Paige Compositor

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The Paige Compositor

Paige Compositor was an invention developed by James W. Paige between 1872 and 1888. Designed to replace the human typesetter of a printing press with a mechanical arm,[1][2] the machine was not nearly as precise as it should have been and never turned a profit because of its complexity and continual need for adjustment based upon trial and error.[3][4]

The Paige typesetting machine is notable for substantial investment that prominent writer Mark Twain made into failed endeavour: $300,000 ($5,925,833 today). Twain, a former printer, invested not only the bulk of his book profits but also a large portion of the inheritance of Olivia Clemens, his wife.[4] Many point to his over-investment in the Paige typesetting machine and other inventions as the cause of not only his family's financial decline but also the decline of his wit and humor.[5]

Only two machines were built. One was donated by Cornell University for a scrap metal drive during World War II. The other machine survives and is displayed at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.[6]


  1. ^ Lundin, Leigh (2011-05-22). "Tom Sawyer and the Diabolus Ex Machina". Redding: Criminal Brief. 
  2. ^ Lienhard, John (2000). "The Paige Compositor". Engines of Our Ingenuity (Houston: University of Houston) (1372). ISBN 978-0-19-516731-3. Archived from the original on 1998. 
  3. ^ Lienhard, John (1988). "The Paige Compositor". Engines of Our Ingenuity (Houston: University of Houston) (0050). ISBN 978-0-19-513583-1. Archived from the original on 1997. 
  4. ^ a b Kirk, Connie Ann. Mark Twain, a Biography. Connecticut: Greenwood Printing, 2004. PS1331.K57.
  5. ^ "Mark Twain, a Life" Ron Powers
  6. ^ "Our Collection". Mark Twain House and Museum. Retrieved 28 July 2013. 

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