Type Cabinets

Entering the building on the left area several cabinets of foundry type. This type was used to set the stories in the newspaper and to compose job printing as well.


Each drawer of type is called a “case” and each case contained a font of type. Most of the cases you see here are called California cases, which is a description of how the letters were distributed into each of the little slots in the case. The most frequently used letters were located closer to the front and to the middle for easy retrieval.

The typesetter would pull out a case of type and put it on the top of the cabinet. He or she would then take a silver metal device called a “stick” and pick up letters one by one to spell out the words and sentences. Spaces were used between words and between lines and the stick could be adjusted to different widths depending on what was being typeset.


After the article was set, it would be transferred from the stick to the composition area where it would be put into the page.

Several interesting terms come from this kind of typesetting. The term “upper case,” or capital letters, comes from the fact that cases of capitals were usually located toward the top of the cabinet while “lower case” letters were lower down. (Some cases, or drawers, only had capital letters.)

The term “out of sorts” also comes from typesetting. Each letter is a “sort,” so when a typesetter ran out of a letter that he needed, he would be “out of sorts.” 

“Mind your p’s and q’s” also comes from these cases. The small “p” and “q” are next to each other and typesetters have to pay attention to which is which since they look similar. And “getting the lead out” refers to spacing between lines of type. To “get the lead out” means put less space between lines.

The small green boxes of mixed up type you see nearby is called “pie.” It was often the job of a young boy called the “printer’s devil” or of a “tramp printer” to resort the pie back into the cases after the paper was printed. 

The type you see here was used to set articles by hand in Banks County into the mid-1950s when that function was replaced by a Linotype. Although Linotypes date back to much earlier (1900 or so,) The Banks County Journal continued to use this hand-set foundry type and didn’t put the Linotype in place until the 1950s.