The Ludlow Typograph

By Fred Williams
Editor-Publisher, Type & Press
Published Fall 1984

Curiously, the inventors of the three successful hot metal composition systems Ottmar Mergenthaler, Tolbert Langton and William I. Ludlow, all began with an idea which later proved to be impractical for commercial application. Mergenthaler's earlier researching developed a mechanism for stamping lines of characters into papier-mache flongs. Langton attempted to impress sections of cold type metal using steel dies.

Ludlow devised a contrivance with a set of wedge-shaped matrix bars stamped with female molds of the characters of the alphabet. Casting a solid type slug, the mechanism was intended for small printing offices which could not afford a Linotype. It was limited to setting text matter in 8, 10 and 12 point sizes.

Ludlow met William A. Reade, who had worked in the machine tool industry and had been manager of the Diamond Machine Company who dealt in typesetting machines. The two men founded the Ludlow Typograph Co. in 19o6 and within three years several experimental models had been built. But the concept proved impractical and the idea was abandoned.

The fledgling company moved into a Chicago factory in 1912 and here a novel apparatus was conceived that utilized the advantages of hand-set and slug casting while eliminating the drawbacks of both. The mechanical actions of assembling, justifying and distributing of matrices was done by hand, eliminating problems. The unique Ludlow matrix was 7/8-inch high with 5/8-inch lugs. The first machine was sold to the Chicago Post.

The Ludlow may be thought of as a keyboardless machine capable of casting fonts from 4 to 96 point. Larger sizes, up to 144 point can be cast by placing the letters vertically on the slug. Considerable speed is possible in setting Ludlow mats compared to composing type plus the advantage of having a new printing face for each job. The Ludlow, about waist-high, requires only a minimum of floor space. With few moving parts, the Ludlow presents few mechanical problems.

In setting the matrices the compositor uses the Ludlow stick in the same manner as in assembling individual types, but the mats are "gathered" by syllables or whole words from a case and placed in the special stick with the sunken letters down. Ludlow cases, of small double cap design, slide into cabinets on a slant. Cases are not removed from the distinctive Ludlow cabinets at any time.

A locking screw on the stick permits quick setting to any desired measure. Spaces and quads are not inserted until the entire line is set, the stick's gauge indicating which spaces are necessary to fill out the line. Only one set of Universal spaces are required to set sizes from 6 to 6o pt. Spacing units have lugs extending beyond the letter mat case for ease in spacing and for fast justification.

After line has been spaced out and stick tightened, it is locked in place over the vertical opening in the table. A starting trip causes the slug to be cast and automatically delivered to a galley. Stick is then removed and the matrices distributed immediately. Faces larger than the 12-point mold are cast with a T-head slug, the face overhanging top and bottom. Blank slugs support the overhang.

For special work, a number of special sticks, are available, such as: Italic, Adjustable Offset, Long Line, Self Quadding, Self Centering and the Blank Slug Block (for casting supporting slugs).

With the Ludlow, from 12 point to 6o point faces can be set without any mold or magazine changes. All are cast on a standard 12-point 22.5 pica mold. (6-10 point molds were also made).

Lines up to 120 picas long are set in a Long Stick as a unit with a single justification. Division quads are inserted at slug length marks and line is cast in single sessions.

Printers soon realized the many advantages of the Ludlow system, namely: matrices could be assembled, spaced and justified much faster than foundry type; it provided an unending supply of type, spaces, quads and sorts; workups were not possible and lockups were quicker. By 1919 Typographs were in service in over 350 printing offices.

In 1920 the Ludlow Typograph Co., bought out the Elrod Slug Casting Co., of Omaha. This machine can cast leads, slugs and rules up to 36 pt.

Historian and scholar Douglas C. McMurtie joined the Ludlow Co. in 1927 as advertising manager. Six years later, R. Hunter Middleton was appointed type director. From his talented hands came over 6o distinctive type designs including: Stellar, Garamond, Coronet, Radiant, Eusebius and Delphian Open Title.

Competition appeared in 1932 when the Mergenthaler organization introduced its APL (All-Purpose Linotype), a complete self-contained unit for casting hand-set slugs in faces from 5 to 144 pt. and up to 42 picas in length. APL or standard Linotype matrices could be used. At one time the Lanston Monotype Co. sold the Italian Nebitype hand-set caster. Neither became too popular in the U. S. and the APL was eventually discontinued.

Just a few of the standard commercial faces that have been made available for Ludlow composition are: Record Gothic, Century Modern, Bodoni, Times New Roman, Tempo, Cheltenham, Karnak (Stymie), Franklin Gothic, Gothic Outline, Bookman, Ludlow Black (Cooper), Lining Plate Gothic, Engravers Bold, and Clarendon. Many of these designs are also available in light, medium, bold, extra bold, italic, condensed, extra condensed, extended, etc.

Some of the more exotic designs include: Admiral Script, Florentine Cursive, Wave, Plantin, Mandate, Laureate, Artcraft, Goudy Old Style, Greenwich, Hauser Script, Stygian Black, Mayfair Cursive, Ultra Modern, Caslon True-Cut, Eden, Flair, Cameo, Zephyr, Umbra, Parkway Script, as well as the now popular Helvetica. The firm also manufactures matrices for borders, one- and two color ornaments as well as those for rule forms.

With the demise of Letterpress Printing most manufacturers of linecasters and type casters have all but passed from the U.S. scene. But Ludlow, thanks to the demands of rubber stamp manufacturers, foil printers, private pressmen and cardboard box printers, continues in business, supplying matrices and casting machines.

The "L," Ludlow's latest model, comes with a water cooled mold, refrigeration unit, digital temperature control, slotted mouthpiece and can cast nine lines a minute.

The company claims 16,ooo Ludlows are in operation throughout the world. The Ludlow Co. is located at 5976 North North West Highway, Chicago, Illinois. (312) 792-2333. The English firm is: Ludlow Industries (U.K.) Ltd., Conbar House, Mead Lane, Hertford, England. Telephone (0992) 58401.