The Evolution of Communication Media

From Newspapers to Motion Pictures

Man typing on manual typewriter
Tony Anderson/ The image Bank/ Getty Images

Smart newspapermen of the time paid attention when the telegraph was invented. The New York Herald, the Sun and the Tribune had been founded recently. The proprietors of these newspapers saw that the telegraph was bound to affect all newspapers profoundly. How were the newspapers to cope with the situation and make use of the news that was coming in and would be coming in more and faster over the wires?

Improved Newspaper Presses

For one thing, the newspapers now needed better printing machinery. Steam-powered printing in America had begun. New printing presses were introduced in the United States by Robert Hoe at the same time as Samuel Morse was struggling to perfect the telegraph. Before steam power, newspapers printed in the United States used presses operated by hand. The New York Sun, the pioneer of cheap modern newspapers, was printed by hand in 1833, and four hundred papers an hour was the highest speed of one press.

Robert Hoe's double-cylinder, steam-driven printing press was an improvement, however, it was Hoe's son that invented the modern newspaper press. In 1845, Richard March Hoe invented the revolving or rotary press letting newspapers print at rates of a hundred thousand copies an hour.

Newspaper publishers now had the fast Hoe presses, cheap paper, could type cast by machinery, had stereotyping and the new process of making pictures by photoengraving replacing engraving on wood.

However, the newspapers of 1885, still set up their type by the same method that Benjamin Franklin used to set up the type for The Pennsylvania Gazette. The compositor stood or sat at his "case," with his "copy" before him, and picked the type up letter by letter until he had filled and correctly spaced a line.

Then he would set another line, and so on, all with his hands. After the job was completed, the type had to be distributed again, letter by letter. Typesetting was slow and expensive.

Linotype and Monotype

This labor of manual typesetting was done away with by the invention of two intricate and ingenious machines. The linotype, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler of Baltimore, and the monotype of Tolbert Lanston, a native of Ohio. However, the linotype became the favorite composing machine for newspapers.

The Invention of the Typewriter

While new technology for printing newspapers was being developed, another instrument for journalists was coming into existence, the typewriter.

Early Typewriters

Alfred Ely Beach made a sort of typewriter as early as 1847, but he neglected it for other things. His typewriter had many of the features of the modern typewriter, however, it lacked a satisfactory method of inking the types. In 1857, S. W. Francis of New York invented a typewriter with a ribbon that was saturated with ink. Neither of these typewriters were a commercial success. They were regarded merely as the toys of ingenious men.

Christopher Latham Sholes

The accredited father of the typewriter was Wisconsin newspaperman, Christopher Latham Sholes.

After his printers went on strike, Sholes made a few unsuccessful attempts to invent a typesetting machine. He then, in collaboration with another printer, Samuel Soule, invented a numbering machine. A friend, Carlos Glidden saw this ingenious device and suggested that they should try to invent a machine that print letters.

The three men, Sholes, Soule, and Glidden agreed to try to invent such a machine. None of them had studied the efforts of previous experimenters, and they made many errors which might have been avoided. Gradually, however, the invention took form and the inventors were granted patents in June and July of 1868. However, their typewriter was easily broken and made mistakes. Investor, James Densmore bought a share in the machine buying out Soule and Glidden. Densmore furnished the funds to build about thirty models in succession, each a little better than the preceding.

The improved machine was patented in 1871, and the partners felt that they were ready to begin manufacturing.

Sholes Offers the Typewriter to Remington

In 1873, James Densmore and Christopher Sholes offered their machine to Eliphalet Remington and Sons, manufacturers of firearms and sewing machines. In Remington's well-equipped machine shops the typewriter was tested, strengthened, and improved. The Remingtons believed there would be a demand for the typewriter and offered to buy the patents, paying either a lump sum, or a royalty. Sholes preferred the ready cash and received twelve thousand dollars, while Densmore chose the royalty and received a million and a half.

The Invention of the Phonograph

The telegraph, the press, and the typewriter were agents of communication for the written word. The telephone was an agent for the spoken word. Another instrument for recording sound and reproducing it was the phonograph (record player). In 1877, Thomas Alva Edison completed his first phonograph.

The phonograph worked by translating the air vibrations created by the human voice into minute indentations on a sheet of tinfoil placed over a metallic cylinder, and the machine could then reproduce the sounds which had caused the indentations. The record wore out after a few reproductions, however, and Edison was too busy to develop his idea further until later. Other did.

Phonograph machines were invented under a variety of different names, however, all reproduced with wonderful fidelity the human voice, in speech or song, and the tones of either a single instrument or a whole orchestra. Through these machines, good music was brought to those who could hear it in no other way.

The Camera and Photography

The last half century of the 1800s saw great advances in photography and photoengraving. While the first experiments in photography happened in Europe, Samuel Morse, introduced photography to America, in particular to his friend John Draper. Draper had a part in the perfection of the dry plate (the first negatives) and was one of the first photographers to do portrait photography.

George Eastman

A great inventor in photographic technology was George Eastman from Rochester, New York. In 1888, George Eastman introduced a new camera, which he called Kodak, and with it the sales slogan: "You press the button, we do the rest." The first Kodak camera was pre-loaded with a roll of sensitized paper (film) that could take a hundred pictures. A film roll that could be sent away for developing and printing (at first the entire camera was sent). Eastman had been an amateur photographer when the hobby was both expensive and tedious. After inventing a method of making dry plates, he began to manufacture them as early as 1880 before invented roll film.

After the first Kodak, there came other cameras filled with rolls of sensitized nitro-cellulose film. The invention of cellulose film (that replaced the glass dry plate) revolutionized photography. Both Reverend Hannibal Goodwin and George Eastman patented nitro-cellulose film, however, after a court battle Goodwin's patent was upheld as being first.

The Eastman Kodak Company introduced the first film cartridge which could be inserted or removed without the need of a dark room, that created a boom in the market for amateur photographers.

The Birth of Motion Pictures

In the development of Thomas Alva Edison played a large part. Edison had seen a crude system made of Henry Heyl of Philadelphia. Heyl used glass plates fixed to the circumference of a wheel, each plate rotated in front of a lens. This method of pictures in motions was slow and expensive. Edison after seeing the Heyl show, and after experimenting with other methods decided that a continuous tape-like strip of film needed to be used. He invented the first practical motion picture camera and with the cooperation of George Eastman started producing the new tape-like film, giving birth to the modern motion picture industry. The motion picture projector was invented to show what the new camera and film captured. Other inventors, such as Paul in England and Lumiere in France, produced other types of projecting machines, which differed in some mechanical details.

Public Reaction to Motion Pictures

When the motion picture was shown in the United States, the audiences were amazed. Popular actors moved from stage into the "movies." In the small town, early movie theaters were often converted storeroom, and in the cities, some of the largest and most attractive theaters converted into movie theaters, and new theaters were specially built. The Eastman Company soon manufactured about ten thousand miles of film every month.

Besides offering amusement, the new moving pictures were used for important news events, historical events could now be visually preserved for posterity.