhat familiar, most are unaware how complicated some forms of printing could be. The Linotype revolutionized printing, consolidating type-setting, casting, and redistribution into one versatile machine. However, revolutions in technology during the 1950s and thereafter made the Linotype and much of the printing industry obsolete. Consequently, these machines disappeared from professional shops, some bound for the scrap heap, some for smaller shops and the garages of collectors.

A few Linotypes went to venues like the Museum of Printing History in Houston, Texas. And while no one knows how many are left, it is easy to assume the more time passes, the fewer there will be.

The Burleson Linotype came from one of the last "hot type" newspapers in Texas. It is a monument to the newspaper it served and to the families which kept it going. In a broader sense, it honors the era in which it ran, when Burleson was growing from five-hundred to more than ten-thousand residents. It is this for Burleson, and for the handful of museums I have found them in across Texas.

The non-functional Linotype...

...represents a town's heritage, the millions who labored in print shops and newspapers, and signify one of the greatest achievements of the Industrial Revolution. It can, given its inventor's Germanic pedigree, demonstrate the contribution of immigrants to the United States.

The functioning Linotype...

...demonstrates a marvel of the Industrial Revolution. The lines it produces can be sold as souvenirs or given to eager children and visitors. The Depot Museum in Henderson, Texas sells personalized lines of type for $2. Wouldn't it be neat to feel your name in metal? To the tourist, what better souvenir than a slug of type available in very few museums the world over?

The average Linotype requires about seven square feet, with a foot of buffer space for maintenance around each side. The machine requires a sturdy floor which can support at least 2,500 pounds. The electric motor which drives the machine requires either 110 or 220-volts. If the machine has an electric metal pot, a licensed electrician should be hired to inspect the pot and hook it up. If using a gas pot, locate a professional who can hook it up to a reliable natural gas supply. If maintained according to the Linotype Maintenance Manual (MLC, 1940), Linotypes are safe and dependable. To ensure the safety of visitors, make sure a docent is present to discourage tampering. Signs and a rope barrier should be all that is needed to keep visitors and the machine safe.

Linotypes and Presses in Texas Museums

Model 14 Linotype at the Childress County Heritage Museum, Childress

Model 31 Linotype at the Museum of Printing History, Houston

Model 8 Linotype at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore

Model 31 Linotype at the Depot Museum in Henderson

Model 14 Linotype at the McLean Alanreed Area Museum in McLean

Partially disassembled Model 8 Linotype at the Roaring Ranger Museum in Ranger

Model 15 Linotype at the Buffalo Gap Historic Village in Buffalo Gap

Babcock Cylinder Press, Coolidge

Chandler & Price Platen Press, Coryell County Museum, Gatesville