The Barth Type Caster

ATF and the Early Barth

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1. Quick Summary

The quick summary is that we know too little about the early manufacture and distribution of Barth type casters.

(For more on the early history of ATF, especially its consolidation, see: ../../../../ Foundry Specimens & Typography -> American Type Founders -> Early History through 1906 . While this present Notebook contains some early history of ATF, any significant updates to our knowledge of that history will probably go there, not here.)

By 1894, ATF owned 44 Barths. 18 of these 44 came from one or more of the constituent foundries which amalgamated into ATF in 1892. 13 of the 44 had been newly manufactured by ATF. The other 13 of the 44 came from somewhere else. This implies that the Cincinnati Type Foundry was selling Barth casters prior to 1892.

Starting in the fall of 1895, ATF intended to manufacture and install new Barth casters "at the rate of six machines a month."

By 1898 the process of equipping the eight foundries then in operation with Barths was "practically completed." If they really had been building machines at six per month for the last 36 months, this would have resulted in about 200 more machines, for roughly 250 total - but this is just an extrapolation.

[TO DO: count the Barth casters visible in American Type Founders Co.: Its Business and Resources Illustrated (ca. 1902)]

There is no mention in the ATF annual reports of the manufacture of new casting equipment for the Central Plant during its construction and the consolidation of the previous plants into it in the 1901-1906 timeframe.

[TO DO: count the Barth casters visible in the Views of the Central Plant (ca. 1916)]

2. The Formation of ATF

American Type Founders was formed on February 8, 1892, with the amalgamation of 23 type foundries into one firm. Only five major foundries remained outside of the combination, although several of them were merged into ATF at later dates. The existence of a single firm, however, did not imply a single operation. While a number of the smaller foundries ceased operation immediately, the major foundries which constituted ATF continued for several years to operate as if they were still independent businesses. (Indeed, in 1896 the Philadelphia branch, formerly the firm of MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan, published a sumptuous book celebrating One Hundred Years as America's oldest type foundry. It made no mention of ATF. {MSJ 1896})

This began to change when Robert W. Nelson joined the firm [in around 1894; I have yet to pin down the exact date], first as a member of the Board of Directors and then as the General Manager. He forced the actual merger of these concerns into a single business entity in which they became manufacturing branches. Significantly (for the study of the Barth caster), he "ordered his larger foundries to re-equip with Barth's machine". ( {Mallinson 1976}, p. 32) It is interesting to note that MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan's One Hundred Years makes reference to, and illustrates, a Barth caster operating in their foundry in 1896 - but avoids any mention of the name "Barth" or any reference to the Cincinnati Type Foundry.

(See {Mallinson 1976}, pp. 23 and 30-32. In general the first chapter of Mallinson's dissertation is the best source for information on the early history of ATF.)

(As an aside, it is interesting to try to line up the dates. ATF was formed in 1892. Nelson began exerting an influence by 1894, only two years later. Yet it took him more than two years to merge the business into a single entity.)

The 23 foundries of the initial amalgamation were:

(This list is given first in a confidential preliminary prospectus for the amalgamation found together with the bill of sale of the "Franklin Type Foundry" (Cincinnati branch of MSJ), as reported in {Mallinson 1976}, pp. 23-24. It is identical to the list given from an un-sourced contemporary trade note reprinted in {Annenberg 1994}, p. 41. At the time of the amalgamation the Central and Boston type foundries were under the same ownership. The numeric and alphabetic foundry designations, where indicated, are from {Rehak/Hopkins 2014}. The letter designations were assigned at some point after the amalgamation, but the fact of No. 23 (Palmer & Rey) suggests that the numeric designation was an early ordering when all foundries were nominally in operation.)

Five major foundries were not part of the amalgamation:

(Information from {Mallinson 1976}, p. 24, citing notebooks of Stevens L. Watts. The Bruce foundry was assigned foundry letter 'J' after it was acquired by ATF.)

(Mallinson does not list the Keystone Type Foundry, which had been manufacturing since 1888, but its history is complex and it may not have qualified as a "major" foundry in 1892.)

3. Early Consolidation

The 1894 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1893 to Aug. 31, 1894) reports the start of consolidation:

( {ATF Report 1894} , p. 4)

The 1895 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1894 to Aug. 31, 1895) says:

( {ATF Report 1895} , p. 3)

The 1897 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1896 to Aug. 31, 1897) reports a new building for the Boston foundry and gives a convenient list of those plants into which manufacturing operations had been consolidated. These correspond exactly with the letter designations of the constituent foundries, strongly suggesting that they might have been assigned at about this time.

( {ATF Report 1897} , p. 5)

4. The Spread of the Barth

Since it isn't entirely certain (yet) when Nelson came on board, it isn't clear if the initial adoption of the Barth Type Caster beyond Cincinnati predated his influence or not.

The first evidence of which I am aware is the 1894 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1893 to Aug. 31, 1894), which says:

"The manufacture and introduction of the Barth automatic casting machines has been pushed as quickly as is consistent with their proper construction in our shops, the preparation of matrices for their use, and the financial resources of the company. In many cases where the present demand can be profitably supplied by the present casting machines in place, it is not wise at this time to retire and render valueless so much of the inventoried plant by the introduction of new machinery. The policy, however, of automatic casting has been consistently pursued wherever possible. Thirteen machines, in addition to those acquired by consolidation, have been since acquired by the company, and thirteen more have been manufactured, making forty-four Barth automatic machines already in the equipment." ( {ATF Report 1894} , pp. 4-5)

This information is both enlightening and puzzling. 44 - 13 - 13 = 18, which must be the number of Barth casters in use in some of the 23 foundries of the initial amalgamation (not necessarily all in Cincinnati). The statement that "thirteen more have been manufactured" is straighforward. But the separate enumeration of thirteen casters which "have since been acquired by the company" suggests that these were not newly manufactured but were purchased from other foundries outside of the 23. Assuming that only a type foundry would purchase a Barth type caster, this implies that before 1892 the Cincinnati Type Foundry sold at least thirteen Barths to one or more of the type foundries which did not join ATF (and by further implication they may have sold casters to some of the 23 foundries which amalgamated into ATF).

(Aside: How ATF managed to acquire these 13 casters - that is, why any sane type foundry would sell such a capable machine as the Barth to their powerful competitor - cannot easily be explained.)

The 1895 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1894 to Aug. 31, 1895) says:

"The manufacture and introduction of improved machinery have been pushed as fast as our facilities have allowed. Perfecting machines [that is, Barth casters] were ordered in November last [that is, Nov. 1894], to be built in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, and later in New York, and while they were not completed in time to show results in the last fiscal year [that is, Sept. 1894 - Aug. 1895], they will now be installed at the rate of six machines a month." ( {ATF Report 1895} , p. 3)

The 1896 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1895 to Aug. 31, 1896) says:

"... The policy of the Company in the extension of its Automatic Plants [that is, Barth casters] has been continued, and during the year several Foundries, among the most important of the Company have been equipped with Automatic Casting Machines for Body Type. Other Automatics are now in process of construction in the shops of the Company, and the close of the current year should see the full equipment of all your Foundries with improved machinery for all classes of type." ( {ATF Report 1896} , p. 4)

The 1897 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1896 to Aug. 31, 1897) says:

"The tangible work of the year just passed has been found in the continuance of the policy of thoroughly equipping the plants with automatic type-casting machines and labor-saving appliances; ..." ( {ATF Report 1897} , p. 3)

The 1898 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1897 to Aug. 31, 1898) says:

"The equipment of the several foundries with automatic machinery is now practically completed, and the expenditure for further improvement of plants will be much less in the future. The improvements made are already justified by the earnings, which will be still further increased by the use of such added facilities." ( {ATF Report 1898} , p. 3)

The 1900 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1899 to Aug. 31, 1900) offers an insight into one disadvantage of Barth operation:

"The utilization of automatic machines in the manufcture of the products of the Company necessitated, in order to obtain the greatest economy, the production at the outset of larger quantities of type, which has increased materially the volume of the merchandize account. ..." ( {ATF Report 1900} , p. 4)

5. Consolidation to a Single Plant

The 1901 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1900 to Aug. 31, 1901) contains a preliminary suggestion for a Central Plant:

"The Company has labored under the expensive condition of a number of scattered manufacturing plants, and the importance and necessity of establishing a central plant for the manufacture of staple products have long been felt and are now under consideration. It is estimated that an annual saving of at least one per cent. upon the capital stock could easily be made above the interest upon the additional capital required to establish such a plant. It would also greatly facilitate the prompt production of new type faces to have under one roof the capacity of several times that of the largest of our present manurfacturing plants. It would not be wise to close all existing plants, but to make staple goods at a central point, saving in cross-freights, rents, insurance, taxes, superintendence, and by the manufacture of very large fonts at less cost than under existing conditions." ( {ATF Report 1901} , pp. 4-5)

The 1902 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1901 to Aug. 31, 1902) announces the purchase of the ground for the Central Plant in the Communipaw section of Jersey City:

"The Company has purchased the ground for the new Central Plant at Communipaw, New Jersey, and plans are now being drawn for the erection of a fire-proof building with large capacity in which its staple products can be manufactured under more favorable conditions than now exist. A large saving will be effected in Insurance, Rents and Superintendence. This saving cannot, however, be realized during the first year, but will be of long time benefit." ( {ATF Report 1902} , pp. 3-4)

The 1903 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1902 to Aug. 31, 1903) reports the Central Plant "substantially complete" and ready for the installation of machinery:

"The new Central Plant at Jersey City, New Jersey, referred to in the last Annual Report, is now substantially complete, is strictly fire proof, and is ready for the installation of the first foundry machinery. The land owned amounts to about 3 1/2 acres, and the total floor space completed is approximately 80,000 square feet, leaving ample ground for future growth. During the present fiscal year [that is, 1903-1904] a portion of the plants will be brought from other cities and installed, especially those matrices from which the staples of the Company are manufactured. The General Office, formerly at No. 25 William Street, New York City, has been removed to the Central Plant." ( {ATF Report 1903} , p. 4)

The 1904 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1903 to Aug. 31, 1904) reports first on the type founders' strike of October 1903 to January 1904, and then gives the state of progress for the Central Plant:

"The strike seriously delayed the installing of the plants in the Central Foundry at Jersey City, but such installation has rapidly progressed during the past few months and the Central Foundry is now producing about one-half of its possible output. By the close of this fiscal year [that is, 1904-1905] we expect the Central Foundry to be in complete operation, producing its maximum capacity. ..." ( {ATF Report 1904} , p. 3)

The 1905 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1904 to Aug. 31, 1905) discussed the expense of the production of type to the newly introduced "American Line" primarily in terms of casting and stock (rather than matrix operations). It then discussed the closing of the older plants (which did not happen immediately):

"During the year the Company has proceeded to the consolidation of its type founding plants, but it has not been practicable owing to the training of additional employees at the new plant in certain departments to complete the work, and considerable of that work will be carried on this year." ( {ATF Report 1905} , p. 4)

The 1906 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1905 to Aug. 31, 1906) indicates the complete consolidation into a single plant:

"The plans indicated in previous reports for standardizing the more desirable faces and concentrating the work at the Central Plant, have been carried to a practical completion, and the Central Plant is now operating to its full capacity, resulting in very material reduction in the expense of manufacturing." ( {ATF Report 1906} , pp. 3-4)

By the 1906 ATF Annual Report (for the fiscal year from Sept. 1, 1906 to Aug. 31, 1907) space in the Central Plant was already insufficient:

"The requirements of the Company were such during the past year that it was found necessary to make an extension of the Central Foundry and one of the wings is now being extended ninety feet." ( {ATF Report 1907} , p. 4)