Mergenthaler and the history of printing, William Kent Krueger, and end-of-season baseball thrills: newsletter, September 16, 2022

September 16, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2, 491) on Friday, September 16, 2022.

It’s the month of September, and while much of sports fandom turns its attention to football, both collegiate and professional, this baseball fan and many others have plenty to pay attention to ourselves. The end of the full season races are upon us, and while most of those races are pretty much decided, a couple may go down to the stretch.

What is really exciting is the fact that a couple of mighty hitters, Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, are providing fireworks on the field almost every day. Judge, the New York Yankees phenom, is giving chase to Roger Maris’s season record of 61 home runs. Opposing pitchers have spent the season trying to figure Judge out, without much success.

Opposing pitchers have spent a career trying to figure out Albert Pujols, who at this writing is only three home runs away from the magic number of 700 for a career. Only three players in baseball history have hit 700 or more home runs: Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron. Pujols trying to reach the 700 mark in the last two weeks of the season is something to watch with great interest. If he does not, he still is among the best who has ever played the game.

And if all this wasn’t enough for the baseball fan, there are the rule changes that will go into effect for the 2023 season. Those we can contemplate at a somewhat later date. Now, however, all we really want to hear are the words, “Play ball!”

Have a great and literate weekend.


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Ottmar Mergenthaler and the second great phase of printing history

When I got interested in journalism in the 1960s, one of the parts of the profession that fascinated me the most, oddly, was printing and production. How a newspaper was put together and the way in which it was made and distributed were things that, without thinking too much about it, I wanted to know about more.

One of the things that I found out later was that my fascination with printing and production was not something that was shared by others who were looking at a career in journalism. But that is neither here nor there.

What I did not realize at the time was that in the mid-1960s, the history of printing was ending its second great stage and beginning its third.

The first stage printing began, of course, with Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450s and the invention of movable type. The printing press was a vast improvement over previous means of making multiple copies of documents, a process that required hand-lettering.

But movable type had its drawbacks. Letters had to be placed by hand into a printing matrix and then secured together in order for the printing press to work properly. That was a tedious procedure, and over the next several centuries, there developed a set of printers who were extremely skilled and extremely fast in their ability to create a line of type.

But there had to be a better, quicker way to do this. In the 1880s, Ottmar Mergenthaler, a German immigrant, developed a machine that revolutionized printing and began the second great phase of printing history.

Mergenthaler was born in 1854 in a small town near Stuttgart, Germany. His father was the village schoolmaster, and his mother died when he was five years old. He was raised by a devoted and loving stepmother, and when he approached adulthood, he rejected his father’s wish that he become a teacher. Instead, he chose to devote himself to the development of machinery and mathematical instruments. He was apprenticed to a watchmaker for four years, and in 1872 he immigrated to the United States to work with a cousin who lived in Washington, D.C. The cousin’s business produced inventor models which were necessary at the time to be submitted with every patent application. Mergenthaler was thus in touch with many new machinery developments.

One of his interests was in printing, and he was convinced that he could make a machine for casting a whole line of type at a time, rather than letter by letter. One of the backers for this idea was Whitelaw Reid, publisher of the New-York Tribune.

Mergenthaler came up with a machine that would do exactly what he wanted and demonstrated it in the Tribune’s composing room in 1886.

When Reid saw what Mergenthaler’s machine could do, he exclaimed “Ottmar, you’ve done it! A line o’ type!” The machine that Mergenthaler invented became known as a Mergenthaler Linotype machine, and the New-York Tribune quickly adopted it for its daily paper as well as for publication of large books.

Mergenthaler established a business manufacturing and selling his machines in Baltimore. He demonstrated his machine at the Paris World Exhibition in 1889, and by 1904, there were more than 10,000 linotype machines in use.

Unfortunately, Mergenthaler did not live to see the success of his invention. In 1894 he contracted tuberculosis and two years later moved to Arizona and then to New Mexico. He returned to Baltimore in 1897, and there he died in 1899 at the age of 45.

The Mergenthaler Linotype machine became standard equipment in most newspaper offices throughout the first half of the 20th century.

By the 1960s it was referred to as “hot type” because a new technology, referred to as “cold type,” was making headway in the printing industry. Cold type was offset printing, which used a photographic process for manufacturing type. Within just a few years, it would make the Mergenthaler Linotype machine obsolete.

The first newspaper that I worked for, the Bristol Herald Courier in Bristol, Virginia, was a “hot type” newspaper. That is, it still used Mergenthaler Linotype machines, and I was able to see these machines in operation many times. But they were at the end of an era. Offset printing was taking over, and I quickly learned the ins and outs of this new technology and pretty much forgot about “hot type.”


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


William Kent Krueger, 19 Cork O’Connor novels later

By the time William Kent Krueger graduated from high school in 1969, he and his family had lived in eight different cities, in six different states, and then 11 different houses. He was born in Wyoming, but the high school that he graduated from was in Oregon.

“The only real constant in my life was the dream of becoming a writer,” he later wrote.

Krueger knew from the third grade that he wanted to write and that he wanted to make his living by writing. But life, as they say, got in the way.

He took off for Stanford University in the fall of 1969 full of ideas about himself and about how the world should be. By the next spring, he was part of a student protest movement that objected to the university’s connections with the military and its complicity in developing weapons. Krueger joined a group that forcibly took over the president’s office.

“Not only did the administration sic the right police on me, they evaporated my academic scholarship forcing me to leave after my freshman year,” he said.

Krueger took the termination of his academic career in stride, and he headed east to Nebraska where the woman who he was determined to marry resided. During these formative years, Krueger worked at a variety of jobs including logging and construction. He always continued to write, however, and was able to sell a few magazine articles and stories.

He married the woman that he had pursued in Nebraska, and they soon were expecting their first child. In the summer of 1980, the Krueger family moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota, where his wife, Diane, entered law school. By the time she graduated, they had a second child.

Krueger continued his writing, but by now it had become more disciplined and focused. He had found a café near his home that opened at 6 a.m., and he began to show up there early each morning and write by hand in a spiral-bound notebook for at least an hour. After that, he would head off to work in order to keep his family housed and fed.

Despite winning some acclaim for his stories, Krueger was unable to publish his first novel until 1998. That novel was titled Iron Lake, and it introduced Krueger’s major central character, detective Cork O’Connor. The novel was set in northern Minnesota and uses O’Connor’s mixed ancestry that includes Native American tribes as an important part of the story that he tells.

That first novel won him a variety of awards and prizes and gained an enthusiastic reception from readers and critics.

Krueger continued producing Cork O’Connor novels on a regular basis, but he also wrote several stand-alone books. One of the most acclaimed is the novel Ordinary Grace, published in 2013, which won an Edgar Award for the Best Mystery Novel of the Year. Ordinary Grace reveals Krueger’s interest in Protestant religious theology as well as that of Native American cultures.

Another of his stand-alone novels, This Tender Land, came out in 2019 and stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly six months.

Krueger recently published his 19th Cork O’Connor novel, Fox Creek, about which the New York Times wrote:

This genuinely thrilling and atmospheric novel brims with characters who are easy to root for. The pacing isn’t perfect — I could have done with fewer chapters in the bad guys’ heads — but when Cork, Henry and the others faced mortal danger, my heart leaped into my throat. For those new to the series, “Fox Creek” is a strong entry point. (New York Times)


Group giveaways for September

Kill the Quarterback is part of two group giveaways during the month of September:

September Mystery and Crime Giveaway

Fall into Mystery

And my young adult novel, Point Spread, is part of this young adult book giveaway:

Books for September

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.

It helps me a great deal if you use these links to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books. Many thanks.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Vic C.: I actually remember Larry Doby’s name though I’m certain (being in Philadelphia) I never saw him play. My father, a great baseball fan, was most likely to have mentioned him.

The topic that really caught my attention was Peter Gunn. Talk about cool and the music… Oh man, the music. That’s what got me hooked on Mancini and I’ve had the two Peter Gunn albums in my collection all these years, first LPs and, later, CDs. In my junior and senior years in high school, the music was what I played, constantly. I remember that Craig Stevens was married (for more than 50 years) to actress Alexis Smith with an enticing smokey voice. There was another series also produced by Blake Edwards and scored by Mancini—Mr. Lucky—and I had those albums, too.  In that show, Mr. Lucky (real name never divulged) was loosely (very loosely) based on the character portrayed by Cary Grant in the movie of the same name.

Looking back, I didn’t really think about the length of the shows; they just seemed to work out just fine in the allotted time. Of course, in those days, there was a lot more show than commercials, one ad at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end. Watching was a lot more pleasurable.

Mike C.: What a nice coincidence that you talked about Larry Doby and the integration of baseball. Just a few months ago I finished reading a really good book entitled Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin. Very eye-opening to me. I was raised in a home where segregation and discrimination were 2 evils and taboo. When I had to live in Montgomery, Alabama for 10 months at the age of 10, I was shocked at what I saw and heard. I could never understand how that kind of hatred and prejudice could exist in a supposedly Christian nation. Luckily we have made great strides since then. We are not all there…but we sure are moving in the right direction. Enjoyed your weekly newsletter—as always! Already looking forward to the next one!

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Albert Pujols

Best quote of the week:

I hate with a murderous hatred those men who, having lived their youth, would send into war other youth, not lived, unfulfilled, to fight and die for them; the pride and cowardice of those old men, making their wars that boys must die. Mary Roberts Rinehart, novelist (1876-1958)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.

Helping those in need

Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: MLB’s second Black player, Peter Gunn, and rare books studied and explored: newsletter, September 9, 2022



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