Benton's Vertical Pantograph for Patrices and Punches

(By July 1884)

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1. Overview

The second vertical pantograph by Linn Boyd Benton was an adaptation of his earlier patrix engraving pantograph to engrave punches in steel.

We know from a report in The Inland Printer, Vol. 1, No. 10 (July, 1884): 21; cited by {Cost, p. 61}. that by that date he was using a pantograph to cut punches in steel. (Cited by Patricia Cost { The Bentons , p. 61.}) Since I know of no source for details of his original patrix-engraving pantograph, I cannot say for certain how much this punch-engraving machine differed from it. Bullen says that the patrix-engraving machine was transformed to a punch-engraving machine in an evening with a slight change in cutting tools, but his account is almost certainly wrong ( see below).

This punch cutting machine is described in Benton's 1885 patent.

When constructed in its preferred form with a stationary cutting head facing upward and a moving workholder above it (holding a patrix or punch blank facing downward) the machine uses a relief right-reading pattern to produce a relief wrong-reading patrix or punch.

2. Chronological Issues

There are at least two important unresolved problems in the chronology of the Benton punch-cutting pantograph:

The first problem is determining when Benton began to use his earlier patrix-engraving pantograph as a steel punch engraving pantograph. The story that this occurred due to a visit by Phillip T. Dodge of the Linotype company has been repeated in several accounts; it would seem that it dates back to Henry Lewis Bullen. The problem is, it cannot be true. The questions of when and why the machine became a punch-engraving machine remain unresolved.

The next problem is determining when the various typefoundries, matrix making firms, and composing machine firms who had leased the Benton machines returned them. For each, it is also important to know if or when they introduced an alternative machine of their own (or third-party) design (all of the composing machine companies did). If in any case there is a gap between these dates, then we have the open question of how it was that they were making matrices during this gap.

2.1. Mergenthaler Linotype Involvement

2.1.1. The Problem, and Its Background

Henry Lewis Bullen, writing in a biographical article on "Linn Boyd Benton - The Man and His Work" ( Inland Printer, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Oct. 1922): frontis, 60-64) tells a compelling story about the role of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in the transformation of Benton's patrix-engraving machine into a punch-engraving machine. The only problem is that it cannot be true.

By way of background, a brief chronology of the "pre-history" of the Linotype is important. Ottmar Mergenthaler's first two machines in this line of development were small devices intended to produce a lithographic plate (finished circa 1877) and later a directly impressed stereotype ("papier-mâche") strip (finished circa 1878). These were followed by a much larger machine, the "first band machine" of 1883 which employed vertical patrix bars, each with a complete alphabet in relief, to impress entire lines at a time into a stereotype strip. The method of direct stereotype impression was then superseded by the "second band machine" (demonstrated in October 1884) which employed vertical matrix bars, each with a complete alphabet in intaglio, against which a line of type was cast. This introduced one of the two core principles of the Linotype (the slug, or "line o' type"). The principle of the recirculating matrix (which became the other core principle of the Linotype) emerged in the "Blower" Linotype of 1886; this was a machine which achieved limited commercial production. Mergenthaler remained unsatisfied with it, however, and produced what was in essence the modern Linotype in 1889 (first as the "Square Base" machine of that year, and later as the "Simplex" or Model 1 Linotype of 1890). On the business side of things, the most important date for the present story is 1885, when the syndicate controlled by Whitelaw Reid took over Mergenthaler's company. However, it may also be significant that Philip T. Dodge acted as patent attorney both for friends of Mergenthaler before the Linotype and for Mergenthaler himself from 1884. Dodge later became the president of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and was responsible for a number of technical advances in the Linotype.

2.1.2. Cutting Steel in 1884

With that as context, here are the main points of Bullen's story: He says that Benton's partner, R. V. Waldo, went on a sales trip to New York to pitch Benton-Waldo "self-spacing" type to the New York Tribune (Whitelaw Reid's paper). During this trip he mentioned the Benton pantograph engraver. This sales trip was unsuccesful. But Bullen continues:

"Waldo returned to Milwaukee, and soon after Philip T. Dodge appeared on the scene. The Benton punch-cutter [sic] was shown to him. It had never cut in steel. It was cutting in type metal, for Benton was using electrotyped matrices. When asked if his machine could cut in steel, Benton said he did not know. ... [but Dodge convinced Benton to try, and Benton succeeded overnight] ..."

"... When Dodge saw Benton the next day that memorable punch was ready for him. By a slight change in the cutters the steel was cut and Dodge's question was answered affirmatively. Soon after Benton received an order to cut ninety steel punches. These were satisfactory. The Mergenthaler Linotype Company and Benton entered into an agreement for leases of Benton's machines."

It's a great story, but it founders upon one fact: by July 1884 the Benton pantograph was cutting punches in steel (and had announced this in the best known trade journal of the day). At that time Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune and his syndicate of newspapermen had not yet taken an interest in Mergenthaler's work, and Mergenthaler himself still had not demonstrated his "second band machine." The dates just don't line up.

2.1.3. Delivering Machines in 1889

Cost cites an interesting pamphlet dated circa 1889 from the Benton-Waldo Type Foundry, "Benton's Punch Engraving Machine," which lists a number of customers leasing his machine and which provides dated testimonials (pp. 67-69). Her citations from this document indicate that "The first Benton punch-cutting machine to be leased was shipped to the Mergenthaler Printing Co. on February 13, 1889." (p. 67) At this time the "Square Base" Linotype was just entering its brief production. This date is confirmed by a page surviving from Benton & Waldo records, as published in Rehak's Practical Typecasting (p. 109). This page indicates that on Feb. 13, 1889 the Mergenthaler Printing Company of Brooklyn, NY leased Benton-Waldo machine no. 3.

It would seem that the Linotype company had previously been purchasing punches from the Benton, Waldo Type Foundry. Basil Kahn, in Ottmar Mergenthaler: The Man and His Machine (2000) discusses the situation when Reid's syndicate took over the operation of Mergenthaler's Baltimore plant in 1888 and appointed Charles H. Davids as superintendent. Kahn says that "[Davids] also complained that production of the small pica machine had been delayed because Benton, Waldo and Company had supplied defective punches and many had broken in use." (p. 60)

Kahn also cites from Reid's papers: "On 10 January 1888, Reid wrote: 'Please send on to the above address [Benton, Waldo in Milwaukee] at once at least 100 steel blanks of the proper size for cutting a long primer or a small pica face." (p. 48)

In his autobiography, Mergenthaler writes of matrix making during the production of the Blower Linotype but before his resignation in 1888. He says that punches "had to be engraved by hand at a cost of $5 per piece" (p. 29) He acknowledges that these hand-engraved punches were "far inferior to those later produced by the Benton & Waldo type engraver" but says that "There was no machine existing at that time [1886-1888] by means of which these stamps [i.e., punches] could be engraved at a small cost with an absolute certainty of maintaining their size and shape." (p. 29) This is an interesting remark, because it indicates that in the 1886-1888 timeframe Ottmar Mergenthaler was unaware of the Benton, Waldo machine (of course this does not necessarily imply that Philip T. Dodge, his patent attorney, was also unaware of it). Mergenthaler continues by noting that he "went to work designing an engraving machine" but abandoned this after he learned of the Benton, Waldo machine.

The "Blower" Linotype of 1886 went into production using electroformed matrices. Carl Schlesinger discusses this in detail in one of the appendices to his edition of Mergenthaler's biography (pp. 103-112). Electroformed mats were used from March to August 1886, after which time Ottmar Mergenthaler began punching matrices in brass (using, as his autobiography indicates, hand-cut punches).

These events narrow the period during which the Linotype developers could have learned of Benton's punch-cutter. They cannot have known of it before late 1886, when Mergenthaler began using hand-cut punches. Reid must have known of it by at least February 1888, when he ordered punch-blanks to be sent to Milwaukee. Mergenthaler himself never learned of it until after his resignation in April, 1888.

So at some point circa 1887 Reid and/or Dodge learned of the Benton machine. By early 1888 they were ordering punches from Benton, Waldo & Co. In early 1889 they received under lease a punch-cutting pantograph for their own use. All of this is very interesting in terms of assessing the influence of the Benton pantograph on the development of the Linotype. None of it contradicts the possibility that Dodge might have visited Benton, Waldo & Co. to see the machine (but circa 1887). It says nothing, however, about any influence of Dodge or the Mergenthaler Printing Co. on the Benton pantograph's development, because the Benton pantograph had been cutting punches in steel since 1884. Bullen's story that Dodge prompted Benton to adapt his machine to cut punches in steel cannot be true.

2.2. Who Leased the Machines?

Cost (p. 68) cites information from a brochure by the Benton Waldo Type Foundry's, circa 1891, for leasing the machine. It includes dated testimonials of users of the machine. Cost cites from this brochure the following "companies that had already leased" the machine:

Cost quotes from only one of the customer testimonials, that of "L. C. Bright of London" on Sept. 18, 1890, who wrote of two "Punch Cutting Machines" installed in Manchester. This must therefore be the English Linotype Company (which later became Linotype & Machinery, Ltd.) who established a plant in a "disused cotton mill in Manchester" from December 1889 to their move to a new plant in Altrincham in 1897 (Kahn, pp. 173, 223).

Cost (p. 69) also quotes from this brochure the full text of a letter of November 3, 1890 from Tolbert Lanston, at that time "superintendent" of the Lanston-Type-Machine Co. of Washington (which became the Lanston Monotype Machine Company of Philadelphia). Lanston was at that time engaged in the development of early prototype machines; the Monotype as later known was redesigned by Bancroft in the 1897-1900 timeframe.

In Practical Typecasting (p. 109), Rehak reprints a page from the Benton, Waldo & Co. day book from before 1892 which lists companies (not necessarily all the companies; this is a single page) which rented the machine. These are:

It is interesting to note that four of these firms were composing machine manufacturers, who must have been using the machine as a punch-cutter for manufacturing matrices for their machines. The other two firms are unknown to me, but to judge from their names they must have been using the machine as a patrix engraver for electroforming matrices.

It is also possible that the English typefounding firm of Stephenson, Blake installed a machine. Ray Millington reports this in his book on the firm (p. 82). Millington does not firmly date this event, however, saying only that it was "six years" after Benton first offered the machine. If we take 1885, the date of its British patent, as a possible date for this first offer, that would put the acquisition of a machine in 1891. This seems reasonable. Interestingly, Stephenson, Blake acquired a Schokmiller pantograph in 1906.

It is possible to interpret Millington's account so as to suggest that the independent punchcutter Emile Bertaut had a Benton machine himself. However, I think that this is unlikely given the high cost of leasing the machine (up to perhaps half a million dollars in modern terms). See the Notebook on Emile Bertaut for a discussion of this.

2.3. When Were the Machines Returned?

In Practical Typecasting (p. 105), Theo Rehak says that one of the several mutual conditions under which Benton agreed to merge his foundry into American Type Founders at its amalgamation in 1892 was the recovery of "all B&W devices leased to competitor firms, mainly Linotype and Monotype" (although Monotype in 1892 was not yet producing a machine commercially). He says, further, that this condition was "eventually accomplished."

A great deal hangs on that word, "eventually." In 1885, the date of Benton's original US patent, the duration of US patent protection was 17 years. It therefore expired in the US in 1902. I believe that the duration in England was at that time 14 years ( Encyclopædia Britannica Twentieth Century Edition, Vol. 18 (NY: The Werner Co., 1902): 354.) It therefore expired in the UK in 1899, unless it was extended (I have no information on whether or not it was).

The English Linotype Company had developed a machine of its own, designed by Mark Barr, by 1900. ( Legros & Grant, p. 204 & Plate V.)

It is not clear to me that the Monotype Corporation Limited (UK) ever used a Benton machine. The firm was established in 1897, but lacked manufacturing capacity and relied on imports from the US until the establishment of its own works at Salfords in 1899. Frank Hinman Pierpont (an American who had been one of the witnesses signing the (in)famous Paige Typesetter patent and who had later gone to Germany to promote the Rogers Typograph) became Works Manager "in early spring" of that year. ( The Monotype Recorder (Spring, 1937) : 13, 15). The Benton patent expired in the UK in October of 1899. Pierpont developed a machine of his own, which is illustrated (but not dated) in Legros & Grant, p. 205-206 & Plate VIII. Since "The [English Monotype] Corporation's first fount, Series 1, was issued to the trade in 1900." ( The Monotype Recorder (Autumn, 1950) : 2). I think it quite likely that they simply started with Pierpont's machine. I should emphasize, however, that I do not know for certain.

I do not know the dates by which the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and the Lanston Monotype Machine Company developed their own machines. he biographical memoir on Pierpont in ( The Monotype Recorder (Spring, 1937) , p. 15, makes it clear that the Lanston Monotype Machine Company was using Benton-Waldo machines, although it doesn't say when.

It seems clear, however, that the composing machine firms leasing the Benton machines did not necessarily return them immediately upon the amalgamation of ATF in 1892. It seems likely that "eventually" might more nearly correspond with the expiration of the 1885 Benton patent.

3. Technical Literature

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US Patent 332,990 (1885)

US patent 332,990, "Punch-Cutting Machine." Issued 1885-12-22 to Linn Boyd Benton. Filed 1884-02-29 as application serial No. 122,534.

This is a local PDF of the patent assembled from lossless PNG conversions of the original TIFF files from the USPTO.

The USPTO scanned its entire patent collection at 300dpi bi-level (an entirely inadequate resolution) and then deliberately destroyed the originals. While it is possible that an original printing of this patent survives in a library or private collection, no high resolution digitizations are presently available. The British version of the patent, below, is a much better resource.

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GB Patent 11,895 of 1885

Great Britain patent No. 11,894 of 6 October 1885, "Improvements in Mchines for Cutting Punches and the like." Issued in the name of Alfred Julius Boult on behalf of Linn Boyd Benton. These were scanned by me from an original printed copy through the courtesy of printer, typefounder and matrix engraver Mark Knudsen (Elmwood Press).

Here, in two scans, is the Plate from this British patent.

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Clicking on the icons above will bring up a reduced resolution (2048 pixel wide) JPEG version of the image. This is entirely sufficient for ordinary web viewing. However, given the importance of these drawings in the history of type-making, here are the original 1200 dpi RGB PNG scans (they are quite large files):

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Legros & Grant (1916)

An extract of the portions relating to the Benton pantograph engravers from Legros, Lucien Alphonse and John Cameron Grant. Typographical Printing Surfaces. (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1916.) 600dpi greyscale JPEG images converted from my scan of an original printed copy (88 Megabytes). It isn't a pretty scan, but it's a lot higher-resolution than Google's.

Here are full-resolution (1200 dpi greyscale PNGs) of the figures from Legros & Grant which show the engraving machine itself. There are no photographic plates of the machine in the book; just drawings.

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4. Other Illustrations

Here is the punch-cutting pantograph engraving machine (stationary cutterhead, moving workpiece) as shown in 1900 as a floor-standing model. This to all appearances identical to the machine shown in a photograph on the cover of the Benton Waldo Type Foundry's circa 1891 brochure for leasing the machine (as reproduced in Cost, p. 68).

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(From De Vinne, Theodore Low. The Practice of Typography. (NY: The Century Company, 1900.) p. 351. Digitized by Google from the Harvard University copy.)

5. Bibliography

Bullen, Henry Lewis. "Linn Boyd Benton - The Man and His Work" Inland Printer, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Oct. 1922): frontis, 60-64

This article has serious inaccuracies in a number of areas, not just the one discussed here. See the presentation of it in the Linn Boyd Benton Notebook for links to discussions of some of these problems.

Cost, Patricia. The Bentons: How an American Father and Son Changed the Printing Industry Rochester, NY: RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2011.

Kahn, Basil. Ottmar Mergenthaler: The Man and His Machine New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 2000.

Legros, Lucien Alphonse and John Cameron Grant. Typographical Printing Surfaces. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1916.

Millington, Roy. Stephenson Blake: The Last of the Old English Typefounders . New Castle, DE & London: Oak Knoll Press & The British Library, 2002.

"Frank Hinman Pierpont: A Memoir and a Tribute." The Monotype Recorder Vol. 36, No. 1 (Spring 1937): 13-22.

The Monotype Recorder Vol. 39, No. 2 (Autumn 1950): 2 [issue title: "Fifty Years of Type-Cutting: 1900-1950"]

Schlesinger, Carl. "A Talk by Carl Schlesinger on Ottmar Mergenthaler, Inventor of the Linotype at the 1994 Conference of the American Typecasting Fellowship." (unpublished typescript dated 1993, with annotations from its presentation in 1994)

Schlesigner, Carl, ed. The Biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler, Inventor of the Linotype. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, 1989.

Mergenthaler dictated his autobiography in the third person to Otto Schoenrich and published it anonymously as the Biography of Ottmar Mergenthaler and History of the Linotype: Its Invention and Development (Baltimore, MD: [for the author], 1898). Schlesigner's book is the authoritative modern edition of it, with the addition of significant additional editorial and historical material.


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