Hot-Metal Printer Profiles

We (Mike Maher & Ben Lopez) are happy to report that we have received positive responses for the web site, including pictures, tidbits, hot-metal printer profiles and comments. We will post them as soon as possible as we get them. As we all know, the hot-metal printing trade was a male-dominated craft. So the women were in a minority, so it was surprising to see that the first person to submit a profile of their hot-metal printing career, was a woman, Wilma Grant. So guys, let’s hear from you.

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May 16, 2019


By Bill Sager

GPO: It’s a place I spent a little over 30 years of my life working. I can clearly remember the day I started working there in the Patents Section—July 26, 1965 I was a Linotype operator and my first boss was Richard Barton. He told me in order to work overtime, I had to set 132 inches of regular type everyday for one week. I was not that fast but I had several deaf friends that helped me do that. I made $4.20 an hour working the day shift and there was plenty of overtime everyday.


Backing up a bit I will explain how it came to be about working in the GPO. I heard if you wanted a large paycheck as a printer, it was the place to work. One day after work at Richmond Newspapers, I saw my old scoutmaster from Strasburg, Va. John Marsh who was then a Congressman, walking and I talked to him about helping me get a job at GPO and it wasn’t long afterwards I met Public Printer Harrison.  He was a hunter and boy did we talk deer hunting! So here comes the letter I was waiting for: “Report to GPO at 8:00 a.m. June 1, 1965.”  That was the start of my Hang the Pig Linotype machine career at GPO. If I remember correctly GPO employed 4,200 people. We worked lots of overtime and sometimes worked seven days a week. The night shift paid an additional 15% an hour.


Leaving a good bunch of guys in Day Patents, I transferred to Nite Patents. My boss there was Everett Howard, the brother of a good friend of mine, Jimmy who also worked there. Everett was great with ASL as well as many co-workers. It makes one big happy family when everyone can communicate together. My last transfer in the Hang a Pig department was in Nite Lino Section. It was easier than Patents.  We worked on the Congressional Record and Federal Register, more newspaper type work. In Patents our work was mostly chemical solutions which was much harder. 


I didn’t really like working long hours but it gave my family things we never had before. We owned a nice home in Vienna, drove late-model cars and often took trips. We also had two boys in college. The option was there if you needed extra money. It didn’t make me rich but we lived comfortably.


I don’t remember how many years I worked in the Linotype Section but work was plentiful there as long as Congress was in session.


Then came the computers. Desktop printing. The clock was ticking on us after that. We were told to learn to type and read proofs. I had typing in school but that was 20 years ago. We had training under Marty Mehlberg to type 60 words per minute. We didn’t feel safe knowing our hot metal trade was on its way out. I still had a number of years to work. It came time to take down the pigs. The call came for all  hot metal guys to go to the proof room or to the Computer Room. It was the end of an era and the end for the Linotype machine.  


I somehow made it to accumulate 30 years of service which is giving me a good pension but it was nothing like hot metal. So sad to see it go. I wish I could remember names of my co-workers but to list a few would be unfair. I still think of Government Printing Office and the guys I worked with. The memories will always be there. I guess I am one of the fortunate ones still living at 81 and reading good stories about you guys. I thank all my brothers and sisters for making this possible. God Bless and a long life to the GPO printers. Smjle! 


By William Sager

Retired January 3, 1996