The Mergenthaler Linotype Company, also known as The Linotype Company, is a business headquartered in Brooklyn, New York known for inventing the first typesetter in which thousands os news rooms utilized.. However, the company relied on asbestos in its machinery and products due to the deadly mineral’s strong resistance to heat and fire. It was the company’s long use of asbestos in its products that led let to a string of asbestos-related lawsuits, causing severe financial strain on the company.
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The Mergenthaler Linotype Company was created in Baltimore, Maryland, after the British company, Machinery Trust, merged with Joseph Lawrence, a former published of The Railway Magazine, and with Ottmar Mergenthaler, an inventor from Germany. Once the business was formed, Ottmar Mergenthaler made the Linotype, the first functional typesetting or “line-casting” machine. The new machine was the first to replace manual typing with keyboard typing.
Shortly after, Mergenthaler Linotype based its office out of Brooklyn, New York. Numerous commercial publishers, including popular news publishers such as the New York Tribune, began buying the linotype machine for its ease of use and affordability. By the early 1900s, the company had sold over 10,000 units. With its booming success, Mergenthaler Linotype expanded its business by purchasing several factories internationally.
Mergenthaler Linotype’s bounding success continued until the 1970s, when newer, advanced equipment made the linotype machine obsolete. Eventually, however, Mergenthaler Linotype transferred its focus to computerized typesetting systems, which picked up more business and kept the company afloat.
In the 1990s, Mergenthaler Linotype started a merger with Hell GmbH, forming the Linotype-Hell AG. The new company moved away from typesetting and began focusing on typographical software. However, prior to its merger, the company used excessive amounts of asbestos in it products, leading to numerous asbestos-related lawsuits.
Although Mergenthaler Linotype faced numerous asbestos-related lawsuits, the New York Supreme Court doesn’t contain any lawsuit information against the company prior to the 1970s. Therefore, only 33 asbestos-related cases against Mergenthaler Linotype are on record. Nevertheless, the company was listed among other companies in a multitude of asbestos-related lawsuits.
Additionally, court documents indicate that Mergenthaler Linotype is still facing lawsuits today. In 2012, the company had a total of 13 asbestos-related lawsuits still active.
Occupations Affected by Mergenthaler
Mergenthaler Linotype used asbestos in the machines that made molten metal. In turn, those who manufactured the company’s products were at risk of asbestos. In addition, company employees who repaired the machinery, assembled the machinery, or replied asbestos cement to the machinery were also at risk.
Furthermore, technicians who worked on the linotype machines would pack asbestos-filled paste between the various parts of the machines. When the linotype needed repair, asbestos was pasted into the empty spaces before the machine parts were replaced. Additionally, anyone who worked at a publishing company and handled the repairs of lintoype machines were also at risk of inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers. In fact, a 1922 manual, provided by Mergenthaler Linotype, advised the workers to:
“Break away as much of the asbestos insulating material packed between the crucible and the jacket as is possible.”
As a result, thousands of people suffered due to asbestos exposure from the company’s machines. The 1922 manual had no warnings regarding the harmful effects of asbestos and how it can lead to life-threatening injuries, such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and asbestos-related lung cancer.
Today, the company goes by the name Linotype and creates various fonts and typographic products for for individuals and businesses. The company is still based out of Brooklyn, New York, and no longer uses asbestos in any of its products.
Additional Information and Resources
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