The Central Type Foundry Pantograph

Typographic Matrix Engraving from the 1880s

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1. Identification

This machine was a pantograph engraving machine intended for the direct cutting of typecasting matrices. It is of considerable historic interest. This machine doesn't have a name (yet). I'm referring to it as the "Central Type Foundry" or "Central" machine because its first successful work was done at that foundry.

Very little is known of this machine, and much of what is repeated about it is clearly incorrect. Here, I'll try to summarize what I've been able to discover. See also:

2. Underappreciation

This is a machine which has not received sufficient credit for its accomplishments. The two most frequently cited contemporary accounts are both flawed, one because it is not well-informed and the other because it is almost certainly biased against any machine other than Benton's. Subsequent works frequently repeat these errors.

From 1898 to 1900, William E Loy wrote a very good series of articles in The Inland Printer under the general title of "Designers and Engravers of Type". (This has been reprinted in an excellent modern edition, with substantial critical apparatus and extensive type specimens, edited by Stephen O. Saxe and Alastair Johnston .) In his entry for Nicholas J. Werner (Vol. 23, No. 5 (August, 1899), Loy refers to this machine as a "routing machine" which "in a general way [followed] the process of the manufacture of wood type." This does not convey the true nature of the machine at all, and conflates it with pantographs for the direct cutting of type. The pantographs for the direct routing of wood type, while excellent machines in their own way, were not machines suitable for matrix engraving. To compare a matrix engraving machine to a wood type pantograph is to dismiss it.

Writing for The Inland Printer in 1907, Henry Lewis Bullen of American Type Founders (an important but notoriously unreliable source) said: "Metal-engraving machines had been made and used before 1885 in German, and William Schraubstadter made and used one in this country in 1881, but these all lacked precision and required to be supplanted by hand work." (517) {Quadrat [Henry Lewis Bullen]. "Discursions of a Retired Printer" No. 7. The Inland Printer. Vol. 38, No. 4 (January, 1907): 513-521.} This is incorrect on two counts: It attributes the design of this machine to Schraubstadter, and it asserts that the machine was insufficient. As will be seen later, the accounts of Nicholas J. Werner, who at one time was in partnership with the owner of this machine, indicate that while the machine was operated by William Schraubstadter (circa 1882, not 1881), he did not construct it. The fact that the experienced engraver Gustav F. Schroeder later chose to purchase this machine and set up a commercial matrix cutting business with it, producing many important types (including DeVinne), discounts the latter assertion.

Writing in 1975, Maurice Annenberg, in his authoritative Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs says "Central [Type Foundry] was the first to introduce new type faces that were manufactured by the aid of engraving machinery, invented by Linn Boyd Benton, using the intaglio or routing method of making matrices ..." (99). As I hope the evidence below will show, although Central would indeed seem to have been the first to do this, it was not through the use of Benton machinery.

In her comprehensive book The Bentons (Rochester, NY: RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2011) Patricia Cost draws what I believe is an unwarranted conclusion that "apparently the Central Type Foundry's matrix engraving machine was not adequate for the job." She bases this assessment upon two items: Bullen's 1907 statement (above) and the fact that in 1887 Carl Schraubstadter (William Schraubstadter's brother) published a well-known article on electroforming matrices in The Inland Printer. This is a strange pairing of evidence, as Schraubstadter's electroforming article has nothing to do with matrix engraving. (Further, it actually praises Benton's early work in machine engraving patrices for electroforming.) I would presume that the argument is that the only valid ways to make matrices are through the cutting or engraving of punches or (directly) matrices. This is simply not true. Matrix electroforming, whether from existing types or from hand or machine cut patrices, was an established technique employed by all foundries at the time (including ATF). In the 20th century, most of Lanston Monotype's display matrices were made by electroforming from machine-cut patrices. The fact that a typefoundry such as Central was competent in the electroforming of matrices is simply unrelated to the question of whether or not they possessed a viable pantograph matrix engraver.

Cost also implies that the fact that this machine was a "flat" pantograph rather than a vertical pantograph such as Benton's made it insufficient for the engraving of machines. This is unwarranted; several different horizontal-format pantographs have been used successfully for matrix engraving from the late 19th century through the present.

3. Information

The authorities seem firmly against this machine. We have in its defense primarily the word of one man: Nicholas J. Werner. He has, however, the twin advantages that he was present at the events at Central in the 1880s, and that he was in partnership with the owner of the machine after its time at Central.

3.1. Loy

Despite my objections to Loy's conflation of the Central machine with a wood-type router (see above), his 1899 article on Werner is the best place to start. Loy indicates that while Werner was at Central, he was responsible for many thing, including the production of several of their specimen books and the "the keeping of matrix and manufacturing records." He became technically proficient in (at least) the dressing and finishing of type, and was "respected" for his judgment on new faces and the fitting of their matrices. While still at Central, he developed the standard lining system later used by the Inland Type Foundry. (See the Saxe/Johnston edition of Loy, p. 110.) Even Bullen, who apparently did not care for Werner, admitted his role in the the standard lining system (Robert A. Mullen, in Recasting a Craft: St. Louis Typefounders Respond to Industrialization (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 2005) cites a fascinating hand annotation by Bullen on a printed version of one of Werner's talks which says, in part "To him [Werner], however, belongs all the credit for applying the standard lining system." (174))

In 1889, Werner and the matrix engraver Gustav F. Schroeder left Central to form a partnership, Schroeder & Werner, "both severing their direct connection with the foundry" (according to Loy in his article on Werner). At this time, Schroeder purchased this pantograph engraver from Central. Whether Werner had any direct legal ownership of the machine at this time I do not know, but as partner with Schroeder he was in practice co-owner of it. At this time, Schroeder also designed and had manufactured for them the Schroeder-Boyer Pantograph.

3.2. Werner. American Printer. (1925)

Werner wrote of the events of this period on several occasions. All of them, however, were reminiscences several decades after the fact.

In The American Printer (the bibliographic information I have says "Volume 79" in "1925," but volume 80 of Amer. Printer started in 1925) he writes:

[I STILL HAVE THIS ONLY FROM THE GOOGLE BOOKS SNIPPET VIEW:] "... together with the Geometric, Geometric Italic and Morning Glory being no doubt the first faces ever cut directly into matrices (the process that is now in vogue). Here William A. Schraubstadter, later part owner of the Inland Type Foundry, was operator at the engraving machine, which was imported from Germany. This was anterior to 1890 [date indistinct]."

This establishes three important facts: First, that the machine was a direct matrix engraving machine (not a patrix or punch engraver). Second, that for the three faces cited, the first typefaces in America the matrices for which were directly engraved by machine, William Schraubstadter was the engraver. Geometric was patented by Schroeder in 1882, two years before Benton developed his pantograph for engraving patrices for electroforming. Third, that Schraubstadter was not the maker of this machine, but that it was imported from Germany.

3.3. Werner. "St. Louis' Place..." Inland Printer. (1927)

Werner, N. J. "Saint Louis' Place on the Typefounders' Map," The Inland Printer, vol. 79, no. 5 (August, 1927): 764-766. (Reprinted in the CircuitousRoot Notebook on Nicholas J. Werner) [1]

In this article Werner discusses both hand cutting of steel punches and the hand engraving of patrices. He then proceeds to discuss machine engraving:

"In due order machines were invented for cutting both steel punches and metal master type, which made it possible to produce new faces with still greater speed and also, through the means of pantographic devices in the machines, to make the faces more accurate and conformative in design in all the sizes of a series. One of the earliest of such machines found its way to Saint Louis from Germany in 1882 and enabled the Central Type Foundry to push the making of original faces. Up to the time of the formation of the American Type Founders Company, only one other foundry (a small concern in Milwaukee) engraved new faces with the aid of machinery. So here we may again record pioneer work in Saint Louis.

"A still more modern method of producing matrices now in vogue in type foundries is that of doing away with punches and master types. this consists of engraving the character into a matrix direct, a process rendered comparatively easy for the expert by the engraving machine. Here again Saint Louis was the scene for the pioneer work of this sort in the United States, the matrices for the Geometric, Geometric Italic, and Morning Glory, three quite popular faces at one time, having been the first that were produced in this manner. This first work on this machine was done by William A Schraubstädter, who was then an apprentice in the Central Type Foundry. The patterns used as guides ifor the pantographic tacers were made by Gustav F. Schroeder, a type designer and engraver, from whose hands came a large number of the successful faces brought out by the Central Type Foundry, including that grand success, the DeVinne series, which enjoyed a world-wide popularity not only in this but in all other countries." (765)

3.4. Werner. "An Address" / "St. Louis In Type-Founding History" (1931/1941)

Werner, N. J. An Address by N. J. Werner of St. Louis. St. Louis: [St. Louis Club of Printing House Craftsmen, 1931. (Reprinted in the CircuitousRoot Notebook on Nicholas J. Werner)

Werner's ca. 1931 "Address" was reprinted as "St. Louis in Type-Founding History." Share Your Knowledge Review. Vol. 22, No. 3 (January 1941): 21. (Reprinted in the CircuitousRoot Notebook on Nicholas J. Werner)

This article confirms that both the Central Type Foundry Pantograph and the Schroeder-Boyer Pantograph were horizontal-format machines.

3.5. Werner. "Wiebking Created..." Inland Printer. (1932)

In 1932, Werner wrote an important article on his contemporary, Robert Wiebking. { "Wiebking Created Popular Faces in Chicago, Friend Discloses" The Inland Printer Vol. 90, No. 2 (November 1932): 71-73. } In it, he has the following fascinating digression on the history of this machine. He says:

"... I know of an engraving machine being imported from Germany for the Cincinnati Type Foundry during 1880. However, this concern appeared to have had no one competent to operate it, and it was sold in 1882 to the Central Type Foundry, of St. Louis. With it were cut the famous Geometric, Geometric Italic, and Morning Glory. The first typewriter face was also cut with it.

"Later on, Gustav Schroeder, who cut many faces for Central and many other foundries, bought the machine. At that time I went into partnership with him, and we produced a number of faces by its aid, including the popular DeVinne family. ..."

This adds to the history of the machine: It was built in Germany, imported (but apparently not used effectively) by the Cincinnati Type Foundry, and then purchased by Schroeder. It also confirms that the faces produced by Schroeder & Werner, including DeVinne, were produced using this machine. This strongly suggests that the machine was in fact "adequate for the job," as Schroeder was an experienced engraver who would not have continued to use an inadequte machine.

4. Speculation

In 1891 Schroeder moved to California and ended his partnership with Werner. Both Schroeder and Werner continued to cut matrices, each on their own account.

The obvious question is whether or not one of them continued to do so using this machine. The sources of which I am aware are silent on this matter. See the Notebook on the Schroeder-Boyer Pantograph for a discussion of the evidence and the (scant) conclusions which may be drawn from it.

In 1892, the Central Type Foundry merged into the newly formed American Type Founders and its owner, Carl Schraubstadter, Sr. retired. However, in 1895 his three sons (including William Schraubstadter) founded Inland Type Foundry to compete with the newly amalgamated ATF. Werner joined Inland. He designed several faces for them, and was responsible for their adoption of a standard lining system for their types.

Maurice Annenberg, in Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs says tantalizingly "Following the type designing pattern and methods of manufacturing mats established by Central Type Foundry they continued to create abou thirty new type series." (156) This doesn't actually say how they made their matrices, but it does not exclude the use of either the "Central" pantograph or the Schroeder-Boyer Pantograph.

Inland was purchased in 1912 by ATF, who "divided the manufacturing equipment between Barnhart of Chicago and the main plant of the ATF in New Jersey" (Annenberg, 157; ATF had purchased Barnhart Brothers & Spindler in 1911, but operated it under the BB& name until 1929).

I have discovered no information at all concerning the possible use of this machine after this point, or its eventual fate.

5. Technical Aspects

I have been able to discover nothing about this machine, technically, other than it was a horizontal-format ("flat") pantographic rotary matrix engraver. At some point after its manufacture, Schroeder applied electric power to it. (Werner, "St. Louis' Place..." p. 765.)

6. Types Cut

6.1. At Central, By William Schraubstadter

(Source: Werner (see above). Note: Loy, in his article on Schroeder, says that Schroeder "made for Central the patterns for Geometric Italic, Morning Glory, and Scribner, of which matrices were cut in brass by machine." This does not contradict the statement by Werner that William Schraubstadter cut the matrices. It also raises the interesting question of how the working patterns were made for use with this matrix engraver.)

6.2. At Central, By Operators Unknown

Source (Type Writer [No. 1]): Werner (in "Wiebking Created ..." says that "the first typewriter face" was cut on this machine. Annenberg ( Type Foundries of America...) confirms that it was the first typewriter face.

Source (Scribner): Loy's article on Schroeder notes that Schroeder cut the patterns for this type, and that its "matrices were cut in brass by machine" (presumably not by Schroeder?)

6.3. By Schroeder & Werner

Source: Loy's article on Werner.

McGrew dates Central's Victoria Italic to 1893. Cf. Schroeder's Pacific Victoria Italic (1898); see below.

6.4. By Schroeder Independently

Writing in 1898, Loy cites the following types for Schroeder after his move to California in 1891. As noted earlier, it is not known (to me) whether Schroeder employed the "Central" machine in cutting these types. It is my guess that he did not. I presume that he must have continued working after 1898, but McGrew lists no Twentieth-century types for him. The Pacific States Type Foundry burned in 1906 and was not re-established.

Loy simply says "Victoria Italic." McGrew says "Pacific Victoria Italic" and dates it to 1898. Cf. Central's "Victoria Italic" by Schroeder & Werner (1893), above.

6.5. By Werner Independently

Writing in 1898, Loy cites the following types for Werner after Schroder moved to California in 1891 but before he began working directly for Inland Type Foundry after its founding in 1895. As noted earlier, it is not known (to me) whether Werner employed the "Central" machine in cutting these types. It is my guess that he did.

Werner designed and engraved several faces for Inland. Whether the "Central" machine was involved with these or not I do not know (see above).

McGrew lists no faces for Werner which (in their origins) postdate the purchase of Inland by ATF. Werner would only have been about 54 at the time.

7. Notes

1. James Eckman, in his discussion of the controversy between Central and Barnhart Brothers & Spindler over the originality of the design of Geometric (cf. Barnhart's Lyric Lightface), cites the volume of The Inland Printer in which this article by Werner appeared as "LIX." This is an error; it is Vol. 79. {Eckman, James. "The Great Western Type Foundry of Barnhart Brothers and Spindler, 1869-1933." Printing and Graphic Arts. Vol. 9 (1961): 1-32.})


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