Paige Compositor was an invention developed by James W. Paige between 1872–1888. Designed to replace the human typesetter of a printing press with a mechanical arm, 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.
The Paige typesetting machine is notable for substantial investment that prominent writer Mark Twain made into failed endeavour: $300,000 ($5,905,833 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. 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.
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.
- Kirk, Connie Ann. Mark Twain, a Biography. Connecticut: Greenwood Printing, 2004. PS1331.K57.
- "Mark Twain, a Life" Ron Powers
- Page at ERIC
- U.S. Patent 157,694 Precursor by Paige (patent application filed 1872)
- U.S. Patent 547,859 Paige Compositor patent (application filed 1882)