Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), who had set type by hand in his youth, had believed that a mechanical composer was beyond the realm of possibility. In 1880, however, he invested $2,000 in an early typesetter invented by James W. Paige. Both Clemens and Paige dreamed of immense wealth that would be generated by selling thousands of Paige Compositors. Clemens' fame as an author and humorist lent a certain aura to the proceedings. Both men were sustained by an unshakeable belief in the ultimate success of the Compositor. Newspapers, toward the end of the 19th century, were keenly interested in a revolutionary device that would lower composition costs, increase profits, and expand the amount of reading matter. The Paige Compositor, with Clemens as its principal promoter, impressed both printers and publishers. Paige, though, tinkered with its design so frequently that no practical test of the Compositor could be undertaken until 1894. The machine, with its 18,000 parts, was judged to be too complicated and too expensive for practical use. Only two prototypes were built, and Clemens lost his $190,000 investment. The Paige Compositor approached the marketplace too late for serious consideration by newspapers and printing companies. Capitalists declined to finance it. By the mid-1890s, the state of the art had passed over the Paige and its brilliant capacity to set, justify and distribute foundry type. The Linotype, which composed type lines in a hot-metal process, became the popular machine at newspapers and printing offices. (Author/HTH)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (68th, Memphis, TN, August 3-6, 1985). Appendices may not reproduce clearly.
Nineteenth Century History; Paige Compositor; Twain (Mark); Typography