Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Wayfaring Typo

"It might have been Thin Space McGill, but more likely it was Small Cap Jones, who—feeling poorly on this day in 1881—did something mighty unusual for a peregrinating printer; he stopped off to visit a doctor. The sawbones examined him and suggested that all he needed was a little more fresh air while sleeping. “Hell, doc,” spluttered Small Cap, “what do you want me to do, kick out a few spokes? I’m sleeping under a wagon now, these nights!”

The predicament was not an uncommon one for that independent breed of man, the itinerant printer, euphemistically called journeyman, but more frequently labeled tramp. Ever since the invention of movable type, printers traditionally accepted the term journeyman to mean just that, spending at least part of their careers in traveling from place to place. In the United States the tradition reached its peak in the post-Civil War period. It declined after the turn of the century, when the introduction of the Linotype made it possible for the daily newspaper to maintain a steady work force without dependence upon the wayfaring typo who might pop in at any moment and leave just as quickly.

You can read more at the Alexander S. Lawson Archive.

via afterimage
image scanned from Bruce Johnson, "Western Printing History" in Printing Journal October 19, 1982: 24.

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