Who Cast with Which Casters?

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1. The Problem

Which type foundries used which casters? It's a complicated question, and since nobody was keeping careful accounts (and typecasting was at best a back-room business and at worst excessively secretive) much information has been lost. Here are a few notes (taking into account only US type foundries).

First, since the Bruce or pivotal type caster features prominently here, it should be noted that there was never any such thing as a standard pivotal caster. It was a general design, and each type foundry had their own machines made for them (or in some cases they made them in-house). Only a very few were ever produced commercially for sale (e.g., by Williams Engineering in England).

2. Central Type Foundry

The Central Type Foundry of St. Louis would have begun operations (circa 1870/72) using pivotal casters.

At some point by the late 1880s, they had imported some number of Foucher casters. (The Foucher, developed circa 1879, was the machine from which both the "System Foucher" Küstermann and the Barth casters derive.) In "The Typefoundries of the United States: No. III - The Central Typefoundry, St. Louis" ( The Inland Printer, Vol. 8, No. 7 (April 1890): 638) they are said to have "thirty-five machines, including the wonderful Foucher French type-casting and finishing machine."

The Central Type Foundry was amalgamated into ATF in 1892 and, presumably, its Foucher machines were then scrapped in favor of Barth casters. Their pivotal machines may well have been retained, as the "Hand and Steam" pivotal type casting section of ATF was large.

3. Cincinnati Type Foundry

The Cincinnati Type Foundry of St. Louis would have begun operations (1917) using hand molds, and at some point (probably in the 1840s) adopted pivotal casters.

In the late 1880s, Henry Barth developed his casting machine in-house. In general principle, though of course not in detail or implementation, the Barth type caster follows the Foucher.

Whether the Cincinnati cast entirely with these machines during the brief period betwen their development and the end of the foundry's indpendence, or whether they continued to use pivotal casters in parallel, is unknown.

The Cincinnati Type Foundry was amalgamated into ATF in 1892 and its Barth casters adopted by ATF. Whether any pivotal casters from Cincinnati made their way to ATF is not known (but it's likely enough that some did).

4. MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan

In 1895, the MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan published a commemorative volume under the title One Hundred Years to celebrate their centenary (dated from their origins with Binny & Ronaldson). By this date they had been amalgamated into ATF, but were still operating with their own identity.

In describing their foundry, they note that they have "sixty hand casting machines" (p. 59), by which they mean hand-operated pivotal casters, and "fourteen steam-casting machines," by which they mean power-operated pivotal casters.

In addition, they had more recently installed "automatic perfecting" machines, which they describe in this way:

"The first automatic perfecting machine used in this foundry was of German invention, and it cast, broke, rubbed, and set the type mechanically. Shortly thereafter serveral machines of English invention were introduced. Unlike the German invention, these machines discharged the type from the mould by a projecting body-pice very similar to the type itself. Passing through a channel and breaker, and making a turn in quadrant, the type was rubbed before adjustable knives, and a cutter took off the shoulder. It was then turned a second time and dressed. In the German machine the body of the type was carried horizontally, and in the English machine perpendicularly, and, among other things, saved a turn. One of these machines could produce on an average about sixty pounds of type a day.

"The automatic perfecting machine now most extensively used, with its improvements, many of which originated in this foundry, has not only all the good points of the old machines preceding, but many others which they did not possess." (63)

The text proceeds with certain particulars of the machines "now" used. The illustrations, which presumably show them, would appear to depict a relatively early version of the Barth caster. It is interesting that they claim to have manufactured these latest machines themselves. If these machines are Barths, and if this is true, it would indicate a very quick technology transfer from Cincinnati to Philadelphia.

So by 1895, MS&J had employed at last three different "automatic" casting machines: an initial machine from Germany, later machines from England, and a third kind of machine, probably the Barth. Presumably the German and English machines were used prior to the 1892 ATF amalgamation, and the other after.

5. Inland Type Foundry

The Cincinnati Type Foundry of St. Louis was started by sons of Carl Schraubstadter (who had co-owned the Central Type Foundry) in 1895, only three years after Central amalgamated into ATF. They were in turn purchased by ATF in 1912.

We know from a brief remark by Nicholas J. Werner, in Werner, N. J. "St. Louis' Place on the Type-Founders' Map." The Inland Printer. Vol. 79, No. 5 (August 1927): 764-766. that at some point the Inland Type Foundry sold "one of its improved model" type casting machines to a German type foundry.

It is not known when they developed this machine; it could have been as early as 1895.

No technical details are known of this machine, though given their experience with Foucher type casters it is reasonable to suppose some influence from them.

One presumes that ATF scrapped these machines upon purchasing Inland.

6. Barnhart Brothers & Spindler (1873-1911...)

Nothing has been recorded of the casting machinery used at Barnhart Brothers & Spindler.

Presumably, at their origin in 1873 they were using pivotal casters, as those were the only casting machines available in America at the time. It is likely that they continued to use pivotal casters, in part or entirely, up to the end of their independent operation in 1929.

In 1899, BB&S was assigned, at its issuance, US patent No. 629,751, "Machine for Casting Type," issued to Charles R. Murray on 1899-07-25 (filed 1898-02-24). This was a patent for improvements specifically noted as being for the Foucher typecaster. (The Foucher was developed in France around 1879, patented in the US in 1887 (US patent 359,779), and used at the Central Type Foundry at around that time.) While the issuance and assignment of this patent does not in itself prove anything, it suggests strongly that BB&S was using either Foucher machines or machines built along the same lines.

For speculation on casters possibly used after the acquisition by BB&S of the Western Type Foundry in 1912 see below.

7. Other 19th Century Type Foundries

With the following exceptions:

there is no record of any type foundries in America in the 19th century using any machines other than pivotal type casters. Most 19th century machine-cast type was pivotal-cast type.

8. ATF

ATF would have liked the world to believe that they used only their (justly) famed Barth casters, but this was not the case. Even after their consolidation of manufacture, first in Jersey City and later in Elizabeth, they continued to cast using both Barth and pivotal machines. Theo Rehak is quite clear, in Practical Typecasting, describes this in memorable terms:

"In the halcyon days of ATF the largest, busiest, and most intriguing casting bays were those in the Hand and Steam Department. Here, side by side and row after row, were the hand-cranked pivotal casting machines and their powered "steamer" counterparts (driven from pulleys and flat belts) which could cast anything [Rehak's italics] in a myriad of matrix-drives on 3- to 208-point bodies." (11)

See also the section on MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan (above) for their use in 1895 (three years after becoming part of ATF, but still in their own plant) of 74 pivotal casters together with what would appear to be newly introduced Barth machines.

9. Compositype

The Compositype was introduced in 1899, which puts it, just barely, in the 19th century. Its target market was the individual printer, not the professional type founder. It is possible (but unlikely) that some were in use in type foundries in the 19th century, and slightly more likely that some were so used in the early 20th century.

Alfred McCue, in 1909 ("Talks on Typecasting" Part II. Inland Printer, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Dec. 1909): 381-382), writes unkindly of its technical merits, but notes that "several hundred machines" were produced.

10. Keystone Type Foundry

Somewhere around 1904-1906, Charles Schokmiller built sixty typecasting machines of unknown design for the Keystone Type Foundry.

Keystone was purchased by ATF in 1917. One presumes that ATF scrapped their Schokmiller casters.

11. Western Type Foundry (and Advance Type Foundry)

The Western Type Foundry of St. Louis (not to be confused with Barnhart Brothers & Spindler's "Great Western Type Foundry") emerged around 1906 and was (confusingly) purchased by BB&S in 1918.

It is not known what casting machinery they employed. However, since their casting side was run by Charles Schokmiller, who had within the previous two years constructed sixty machines for Keystone, there is reason to suspect that they might have employed Schokmiller casters.

Also, in 1913 Western purchased the Advance Type Foundry (in Chicago) of Wiebking, Hardinge & Co. The Advance Type Foundry had been set up only months before using the newly developed Hardinge type casters.

The fate of these Hardinge casters, and of the presumed Schokmiller casters, is unknown. The Western Type Foundry was purchased by Barnhart Brothers & Spindler in 1918. BB&S was at that time owned by ATF, but was still operating independently. It was fully amalgamated into ATF and shut down in 1929. If these casters survived until the amalgamation into ATF, then ATF certainly scrapped them. However, they may also have been scrapped at any point along the way.

12. Barnhart Brothers & Spindler (...1912-1929)

(For this type foundry before 1912, see above)

Barnhart Brothers & Spindler had been purchased by ATF in 1911, but continued to operate until 1929 as an independent type foundry. There is no record of which I am aware of ATF supplying them with equipment.

It is possible that after their purchase of Western in 1912 they may have begun using either the Schokmiller type casters that one presumes Western must have had or the Hardinge type casters that Western had acquired from Advance Type Foundry, or both. However, to the best of my present knowledge no information survives about what they actually did.

13. 20th Century Independent Type Foundries

There were more independent type foundries in the US in the 20th century than people generally think. A few of these were survivals from the 19th century which escaped amalgamation into ATF; others were new.

The surviving 19th century type foundries which were not at some point purchased by ATF presumably continued using their existing (presumed) pivotal casters (for example Empire (1893-1970) and Kelsey (1898-1920)).

The newly established independent type foundries used a variety of equipment, some old and some new:

Only a few concrete details of a few particular instances are known. My general sense is that the Thompson and the Giant Caster formed the bulk of the equipment; add to this the Type-&-Rule caster and this trio certainly dominated.

There is no record of any Foucher, Schokmiller/Keystone/Inland, or Hardinge machines in use at 20th century independent type foundries.

The Hua-Nan and Man-Nen are attested only in the Chinese-language typefounding trade on the west coast of America, but the Koike saw slightly wider use.

At present I know of no European machines other than the Küstermann having been imported.

Although it is possible to punch a tape for a Monotype Composition Caster to cast fonts, this is not a productive use of the machine and it is unlikely that significant quantities of commercially available type were produced in this way.

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