The Ludlow Type
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
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 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 of the Ludlow type caster had been built.
But the concept proved impractical and the idea was
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
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
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
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 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
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
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,
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 machines.
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
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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