By Johnny Adams
Dean Coombs, owner of The Crescent Saguache newspaper, is the last newspaper in the United States to use a Linotype machine, according to Coombs. Johnny Adams, the editor of the Union Springs Herald, visited The Crescent Saguache located in Saguache, CO on November 1, 2018.
Adams said it was amazing to see how newspaper type was set and newspapers were printed decades ago. Linotype machines were invented in 1884 and were eventually used by most newspaper businesses until around the 1970’s. Linotype machines were a big advancement for newspapers when they were invented.
Before Linotype machines, newspaper type was set by hand, one letter at the time. The Linotype machines took the place of about six individuals by mechanizing typesetting. The machine has a magazine loading with individual type characters. As the machine operator types on the uniquely layed out keyboard, one letter at the time drops from the magazine and falls into a row of type which grows to be the width of one newspaper column.
This “line of type” progresses further through the machine, where a hot molten metal lead type material is used to make a slug of the “line of type”. The slug then drops into a tray where the slugs are stacked. This process continues until the story being typed by the operator is complete. The stack of slugs are placed into a large frame which is the size of a newspaper page.
Stacks of slugs are placed in the frame until the frame is full of newspaper stories. Once the frame is full, the slugs are locked into place and used to print the text to a blank newspaper page. Most newspaper businesses stopped using Linotype machines around the 1970’s when computers became available and affordable. Today, all newspapers use computers to type, layout and design newspapers, except for The Crescent Saguache.
The Crescent Saguache was founded in 1874 under the name The Saguache Chronicle. After a few name changes it became The Crescent Saguache. Dean Coombs is the third generation in his family to operate the newspaper. His grandparents purchased the newspaper in 1917.
They purchased a brand new Linotype machine in 1921 for about $6,000.00. This same machine has been used in the business for almost 100 years. Currently, Coombs prints about 400 newspapers each week. Each issue is normally four pages and sells for 35 cents. Coombs is the only employee at the newspaper. He has no reporters. People in the community bring in stories and he prints them. Coombs says he has no plans to stop using his linotype machine.