Chicago Tribune, June 10, 1947
One hundred years ago today, the first 400 copies of THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE were run off on a Washington hand press on the third floor or a wooden building at the southwest corner of Lake and La Salle sts.
Any implication of speed In the phrase “run off” should not be taken seriously. At full speed, it vould have taken the pressman four hours to print the 400 couples of the first TRIBUNE. The press had a capacity of 200 sheets an hour printed on one side, and newspapers are printed on both sides.
Two newspaper pages were printed on each side of a sheet and it was folded down the middle, making a four page newspaper, standard with THE TRIBUNE and all newspapers until after the Civil war.
Efficient for Its Time
Crude as this first Tribune press may sound today, it was thoroughly efficient for its time. The Washington press was the “work horse” of the printing industry 100 years ago, standard in every newspaper and job shop. This is how it operated:
Copy for the first TRIBUNE was set by hand by printers who picked the individual metal type letters out of a case and placed them side-by-side to form the words in each newspaper line. For this, they used a “stick,” usually a small wooden tray held in one hand. For the next 48 years, until the introduction of linotype machines in 1895, every word printed in THE TRIBUNE was set in the same way.
The type for two pages of this first TRIBUNE was locked into a chase, a rectangular iron form, so tightly that It could be handled without danger of the individual pieces of type becoming pied—falling together in a tragic mass. This chase was moved to the bed of the press.
Nine Hand Operations
Then came nine separate hand operations for every sheet printed—18 operations when the sheet had to he printed on both sides. Ink was applied to the with a “dabber,” a sheepskin device stuffed with horse hair or wool, resembling in shape a boxing glove.
The pressman inked the dabber by rubbing it on a smooth stone covered with ink. Then he spread tile ink as evenly as he could over the type in the chase.
Next, he laid a sheet of clean, white paper on the tympan, which was a surface interposed between the type and the platen. The platen was a permanently fixed plate which, on being pressed down, forced the paper against the inked type.
The paper was affixed to the tympan with a framework called a frisket, and the fourth operation was called “flying the frisket”—folding both frisket and tympan down on the chase or form. Then the form was run under the platen. Next, by means of a hand lever attached, the platen was forced down upon this combination to make the impression.
Folded by Hand
Then the form was run out from under the platen, by means of the same hand crank by which it had been shoved in. Next, the tympan and frisket were lifted off, and the operation was to remove the printed, sheet. Sheets printed on both sides were folded by ]land.
THE TRIBUNE purchased a second Washington hand press in 1850. By this time this newspaper was located above a grocery store on the corner of Clark and Lake sts., having been burned out of its original quarters in 1849.
In 1852, THE TRIBUNE moved to the Evans block, a brick building on the east side of Clark st. between Randolph and Lake sts., and at the same time it purchased a Hoe cylinder press and installed it in its new establishment, retaining the two old Washington presses for job work.
The Hoe was a real advancement. It had a self-inking attachment. It printed direct from a flat form or chase, and the sheets were hand-fed to the impression cylinder, but they were delivered automatically to a sorting table after they had been printed.
A SynchronIzed Movement
This was the first power driven Tribune press. Steam to run its engine was drawn from the plant of the Democratic-Press, next door. The revolving cylinder which made the impression remained stationary, and the chase, was set upon the press bed, moved backward and forward beneath the cylinder, in synchronization with its revolutions.
The Democratic-Press was absorbed by THE TRIBUNE in 1858, but five years before that THE TRIBUNE and Democratic-Press printing establishments were combined. The latter newspaper contributed an old Adams press, not nearly as efficient as the Hoe. This was said to have been the first power press In Chicago, its power being furnished by a black Canadian pony which worked a treadmill arrangement.
This pony power press had been the property of William Bross, later a Tribune partner, when he and J. Ambrose Wight published the Herald of the Prairies, In an office adjacent to The Tribune in 1849. Bross has written that he nnd hls partner printed THE TRIBUNE on this press in that year.
The first TRIBUNE probably was a six-column sheet, altho news columns were wider then than they are today. Brevier (8 point) type was used for news matter and minion (7 point) for advertisments.
This story is printed in minion (7 point) type on an 8½ point slug, a face called Regal No. 1, especially designed and developed for the Tribune by the Intertype company in 1935. It is darker than most body types, easier to read, and has open vowel letters which will not block. Many thruout the United States have adopted it since.]
New Type Obtained
In the summer following THE TRIBUNE’S first fire, In 1849, an entirely new type was obtained from R. Fergus & Co., New York, which the proprietors said “brought about a very tasteful appearance.” By 1852, a “new and beautiful brevier (8 point) and agate (5½ point] type was obtained from the foundry of J, S. White of New York.”
“THE TRIBUNE was universally acknowledged to be the handsomest paper In the west,” an account of that day said. It had been enlarged to 9 columns in size.
On Sept 24, 1855, an article stated that THE TRIBUNE appeared on that date “in a new and beautiful dress using type obtained from the foundry of J. Conner & Son, New York.” This type had the advantage of being copper plated, so that it did not wear down and become illegible. It was the first copper-faced type ever used by a newspaper In the middle west.
Step Up Printlng Capacity
The absorption of the Democratic-Press by THE TRIBUNE in 1858 brought a considerable amount of new type to this newspaper. With the Adams and Hoe presses, printing capacity was stepped up to 700 or 800 single sheets, or about 400 fully printed newspapers, an hour. A Northrop steam press of about the same-capacity also was added.
Shortly after Joseph Medill purchased an interest in THE TRIBUNE, he obtained a three-revolution Hoe cylinder press and a new steam engine which came from Buffalo, N. Y., THE TRIBUNE’S first independent source of power. The three-revolution press was similar to the old Hoe press, except it was faster. It could print 2,400 sheets, or 1,200 newspapers in an hour.
THE TRIBUNE purchased its first font of type from a Chicago firm in 1859 at a cost of $3,000, The next year, it appeared In a completely new dress purchased from the same firm, the Chicago Type Founders company.
War Outmodes Presses
The outbreak of the Civil war in 1861 caused such a spurt in circulation that all of The Tribune presses were outmoded. Joseph Medili purchased a Hoe four-cylinder press, the most modern press of its kind, designed especially for newspapers and used by the larger English journals. All of THE TRIBUNE’S previous presses had been designed for job printing. It took the newspaper out of the flat-bed press days for the first time, for its main feature was a cylindrical, revolving type form, the first true rotary press.
The type was placed in a specially designed curved chase or form called a “turtle.” V-shaped lead “slugs” had to be used to hold the type in place on this curved surface, and the rules which marked the columns were curved, too. The type cylinder on which the “turtle” was bolted was much larger than the two-page cylinders of today’s modern rotary news presses.
Speed Its Main Glory
Speed, again, was the glory of this new machine. The press had a capacity of 2,000 single printed sheets an hour at each feeding station—8,000 sheets or 4,000 newspapers an hour. In addition, It lad delivery tapes and sheet flyers to send the printed sheets out to four delivery tables.
In 1864 THE TRIBUNE added a new Hoe press of the same type but with eight cylinders, doubling the capacity to 16,00D sheets or 8,000 newspapers an hour. For the first time, it Installed hand-fed folding machines. Previously all had been folded and creased by hand.
The First Tribune-owned Building
Madison and Dearborn
THE TRIBUNE moved into a home of its own—its first—In 1869 when it built a four story building at Madison and Dearborn sts. An epic story of devotion to duty and unswerving loyalty was written into Tribune history by this newspaper’s mechanical forces when the great Chicago fire of Oct. 9, 1871, destroyed that building.
Medill had sent the ruined frames of THE TRIBUNE’S two Hoe presses to New York to the factory for rebuilding. They came back, completely restored, in time to print the fire anniversary edition, in THE TRIBUNE’S new building. These presses had an innovation, mentioned only casually in THE TRIBUNE’S columns of that day, which revolutionized the newspaper printing industry. It was stereotyping.
These rebuilt presses were equipped to take a page-sized metal cast, shaped in the same curve as the old type-heavy “turtle.” Few improvements ever been as important to daily newspapers of large circulation as this one. It was a simple idea, but It had been tried on newspaper presses experimentally only a very few years when THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE adopted it.
How Process Works
Stereotyping works like this: A full newspaper page is made up and locked into a flat form or chase similar to the one used on the very first TRIBUNE. Over this Is placed a “mat,” wwhich is a page-sized piece of heavy paper-composition mater- ial.
In the old days, in 1872, wet mats were used, made up of paper fibers, glue, silica particles, and other ingredients, with each stereotypes having his “secret formula.” This gooey mess was forced down upon the type metal in the chase by pressure and then, steam-dried and peeled off in a hard sheet. Today, dry mats are used.
The mat—a perfect reverse copy or die of the type in the chase—was curved to fit the press cylinder and then put in a casting box, where a molten mixture of lead. tin, and antimony was poured in by hand ladles to make an exact Impression of it. When this had cooled; it was removed, trimmed, and bolted to the press cylinder.
Many Advantages to Process
The advantages of this process were many. The type never had to touch. ink-or paper, and thus never would be worn out; many casts could be made from the same mat, and the hardness of the metal cast could be regulated.
The next year—1873—THE TRIBUNE introduced another advancement almost as radical and important. lt purchased and installed two single width Bullock web perfecting presses, a fundamental departure from any newspaper presses previously used.
This new machine printed on both sides of the paper (called web perfecting in the printing industry) in one continuous operation. It also was the first TRIBUNE press to print from a roll of paper instead of single, pre-cut sheets. It used semi-cylindrical stereotype plates, the first and most important step toward the development of the modern newspaper press.
The Bullock presses had cutting cylinders which cut the printed web of paper into sheets which were delivered flat on a table. The sheets were then folded on separate hand fed folding machines. The presses had a capacity of 10,000 sheets each, printed on both sides, an hour—together producing 20,000 four page newspapers an hour.
Old Presses Traded In
The old Hoe four and eight cylinder hand fed presses were traded In two years later, in 1875, on a new Hoe web perfecting press, built along the same lines as the Bullocks, but with a capacity of 12,000 papers an hour.
As the amount of advertising, news, and features in THE TRIBUNE increased, it was necessary to increase the number of pages. Already eight and 16 page newspapers were commonplace.
The larger papers caused difficulty at the pressroom folding machines. In 1879, Conrad Kahler, pressroom superintendent at THE TRIBUNE, replaced the delivery tables on Tribune presses with folders on which he was issued patents,
This was one of many Tribune improvements thru the years. Today, there Is not a linotype or a press in a modern newspaper office in the world which does not have features, improvements, and inventions developed independently by THE TRIBUNE, perfected on this newspaper, and given back to the printing industry as a gift.
A story telling the amazing inventions and developments by Tribune men will be found in Column 1.
130 Compositors by 1895
In the next 10 years, from 1880 to 1890, THE TRIBUNE’S mechanical plant grew steadily and soundly. Seven new web perfecting presses were added by 1084, making a total of 10 presses. By 1895 THE TRIBUNE employed a force of 130 compositors.
In 1887, THE TRIBUNE formed its own engraving department, which really marked the beginning of this newspaper s development as a picture newspaper.
Great Increases In TRIBUNE circulation in this period required even greater press speed, and In 1893, THE TRIBUNE negotiated with Walter Scott & Co., press builders, to design and build a press with eight double width web perfecting units—four pages wide—and a double folder, the first of its kind in Chicago. By using two deliveries, this press could turn out 18,000 eight, 10, or 12 page newspapers an hour. A second and a third Scott press of the same type was installed In the next few years.
The Inland Printer
Buy Battery of Linotypes
Another production improvement more resolutionary than anything yet attempted came In 1895 when THE TRIBUNE installed its fIrst linotypes, a battery of 12 machines, purchased from Mergenthaler Linotype company. Before this, all Tribune type had been hand-set. Four more were added In 1897, and from then onward thru the years, THE TRIBUNE grew to have the largest single battery of these machines on any newspaper in the world.
In 1900, THE TRIBUNE installed a new Hoe double-quadruple press which was tihe forerunner of all later Tribune presses in tlhe method used to fold 1he newspapers. It had folders which operated entirely without tapes or unwieldy devices and could produce 48,000 eight-page newspapers an hour. Three more of these presses, called “octuple” because they had eight printing cylinders, were soon placed in service.
One of the presses at the Tribune roto plant running off color proofs of the Picture Section.
Flrst Big Skyscraper
The turn of the century saw all the mechanical departments of THE TRIBUNE moved to temporary quarters at 12G S. Market st. for a year while the newspaper built its big skyscraper, a 17-story building at Madison and Dearborn sts., there today.
The moving of this gigantic assembly of mechanical equipment was a herculean feat, but THE TRIBUNE did not miss an edition.
Electricity replaced all former power when THE TRIBUNE moved into its new 17-story loop home. No other printing plant in existence was so absolutely under electric control as THE TRIBUNE’S.
In this modern, new building, THE TRIBUNE at flrst thought itself located for all time, but its enormous growth quickly effaced that dream. In 1919, THE TRIBUNE began to move its mechanical facilities to the sand prairies at the south end of “Streeterville,” tlhe area between Ontario st. and the Chicago river, east of Michigan av., where Tribune Tower stands today.
That was the beginning of further great Tribune progress in in printing production.
A Spur in Industry
In 1933, as a spur to industry during the depression, THE TRIBUNE placed one of the greatest orders for printing presses in the history of the industry—34 ultra-high speed Goss anti-friction presses with eight double folders and seven color units, all geared to produce 60,000 newspapers an hour. These new presses had the first four color printing units for high speed daily newspaper work ever seen in any newspaper plant, and they were developed jointly by THE TRIBUNE and the Goss company.
In the next three years 33 more of the same type of anti-friction ultra-high speed presses were purchased and installed.
Press Deadlines Advanced
In 1937 a new Goss heavy duty comics press was installed to replace the earlier press. It had 16 units and a double folder of the latest design. Adoption of daylight saving time, which advanced press deadlines, and the decision of the International Typographical union to abandon a bonus system, reducing the output of compositors, resulted in the acquisition of 22 more linotype machines within the next four years.
Thirteen more new ultra-high speed presses were added between 1937 and the beginning of World War II., and in 1942 THE TRIBUNE purchased 32 more of them, so that its plant today has the largest and most complete newspaper production facilities in the world.
THIS CLOSE-UP OF ONE SECTION
of the Tribune coloroto press shows the process by which the four different colors required by an illustration are printed in succession.
Unwinding from a feed roll, a continuous web of paper first enters the printing unit at the extreme right. In this unit the paper receives a single color, absorbing yellow ink from microscopic boles etched into the curved surface of copper cylinder over which the paper passes. From this unit the web of paper passes through other units to receive the other three colors-red, blue, and sepia.
Chicago Sunday Tribune
November 24, 1935
The Inland Printer, April, 1903
Joseph Wilson Franks, who set the first line of type on the Chicago Tribune, in 1847, and who pulled the first issue off the old hand press, died at his home in Peoria, Illinois, February 25. Mr. Franks was born in Newark, England, April 1, 1829 and came to Chicago when he was =fourteen years old. He was married in 1865 to Nanno Barrett, at Detroit, Michigan. In 1872 he established the job printing house of J. W. Franks & Sons, which has grown until it is today one of the largest firms in the State. He is survived by a widow and three sons one of whom is Fred D. Franks, Chicago Record-Herals.
Joseph Wilson Franks, who set the first copy given out on The Tribune, June 10, 1847