Illustration of a large machine and a man seated at a desk working

Monotype Composition Caster and Keyboard

February 6, 1909 – The Mendocino Beacon published its first edition to use type that was cast and set on a Lanston monotype casting and composing machine. Invented by Tobin Lanston, this Monotype System was brought to market in 1900. This machine was a great improvement over the previous hand-set wooden type.

The Beacon explained, “As comparatively few of our readers are familiar with this wonderful machine, a few words of description will not be out of place. The monotype consists of two distinct and separate parts – the keyboard and the caster. The keyboard is similar to a typewriter, only much larger, the operator having at his command some 225 characters against 80 odd on a typewriter.

Arrangement for keyboard with letters and numbers in circular keys

Monotype Keyboard arrangement

The keyboard on which this is composed contains six alphabets, three different and complete faces of type [Roman, italic, and small caps], with capitals and lower case. When a letter is struck on the keyboard, compressed air is admitted to one or more punches, of which there are thirty-one, and these in their numerous combinations—one for each character in the keyboard – perforate holes in a roll of paper.

This paper roll, or ribbon, is then transferred to the casting machine, which consists of a mold, a matrix case containing the dies of the 225 characters of the keyboard, a metal pot, with heating apparatus, and a pump and a paper tower to carry the paper roll, all assembled in such a combination that when power is applied and the machine set in motion the perforations in the paper ribbon as it unwinds, through the agency of compressed air, cause the required die, or matrice, for the desired letter to be seated over the mold and the pump to force a quantity of hot metal into the mold forming a type which is assembled with others of its kind to make a word and, with spaces and other words is combined in a justified line ready to be placed on the press to produce the printed page.

It is a wonderful piece of mechanism and ranks with the great inventions of the age. By its use we hope to materially increase the amount of type heretofore set and provide our readers with much more original matter each week.

We trust that our efforts will be appreciated and rewarded with a substantially increased subscription list.”

Mendocino City: A Daily Journal 1852-1938 by W. Francis Jackson – Historical Mendocino news organized by day. Each month includes collections of photos and a detailed map of the town. $18.