Museum - Photographs : Printing



Labeled: Bremer, Ilion, N. Y. c1890.

A very unusual group photograph of print shop workers. Judging by the clothing and the type of image, my guess is c1890. I asked Toby Hall of the EAIA to take a look at this image in order to identify the people and equipment. After hanging out the laundry, Toby replied:

"1. The huge composing stick is for wooden display type that would be used for headlines or posters.

2. The seated man is holding a small composing stick. What you see is the bottom of it.  The end under his wrist has the characteristic curve of many composing sticks including those made by H. B. Rouse of Chicago, a major manufacturer of printer's equipment.

3. I looked in a couple of printer's supply catalogs and saw that they offered mallets, but it did not say what they were used for. That one looks a little heavy for tapping a planer. If I think of it, I will ask some veteran of a printing plant whether there was a specific job for a mallet.

4. The man seated at the center is holding a chase. That is an iron frame into which a form of type is locked.  By zooming in, I can see that there is a very small form in the center. It looks like about three lines of type, perhaps an address. On all four sides you can see rectangular pieces.  That is iron "furniture," which is spacing material used to fill the space between the form ( that which is to print ) and the sides of the chase.  On two sides, right and bottom there is a quoin. They are rectangular pieces formed by two triangles facing in opposite directions with ratcheted hypotenuses.  You stick a quoin key in between them and move them so as to make them wider as the triangles slide past one another.  By expanding in width, they lock up the form to hold the type in place.  The chase is then set into the press, ready to print.  The man holding the chase is probably the pressman.  All three women are holding composing sticks. Compositor was the principal job available to women in a printing shop other than clerical work.  Many of them were very good at it, and there were competitions in which the "swifts" participated."


Photograph. Cyanotype Print


Interesting image of a turn of the century printer. As this is an oval cyanotype print, my guess is that it was a trial printing of an image to be used in a magazine or book.


Toolemera Press