old newspaper cardboard copies

Hello All,
I have some old newspaper pages(1940-50s)pressed into cardboard pages.The photos look screened on these pages.Are they liberary copies?
Thanks retired paper guy

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They sound like stereotype mats. They were used to make lead printing plates, either flat, or curved for rotary presses. They were very common when the newspaper trade was still using hot-metal composition.

To retired paper guy

Please do not discard that material, some museum will almost certainly want it, or some other interested old-timer, please preserve it carefully till someone else shows interest, and can store it; that is, unless you decide to keep it yourself.

Are there pieces of packing glued on the reverse side of the sheets? The sheets may be described as matrix (plural matrices) and from my slight understanding, the sheets were called flong before being moulded. Old-time stereotypers made their own flongs, but usually they were manufactured; ours were blue [I think] colour on the “back”. Or maybe yellow?

The process is stereotype, and was also used to make flat copies of made-up jobs (usually multiple copies of advertisements to go to several newspapers). One of my jobs as an apprentice was to lever these stereos off the wood mounts, sometimes they were nailed down with brads with a special tip which was flattened and had a very firm hold, which was especially difficult if there was a mortice (right through the wood mount and metal stereo) next to the brads. A broken linotype spaceband was useful as a lever. I could never understand why some advertisements came to us
in the form of metal stereotype casts, when the postage on a matrix would have been so much less, and the cost of making also. [See next paragraph.]

We received some advertisements in the form of flat matrices which were then “flat-cast” by the newspaper’s stereotyper. Again my job to carry them to the composing room, and trim them, and store them.

Sometimes used for jobbing, to save having type sorts standing in a repeat job. In Brisbane (ask any WW2 veteran who was stationed in Brisbane during WW2 about this city) there was a whole shop with about a dozen workers making these stereos; I went in one day and the foreman was working during his lunch break to catch up with the demand.

The whole page sheets used at newspaper sites were usually cast in curved shape mould, then trimmed and sometimes needed further treatment to form half-cylinders for rotary printing presses for newspapers, two plates made a full circle, and usually two across, sometimes more.

Our press had full cylinders, with a slot for fixing to the rotating part of the press (was it called a saddle?); one broadsheet page to one matrix, later two tabloid pages to the same area.


P.S.: Hope my proofreading is acceptable; late at night. — A.


Some weeks back, there was a query about displaying metal half-tones; anything eventuated?


P.S.: A similar result to stereotypes for flat copies was made with electrotypes, but I never saw how it was done, only the result. If anyone still has the skills and knowledge, perhaps electrotypes would be better than photosensitive plastic? Anyone remember the distinctive appearance of the electrotype, a different colour of the surface? — A.

Hi Alan,thanks for the info.I have about 50-60 pages with content from titanic to nhl champions.Interesting readingThanks again Charlie

Alan is correct they will be flongs , a material of my childhood some of my family were in papermills , i used to get lots of it to play with and freshly cut sheets give you a papercut you never forget !! our local mill was owned by the local news group and they kind of in housed everything they producedor needed !
In the thirties my grandmother worked there making paper for the forgeing of the reichsmark to wreck germanys economy !

is grandma still forging or has she cleaned up her act??

Sadly long gone now , however i would make sure your ticket through the pearly gates is genuine !!
I have learned things from the strangest of sources including charles black , if you are of the age to know who he was and what he achieved ,to his detriment of course and rightly so .

Interesting bits of history in comment, thanks for reminding me of some aspects.

Yesterday I keyboarded something similar to the following story and somehow lost it when I tried to send it; maybe someone will suggest that was the best course?

Stirring some vague memories, I have remembered some of a story about stereotyping pioneers. One, which I hope has some fact, is that a man in Europe used a mixture of shredded paper, water and (probably) glue of some kind, a very soft mixture (like papier mache?) which he poured onto the forme; then dried the “flong”, although that name would not be used then; where/when did the word originate? The story goes on that he did not have enough pressure, so his wife sat on his shoulders while he trampled on his set-up to press the sludgy mix into the type.

For newspaper work, and most other purposes, time is important. [When one of my sons went to work as an electrician for a newspaper he was told “there is no tomorrow”.] Newspaper stereotyping usually uses premanufactured sheets of relatively dry flong, which are dampened according to the stereotyper’s experience, moulded and then dried. Like most paper products, the matrix shrinks when drying, a different amount according to whether along or across the grain. I can’t remember the percentage of shrink, but it was approximately predictable.

Where I served my apprenticeship, the moulding machine was a little like a cylinder press; the forme was slid onto the bed, flong and packing on top of the type, the motor started and the bed passed below a roller which pressed the flong into the type; there was a similar roller below supporting the bed, the bed did not ride on continuous runners, but there were some guides to keep the bed horizontal during the pass. One mishap was when a 6-point brass column rule accidentally lodged under the forme.

At another place I worked (several editions during afternoon) the moulding press was a fixed machine, two large flat slabs of steel held in a massive frame; the top slab was fixed to the frame of the machine; a very large hydraulic cylinder pressed the bottom slab upwards to apply pressure to a forme (previously slid onto that “bed” with flong and packing); heat was also applied to dry the matrix while still in contact with the type, there was a water-cooled table to cool the chase and the type after being returned to the compositors for quick change for the next edition.
I was told how many (hundreds?) tons pressure was exerted by the hydraulic cylinder. I asked why their spare moulding press was not used, occasionally a forme had to wait while a previous one was processed; the second machine had been used as a proof-press. [See note*** below.] Someone had not noticed that a piece of steel mount (something like I visualise boxcar) was beside the chase, and it turned edge-up, so that it was over type-high; the pressure for proofing was not as high, but was concentrated on a small part of the press, so that the frame was irreparably twisted.

After that mishap, proofing of large jobs, one tabloid page or a pair, was done on the kind of press that was used by early printers, with the big handle which moved a platen down onto the packing above the sheet of paper on the inked forme.

For one of the supermarkets, we provided 6 or 12 proofs, which were distributed to their suburban stores (shops in Australia) so that there would be no conflict between their prices and the advertised price.

Referring back to the cylinder press*** used for stereotyping (we called this moulding press a mangle) at the first site I did a short-run printing job on thin card on this machine.

Is there much interest in the history of printing, such things as early attempts at typesetting machines like the Monoline or Typograph? I read that a machine with keyboard and operator was used to distribute single types into a case, but I wonder at the degree of frustration if the “distributor” lost his place in the text. How many have seen the pictures/drawings of the huge rotary presses which had hand-set (single) types fastened around the cylinder? How was the type retained?

Was stereotyping used to reproduce cast objects other than type? Amulets, badges, shields with emblems “engraved” on them? Come to think of it, I remember a commemorative badge which was distributed for the Silver Anniversary of the coronation of King George V of England which could have been a cast, it was not up to the standard of coins or more formal medals; it was probably cast using an engraved matrix of metal.


Durig the bicentennial (1976) my friend was in a reinactment group that wanted to stage a battle from the revolutionary war, they found out that there were lots of american groups but very few British groups. So he started the 34th Regiment of Foot, an actual British regiment that was here at the time. Being a nut for detail, he had uniforms custom made as close to the original uniforms as he could, he was having a hard time finding buttons or a company that would cast buttons for him. During a conversation with him about this i suggested that he have a couple of mats made for the ludlow. We cast his buttons on the ludlow, cut the slug off and he had buttons that looked close to the originals. We also use the ludlow for casting musket balls, if i was thinking way back i should have had a mat made for them too.

Ah Stereos , the smell of a cooking mould and later the stench of vulcanising rubber , the horror of having to move it once laid down on a form . !!! some of the tools in the reproductive trades are just soul less !

to dickg

Your story about making facsimiles of buttons on a Ludlow almost justifies my lengthy story reminiscing about stereotyping.