January 30


Henry Barth died on January 30, 1907. A printer, engineer, and typefounder, he invented the typecasting machine which bears his name and upon which all the present-day typecasting machines used by the world’s typefounders are modelled.

Barth was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1823. He first worked for the typefounder Schelter & Giesecke as a machinist, and then spent several years in the Navy. His first job in the United States was as an engineer on an Ohio River steamboat, working out of Cincinnati. He then took a position with the Cincinnati Type Foundry. For that firm in 1855 he constructed the first cylinder press built in the West.

Six years later he was president of the foundry. In 1870 he designed the double casting machine, which cast two types at a time. Then he developed a lead-shaving machine for the precision production of strip leads. Many other foundries adopted this machine. Barth also designed a number of machines for the printing of playing cards, for which Cincinnati later became a world center.

The typecasting machine which was patented in 1888 was an improvement of the Bruce machine for the making of single types. The earlier typecasters were hand operated and the types required several finishing operations, such as breaking off the jets at the bottom of the letters, and hand-planing the grooves, in addition to rubbing the flash or burrs from each character. But the Barth machine automatically ejected the type in a finished state. Four sizes were manufactured, to encompass all sizes of type from 5-point to 144-point. The Barth machine speeded up typecasting about fifty percent over the machines then in use.

Barth also designed a height-to-paper gauge, which was most useful for printers who had the type of various foundries in their cases. To modern printers, such lack of precise manufacture on the part of type-founders now seems incredible. As late as 1885, the following type heights were listed by typefounders in this country: Boston Type Foundry, .9200ʺ; Cincinnati Type Foundry, .9170ʺ; Marder, Luse Company, .9180ʺ (three other foundries, Johnson; Farmer, Little Company, and James Connor’s Sons also maintained a .9180ʺ); George Bruce’s Sons & Company, .9190ʺ; Benton, Waldo & Company, .9200ʺ; Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, .9200ʺ; Phelps, Dalton & Company, .9200ʺ.

Such chaotic conditions were of course put to rights just a few years later when most of the nation’s foundries amalgamated into the American Type Founders Company.

Further Reading
USPO patent for Henry Barth’s Improvement in Grippers and Gauges for Printing-Presses.

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