© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

April 2: UND Inventor Joe Hughes

Ways To Subscribe

The history of the printing industry in the United States was forever changed with the installation of a Linotype typesetting machine in June 1886 in the offices of the New York Tribune newspaper. Linotype produces lines of words as a single strip of metal, rather than hand setting type by individual letter. It streamlined the typesetting process making it faster to produce a page of type.

One of the first uses of the linotype machine in North Dakota was at the Fargo Forum in 1897. Linotype continued to be used in printing until the 1980s when it was replaced by digital typesetting and computer word processers.

On this date in 1967, Joe Hughes, the manager at the University Press at UND, was profiled for his invention of an electrically driven linotype feeder – the only one on the market. The electric motor feeder kept the molten metal in the linotype machine even during the casting process by monitoring the levels and adding new lead when needed. Two of his inventions were already installed at the Steele County Press in Finley, and three were in use at the University Press.

Hughes explained that inventing was just a hobby done in his spare time. Most of his inventions were designed to save labor and speed up operations in the print shop.

Hughes was a longtime newspaperman. He got his start in 1921 in Cando, working for the Cando Record. He recalled that at age 19 he started working for the Record, learning the trade of printing – especially linotype operation. In 1924, he began work at the Grand Forks Herald as a linotype operator and began teaching journalism at UND in 1943. He later became the manager of the University Press, and retired 1972, leaving his mark after 50 years in the North Dakota printing industry.

Dakota Datebook by Ashley Thronson


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content