Benton, Linn Boyd

SUBJECT AREA: Paper and printing
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b. 13 May 1844 Little Falls, New York, USA
d. 15 July 1932 Plainfield, New Jersey, USA
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American typefounder, cutter and designer, inventor of the automatic punch-cutting machine.
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Benton spent his childhood in Milwaukee and La Crosse, where he early showed a talent for mechanical invention. His father was a lawyer with an interest in newspapers and who acquired the Milwaukee Daily News. Benton became familiar with typesetting equipment in his father's newspaper office. He learned the printer's trade at another newspaper office, at La Crosse, and later worked as bookkeeper at a type foundry in Milwaukee. When that failed in 1873, Benton acquired the plant, and when he was joined by R.V.Waldo the firm became Benton, Waldo \& Co. Benton began learning and improving type-cutting practice. He first devised unit-width or "self-spacing" type which became popular with compositors, saving, it was reckoned, 20 per cent of their time. Meanwhile, Benton worked on a punch-cutting machine to speed up the process of cutting letters in the steel punches from which matrices or moulds were formed to enable type to be cast from molten metal. His first mechanical punch-cutter worked successfully in 1884. The third machine, patented in 1885, was the model that revolutionized the typefounding operation. So far, punch-cutting had been done by hand, a rare and expensive skill that was insufficient to meet the demands of the new typesetting machines, the monotype of Lanston and the linotype of Merganthaler. These were threatened with failure until Benton saved the day with his automatic punch-cutter. Mechanizing punch-cutting and the forming of matrices made possible the typesetting revolution brought about by mono-and linotype.
In 1892 Benton's firm merged with others to form the American Type Founders Company. Benton's equipment was moved to New York and he with it, to become a board member and Chief Technical Advisor. In 1894 he became Manager of the company's new plant for type manufacture in Jersey City. Benton steadily improved both machinery and processes, for which he was granted twenty patents. With his son Morris Fuller, he was also notable and prolific in the field of type design. Benton remained in active association with his company until just two weeks before his death.
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Further Reading
Obituary, 1932, Inland Printer (August): 53–4.
P.Cost, 1985, "The contributions of Lyn [sic] Boyd Benton and Morris Fuller Benton to the technology of typesetting and the art of typeface design", unpublished MSc thesis, Rochester Institute of Technology (the most thorough treatment).
H.L.Bullen, 1922, Inland Printer (October) (describes Benton's life and work).
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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