Letterpress Introduction

The Lay of the Case

metal type

LetterPress Printing


Darius Wells

Darius Wells, inventor, born in Johnstown, New York, 26 April, 1800; died in Paterson, New Jersey, 27 May, 1875. He was apprenticed to the printer’s trade in his native place, and after serving for six years moved to Amsterdam, New York, where, with William Childs, he established the town’s first newspaper. In 1826 he went to New York, and continued the printing business. At that time the largest metal type that was made was only twelve-line pica, and it cost more than the average printer could afford to pay. This led to his making large type from wood, and he followed the method of engravers by using cross-grained sections. The advantage of wood-type having been established, it was found necessary to devise a means of manufacturing it with greater rapidity and less labor. Mr. Wells found that by using a vertical revolving cutter a more speedy removal of the superfluous wood could be effected. This device, improved by various modifications, is known as the routing machine. Subsequently he engaged in the business of furnishing wooden type, and also made a specialty of preparing boxwood for engravers. This was gradually extended to include printers’ materials, and in 1840 he established a factory at Paterson, New Jersey. He continued in this occupation until 1856, when he retired. During 1861–74 he was postmaster of Paterson, except that he was removed from office by President Johnson in 1866, but restored a short time later through the efforts of Charles Sumner.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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