The Mann & Sturdevant Type Caster


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1. Significance

The type casting machine developed by Michael D. Mann and [Stephen or John] Sturdevant for Elihu White stands out as the first type casting machine in America to find any real commercial use before Bruce's development of the pivotal type caster. We know that it was used at the three type foundries associated with White ( White's Type Foundry (NY), the Buffalo Type Foundry (Buffalo, NY), and the the Cincinnati Type Foundry. In particular, we know that in 1834 the Cincinnati Type Foundry was using eleven of these machines, and by 1836 had was using fifteen. It isn't unreasonable to extrapolate a total count in excess of thirty machines in these three plants - a fair number of type casting machines for the 1830s, when no other type casting machines were in operation. It probably was also the first type caster to be operated by steam. Yet this machine is usually ignored in histories of type.

It should be seen in the context of its backing by Elihu White. White had a lifelong interest in typecasting machinery, dating to his own early work with William Wing circa 1805 . In the 1820s, he began backing type caster development in a serious way. (David Bruce, Jr., estimated that he spent a total of $50,000 on this work, which would be about $1.23 million today. {Bruce 1874/1981}, p. 53) The machines White backed in the 1820s and early 1830s were:

Bruce says of Mann & Sturdevant's machine that "in truth [it was] the combination of Mr. White's own experience of a life time." {Bruce 1874/1981}, p. 54.

We know nothing at all about the physical details of the 1831 Mann & Sturdevant machine. No illustration or detailed description survives. This Notebook gathers what we do know.

The first name of the Sturdevant associated with this machine is not known with certainty. Nor is it clear if this Sturdevant was the same individual involved in the Sturdevant & Starr machine for the Boston Type Foundry in 1825-1827. See the discussion of this matter in the Sturdevant & Starr Type Caster Notebook for the evidence on this.

2. Sturdevant & Starr (1827)

John Sturdevant previously had been involved in the development of a type casting machine at the Boston Type and Stereotype Foundry. See: Sturdevant & Starr.

The extent to which there was a relationship between Sturdevant's work with Starr in 1827 and his work with Mann in 1831 is unknown.

3. David Bruce, Jr.'s Comments (1874)

David Bruce, Jr. writes of this machine several times in his memoir which was later published as History of Typefounding in the United States. {Bruce 1874/1981}. Since this is our primary source of information about the Mann & Sturdevant caster, I'll quote them all here.

"In this foundry [the Wells foundry which became the Cincinnati Type Foundry] Mr White introduced his machines & reciprocated with his N. Y. foundry in any discoveries that were being made. Inthis foundry they attempted to use steam power in their propulsion, but it was only as an experiment." (p. 40)

"After employing in his [Elihu White's] foundry at one time a bevy of projectors [that is, inventors], the result of all was, the machine patented June 8 1831 [Eckman corrects this to January 7, 1831; the patent was actually granted to E. White] under the name of Mann & Sturdevant but in truth the combination of Mr White's own experience of a life time

"This Mann & Sturdevant machine was the one he was compelled to finally adopt & certainly was a stride in the right direction. But whatever was its economy in use, the circumstances of its porousness of the type cast therefrom - rated it as an inferior article. Its product was from fifteen to sometimes twenty five per cent lighter than hand cast type, & stood as a prejudice against its use. Its inclination to crush down under the impression made it very objectionable, and unreliable particularly in standard works.

"Although Mr White held out profit inducement for their adoption by the other founders they all stood aloof & thus stood the reputation of machine cast type till the year 1836 or 8, the year of Mr White's death. [Eckman notes White died 1836-11-07] With the exception of the three foundries, Cincinnati, Buffalo and his own in New York foundries where he held a controlling interest, it was unused." (pp. 53-54)

[In his list of patents:] "Mann & Sturdevant vertical type casting machine New York Jan 8. 1831" [Eckman corrects this to 1831-01-07. Also, the patent was issued to E. White.]

[Writing in the context of the introduction of his pivotal type caster:] "Far from belittling Mr White's type machine or any disrespect to his memory, it must be confessed Mr White's machine cast-type was held in low repute with the Printers, & although he made tempting offers to the existing founders for its more general introduction he could not overcome their scruples. It was in vain he advocated its porousness, or its fifteen or twenty percent lightness as an absolute gain to the Printer. They wanted something more reliable. David Bruce Jr. vainly tired to direct the serious attention of founders to his new, & as he considered - improved machine. They were incredulous, and then machine type had obtained a bad odor, which had to be overcome." (p. 62)

4. US Patent 6,323X

David Bruce Jr.'s citations for the patent for this machine all contain errors. Dr. James Eckman identified the correct patent date: January 7, 1831. The Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents at further identifies this as a patent granted on that date to Elihu White (patentee) with Michael D. Mann and Stephen Sturdevant, both of New York, NY, as "assignees". DATAMP further gives the title as "Type casting machine" or "vertical type caster". It has been assigned the US "X-patent" number 6,323X. {DATAMP 6,323X}

Lucien Alphonse Legros, in his long 1908 paper for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (London), writes as if he had seen a copy of this patent:

"The U. S. Patent of M. D. Mann and S. Sturdevant of 7 Jan. 1831 shows a pump with a spring-propelled plunger." ( Legros 1908, p. 1033)

5. Use in Cincinnati

Deming's Cincinnati Directory for the Year 1834 says of the Cincinnati Type Foundry that "There are in this establishment 11 machines for casting type." These can only have been Mann & Sturdevant machines, since the Bruce/pivotal caster had not yet been developed.

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6. Bibliography

{Bruce 1874/1981} Bruce, David, Jr. History of Typefounding in the United States. Ed. James Eckman. (NY: The Typophiles, 1981). This is a modern edition of a manuscript prepared by David Bruce, Jr. by 1874.

Bruce's "History" is really more a rambling (but very valuable) personal memoir. As it is exceedingly difficult to find things in it, I've put together an index of it.

{DATAMP 4,908X} The Directory of American Tool and Machine Patents ( "DATAMP": Entry for X-patent 4,908X, "Mechanical type casters" / "Improvement call the mechanical type caster", patented October 23, 1827.

{DATAMP 6,323X} The Directory of American Tool and Machine Patents ( "DATAMP": Entry for X-patent 6,323X, "Type casting machine" / "Vertical type caster". Patentee: Elihu White, New York, NY. Assignees: Michael D. Mann, New York, NY and Stephen Sturdevant, New York, NY.

{Legros 1908} Legros, Lucien A. "Typecasting and Composing Machinery." Proceedings [of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers]. 1908, Parts 3-4. London: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1908. Pages 1027-1222.

See the entry for this paper in the Notebook of General Literature on Making Printing Matrices and Types for digital reprints.

{Deming 1834} The Cincinnati Directory for the Year 1834. Cincinnati, OH: E. Deming, 1834.

Online at the Virtual Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County:

Ringwalt, John Luther. The American Encyclopedia of Printing. Philadelphia: Menamin and Ringwalt, 1871. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott and Co., 1871.

Silver, Rollo G. Typefounding in America: 1787-1825. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1965.