August 10

Rarely mentioned among the hazards of life experienced by the itinerant printer as he tramped from job to job was the abuse he had to suffer intellectually, by having to set type for a variety of periodicals with whose opinions he did not necessarily agree. Concerning the vulnerability of the ubiquitous compositor to editorial suggestion, an anonymous printer wrote to a friend on this day in 1885:

“The reason why I have been astonished at the interest of the printers in this paper of the new crusade, is because the sons of Faust are apt to be a cynical, skeptical crew. They see so many sides of life, and see so far into them all, that they are in danger of assuming a fixed attitude of incredulity or mockery, and of losing all their enthusiasm.

“Look how they ‘box the compass” as they pass from office to office. Take, for example, Pop Rednose, who is now turning forty. He got his first job as an apprentice on the Evangelist, wad set up so many sermons urging him to repent that he determined to become a saint. He had just reached that point when he got the sack. His next job was on Abbe McMaster’s Catholic Register, which soon led him to doubt the truth of Protestantism, and brought him to the very edge of the ancient Roman Church. He had just about made up his mind in favor of auricular confession, when a dirty proof of one of the Abbe’s illegible editorials landed him on the sidewalk. His next sit was on the Truth Seeker, which soon brought him to a total unbelief in all sorts of religion. He became a sub on the Times, which made him a Republican and sent him to the war, but came back to a case on Manton Marble’s World, and soon turned up as a really solid Democrat.

“He soon left the dailies, got a job on a teetotal weekly, found out the horrors of drinking, and resolved to quit liquor; but in two months got a fatter job on the Wine and Spirit Merchant, where he set up the praises of the ‘ruby,’ and saw it was necessary to his health. He soon got a weekly job on a moral reform paper, spent his time over copy against the tobacco habit, and determined to throw away his pipe; but he got a still fatter thing on the Tobacco Leaf, where he read every day of the charms of the Virginia weed, to which he soon returned. From an allopathic weekly, which led him to take calomel with his regular diet, he went to a homeopathic monthly, which taught him never to go beyond the millionth trituration of a speck. After a while Freemasonry was the thing, as he put in type an article on the thirty-ninth degree, and latterly has been disposed in favor of civil service reform, as he tinkers up the leaded brevier of Mr. Ford’s Brooklyn Union. But, after all his experiences, here and there, Pop Rednose has become a thorough skeptic and cynic, with a sneer for every new philosopher, and a firm faith only in printers’ ‘fat.’ And this is not much of an exaggeration of the history of many typos, who pay their dues regularly into Union No. 6.

“They are apt to become case-hardened ere their hair is gray, and to lose their freshness while yet their salad days are unspent.”

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