Ottmar Mergenthaler (May 11, 1854 – October 28, 1899) was an American inventor who has been called a second Gutenberg, as Mergenthaler invented the linotype machine, the first device that could easily and quickly set complete lines of type for use in printing presses. This machine revolutionized the art of printing.
|Died||28 October 1899 45) (aged|
Baltimore, Maryland, US
|Height||5 ft 9 in (175 cm)|
|Awards||Elliott Cresson Medal (1889)|
John Scott Medal (1891)
Life and career
He was apprenticed to a watchmaker in Bietigheim before emigrating to the United States in 1872 to work with his cousin August Hahl in Washington, D.C. Mergenthaler eventually moved with Hahl's shop to Baltimore, Maryland. In 1878, Mergenthaler became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1881, Mergenthaler became Hahl's business partner.
Invention of the Linotype
In 1876, Mergenthaler was approached by James O. Clephane and his associate Charles T. Moore, who sought a quicker way of publishing legal briefs. By 1884 he conceived the idea of assembling metallic letter molds, called matrices, and casting molten metal into them, all within a single machine. His first attempt proved the idea feasible, and a new company was formed. Always improving his invention, Mergenthaler further developed his idea of an independent matrix machine.
In July, 1886, the first commercially used Linotype was installed in the printing office of the New York Tribune. Here it was immediately used on the daily paper and a large book. The book, the first ever composed with the new Linotype method, was titled, The Tribune Book of Open-Air Sports. Produced by his Mergenthaler Linotype Company, the machine remained a mainstay of the publishing industry until the 1980s.
Mergenthaler died of tuberculosis in Baltimore in 1899.
An operational Linotype machine is on display at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, in the museum's print shop. Baltimore's vocational high school, Mergenthaler Vocational Technical Senior High School, which opened in 1953, is named after him, although it is commonly referred to simply as "MERVO".
Mergenthaler Hall on the Homewood Campus of the Johns Hopkins University was constructed in 1940–41 with donations by Eugene and Mrs. Ottmar Mergenthaler, son and widow of Ottmar Mergenthaler.
- Kahan, Basil (1999), Ottmar Mergenthaler: The Man and his Machine : A Biographical Appreciation of the Inventor on His Centennial, New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll, ISBN 1-58456-007-X.
- Tsaniou, Styliani. "Ottmar Mergenthaler." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified July 26, 2013.
- "Linotype at 50". Time. July 13, 1936. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
- The World Book Encyclopedia, 1972 edition.
- Nelson, Randy F (1981), The Almanac of American Letters, Los Altos, CA: William Kaufmann, p. 286, ISBN 0-86576-008-X
- Baltimore History Site
- Linotype – Chronik eines Firmennamens [Linotype – Chronologie of a Company Name]: ebook on the Linotype machine
- Overview of Mergenthaler's life
- Ottmar Mergenthaler at Find a Grave
- Iles, George (1912), Leading American Inventors, New York: Henry Holt & Co, pp. 393–432
- Ottmar Mergenthaler at 159 West Lanvale Street - Explore Baltimore Heritage