Mergenthaler Linotype Company records


Creator: Mergenthaler Linotype Company
Date(s): 1876-1974, undated
Call Number: MSS 0520
Language: Materials entirely in English.
Abstract: The Mergenthaler Linotype Company developed and manufactured the first modern, functional "line casting" machine. The company records include correspondence, promotional material, histories, chronologies, photographs, drawings, patent records, and assorted parts and supply catalogs.
Physical Description:
  • 8 linear feet (8 boxes)
  • 1 oversize removal
Immediate Source of Acquisition: Purchase, 1985
Processing Information: Processed by Ryan L. Roth,March 2006. Encoded by Maureen Cech, October 2010. Additional encoding by Jaime Margalotti, November 2019. Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical and Historical Notes

The Mergenthaler Linotype Company arose during the nineteenth century out of a number of mergers and takeovers of related businesses. The company developed and manufactured the first truly modern, functional linotype machine. Originally invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1884, the Linotype machine cast solid lines of type with matrices, eliminating the need for stocks of metal type, and replaced manual line composition with keyboard composition.

On November 25, 1891, the Mergenthaler Linotype Company of New Jersey assumed all American rights of the National Typographic Company and its licensee, the Mergenthaler Printing Company of New York. Philip T. Dodge, formerly the patent attorney for Remington, was elected president. Early manufacture and sale of Linotype machines grew dramatically: from ninety-seven machines during the ten months of the first fiscal year to 690 by 1894. Within three years, the company boasted one hundred daily newspapers as customers. In December 1895, the company reincorporated as the Mergenthaler Linotype Company of New York, and assumed all the properties and franchises of the previous Mergenthaler Company. Despite its shared name, the Mergenthaler Linotype Company emerged as a distinct corporate entity from inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler.

During its early years, the Mergenthaler Company aggressively defended itself against patent infringements, but by 1912, most of the original Linotype patents had expired. In 1913, the Intertype Typesetting Machine Company (formerly the International Typesetting Machine Company and later the Intertype Corporation) developed and marketed a similar machine, known simply as the "Intertype." In fact, many of the parts of the two machines were interchangeable. By 1954, an estimated 98,000 Linotype machines had been produced worldwide. Eventually, cold type processes, which reproduced letters without using hot, i.e., metal type, rendered the Linotype obsolete. Domestic manufacture of Linotype machines ended in 1968.


Romano, Frank J. Machine Writing and Typesetting. Salem, N.H.: Gama Communications, 1986.

Thompson, John S. History of the Composing Machine. New York: Garland, 1980

Scope and Contents

The Mergenthaler Linotype Company archive contains five linear feet of material, spanning the dates 1887 to 1954, with the bulk of the material from 1900 to 1923. The collection represents only a limited portion of the company's history. The extant archive includes correspondence, promotional material, histories, chronologies, photographs, drawings, patent records, and assorted parts and supply catalogs. The collection is organized into four series: I. Company Historical Information, II. Photographs and Technical Drawings, III. Legal Records, and IV. Manuals and Catalogs.

Series I. comprises one linear foot of material of general interest, which traces the growth of the Linotype Company from its modest beginnings through a period of tremendous growth and influence. Some of the material was marked "historical" in the original office files. Several chronologies and general histories provide basic, factual information about the company. Much of the material appears to have been compiled in retrospect for distribution in the company's Linotype Bulletin. Several letters address the growing need to provide accurate information about the company's history. The series also includes a bound volume of typescript correspondence and reports from E. E. Bartlett, which relate to his attendance at the 1926 International Typographers Council Conference in Paris. Included in the volume are three photographs of conference participants.

Of particular interest is a paper strip from James Clephane's original paper matrix experiments, which led to the development of the Linotype. Also included are three one-letter matrices from a Linotype machine, and an early piece of correspondence on letter-head stationery, signed by Mergenthaler, which reads "Ott. Mergenthaler…Designer and Manufacturer of Electrical & Meteorological Instruments." With this exception, primary material related to Ottmar Mergenthaler is not included in the collection.

Series I. also contains one folder (approximately twenty items) of material related to Paul A. Bennet, who served as director of typography for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company for thirty years until his retirement in 1962. It includes memoranda relating to the history of the Linotype machine, and other memorabilia, including postcards and stamps from the centenary of Mergenthaler's birth.

Series II. contains photographic prints and negatives depicting printing equipment and facilities of the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. The company appears to have used the material for promotional purposes and possibly patent applications. The series also includes two technical notebooks and six small sketches of machine parts.

Series III. contains approximately 1,249 official United States government patent assignments transferred to or otherwise acquired by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, arranged chronologically, from 1876 to 1920. Each patent transfer is approximately two pages; technical details have been omitted. The transfer records names of the original patent holder, the transferee, and the date. Accompanying this material is a card index arranged by name of the original patent holder. Although index entries are based on a previous filing system, all cards include dates so that individual patents can be traced. Included are also several licensing agreements and documents (some lists) relating to foreign and domestic patent assignments.

Series IV. contains an assortment of approximately one hundred manuals, instruction books, and catalogs that address the care and maintenance of type casting machines. The series is divided by manufacturer. Much of the material is undated, but spans the 1920s to the 1970s. The series provides detailed parts lists and technical descriptions of machine mechanisms and operation for a variety of models. Also included (vide infra Mergenthaler No. 46) is the book The Power of Print--and Man (Brooklyn: Mergenthaler, 1936). Additional Mergenthaler catalogs and manuals are available in the printed holdings of Special Collections and may be searched via DELCAT, the Library's online catalog.

Using these materials

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-8: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

Removals shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

MSS 0520, Mergenthaler Linotype Company records, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

Related Materials in this Repository

Additional Mergenthaler catalogs and manuals are available in the printed holdings of Special Collections and may be searched via DELCAT, the Library's online catalog.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

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