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c. 1942

The making of the New York Times

In 1942, the War dominated everything and the Times was no exception.

First appearing on a newsstand near you all the way back in 1851, The New York Times — aka “The Grey Lady” — brings you “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But how does it do it?

In September 1942, the answer to that question was provided by photographer Marjorie Collins. Collins, shooting on behalf of the Office of War Information, took a camera to the Times and recorded the process.

Still then located at One Times Square, the creation process that Collins captured at the Times was constructed from a vast array of human and mechanical interlocking elements. In other words, apparent chaos — but chaos that operated 24 hours to create each day’s daily.

Almost all the humans involved were men. The production system itself was physically messy, and took place against, of course, an ever-diminishing deadline. For these pictures, that deadline was midnight on September 10th, a Thursday.

And what was the news on that Thursday deemed fit to print? We could sum it up in just one word: War. The War dominated everything and the Times was no exception. Reports were made of the fighting taking place in both the European and Pacific combat theaters. On the home front, cutbacks continued unabated, and rationing bit hard. 

Marjorie Collins summed herself up this way: “A rebel looking for a cause.” Beginning her career in the 1930s, she was unusual as a female full-time magazine photographer. During the war, she captured American home life in more than 3,000 stills, now in the Library of Congress. 

An Autoplate machine is used to cast curved plates for the printing presses from the completed linotype slugs.
Marjorie Collins
Dispatches have to be mimeographed so fast to meet the deadline that many copies fly out of the machine onto the floor.
Marjorie Collins
In the art department, the cartographer consults charts to prepare a map of the war in Europe. This employee was also here for the First World War.
Marjorie Collins
In the reel room, pressmen transport a 1608-pound paper reel to the presses. The reel has enough for about 1300 newspapers.
Marjorie Collins
A darkroom technician inspects the dots on the screen of a strip negative before it is transferred to a zinc plate.
Marjorie Collins
A linotype operator types out a story in the composing room. The linotype is used to cast metal blocks of type which will then be laid out into a page.
Marjorie Collins
An artist retouches a fashion photo for the Sunday edition.
Marjorie Collins
As the first editions come off the press, a pressman inspects for defects.
Marjorie Collins
In the composing room, the daily index to the news is set partly by hand. This man has been doing it for fifteen years.
Marjorie Collins
The photo department. The Times syndicates its photographs all over the world, sending some by clipper to Europe daily.
Marjorie Collins
The sports section is assembled in the composing room.
Marjorie Collins
The presses start rolling.
Marjorie Collins

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