The Ludlow Type Caster.
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 letter
press application. Mergenthaler's earlier researching developed a mechanism for stamping lines of characters into
papier-mâché 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 letter press
printing offices which could not afford a Linotype. It was limited to setting text matter in 8, 10 and 12
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 of the Ludlow type caster 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 Ludlow type caster was sold to the Chicago Post.
The Ludlow type caster may be thought of as a keyboardless type setting 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 type caster, 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 type caster, 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 type caster, 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 Ludlow type casters were in service in over 350
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 the Ludlow type caster 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
With the demise of Letterpress Printing most manufacturers of linecasters and type casters have all but passed
from the U.S. scene. But the Ludlow type caster, thanks to the demands of rubber stamp manufacturers, foil
printers, private pressmen and cardboard box printers, continues in business, supplying matrices and casting
The latest Ludlow type caster is the "L" model, it comes with a water cooled mold, refrigeration unit, digital
temperature control, slotted mouthpiece and can cast nine lines a minute.
The company claims 16,000 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.
UK Ludlow Engineers for servicing and spares.
Keith Harding 01992 466187
Norman Taylor 01992 553133
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