How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain by Alan Pell Crawford

How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain by Alan Pell Crawford

Author:Alan Pell Crawford
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: humor, biography
ISBN: 9780544836716
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published: 2017-10-17T04:00:00+00:00

WHEN TWAIN MET PAIGE and saw Paige’s work in progress, he was greatly impressed. He went to the Colt Armory, “promising myself nothing,” but came away eager to invest. Paige himself was impressive. He was “bright-eyed, alert, smartly dressed,” and a great salesman and presenter. He “could persuade a fish to come out and take a walk with him.”

The Paige Compositor, as it was called, might not have been able to think, but it seemed to behave almost as if it could. It was unquestionably a marvel of complexity. The patent application included 275 sheets of drawings and 123 more of specifications. The 5,000-pound contraption had more than 18,000 parts, with a 109-key keyboard worked by only one man. Pieces of type were dropped from upright silos, each of which held 200 characters. Dropped from its silo, the type slid into what has been described as a “raceway,” in which the lines of type were assembled. Once the type was used, it was dumped underneath, where it would be shuttled back up to the top and deposited into the appropriate silo. The only thing the Paige Compositor couldn’t do (besides write newspaper stories itself) was make sure the lines ran flush right, or were, as they say, “justified.” An assistant had to insert steel spaces of various sizes to make the lines come out even at the end.

When the machine worked, it set type six times faster than a skilled human typesetter could. Using a Paige machine, Twain said, a New York daily could set up an entire page for what it “now costs to set a column by hand.” It had additional advantages, too. The Paige Compositor “does not get drunk,” and it “does not join the Printer’s Union.”

There were, by Twain’s reckoning, 11,000 newspapers and periodicals being published. If only 1,000 of their publishers installed a Paige Compositor, he figured revenues would reach $2.5 million. Twain was not insensitive to the fact that this technological innovation would make many jobs obsolete. Economist Joseph Schumpeter, author of Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, called it “creative destruction.” Innovation always costs a lot of people their jobs, but Twain contented himself—as champions of innovation always do—by claiming it would actually create jobs, given time. As newspaper production costs declined, more and bigger newspapers would be printed. Higher profits would allow publishers to reinvest their profits into their businesses, producing more printed materials. For every typesetter who lost his job, Twain said, “10 will get work.”


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