News Briefs from L’Etoile

News Briefs – (PIP #18)

By Louise Peloquin

Every day, the Prince Street linotype operators arouse L’Etoile’s five Mergenthalers (1) by tapping on their 90-character keyboards. The grand machines assemble matrices and spit out lines of hot metal to cast them into a single slug. These pieces are set to print newspaper pages.

L’Etoile’s team repeats the same gestures day in and day out. Does the routine become tedious? Does the task of laying out bits of type metal turn into an exciting puzzle-creation challenge?

Today’s digital era has modified readership habits by removing the sensuality of unfolding crisp, freshly-printed pages and getting one’s fingers stained with ink while skimming over the latest news during a city bus ride, a coffee at a corner soda fountain or a beer at a favorite bar. When readers did not care to delve into long features, briefs like these probably caught their eye.


L’Etoile – October 10, 1917

The Generosity of Lowell Electors

     Lowell schoolchildren and teaching personnel contributed close to $250 to the fund created by the Children of America to come to the aid of young people in countries devastated by war. Mr. Horace K. Turner, secretary general of the committee, recently acknowledged reception of $183.67 and other previously-addressed sums. Mr. Molloy, superintendent of public schools, says that new collections will occur from time to time.


L’Etoile, June 30, 1944

Snake in a train

     DANVERS, 30 – All one has to do is travel on the Boston & Maine trains to enjoy the joys of nature.

A train was heading towards Boston yesterday and everything was going smoothly, when strong men turned pale and women took vials of perfume out of their handbags. Others climbed onto the seats and screamed at the top of their lungs. They could see a snake slithering down the aisle.

     Following Boston & Maine’s highest traditions, a member of the personnel, in a most calm demeanour, seized the offensive snake with a pair of gloves and, to everyone’s delight, threw it outside.

     A teacher from Peabody who had just arrived said that the incident was a practical joke played by a group of pupils with two little toys resembling snakes. The women ceased their screaming and put the vials of perfume back into their purses and the men, gone pale with fear, blushed like roosters.


L’Etoile – July 3, 1944

The Russians on Napoleon’s route

     Beating the Nazis back home on the same route to Warsaw that Napoleon followed in his disastrous retreat from Moscow, the Russian troops continue to converge towards Minsk whose fall will be a victory for independence. For 1000 years, Minsk has been a center for war. The long arrow on the map (1) indicates the direction of the thrust towards Warsaw and Berlin as well as another thrust towards Dvinsk. Another offensive (2) south of Mogilev is rapidly developing. (International) 



  1. Photos of these Mergenthalers were posted on October 24, 2023 in “Every day a star is born.”
  2. Translation of the three briefs by Louise Peloquin.

3 Responses to News Briefs from L’Etoile

  1. Malcolm Sharps says:

    Dear Louise, this Soviet-German theatre of war became familiar to me in more peaceful times. I lived for three years close to the town called Dvinsk on the map (Daugavpils, Latvia). Of course, war left its mark on some areas more than others. Although superficial examination shows the forests recovered, enormous bomb craters produce a rugged aesthetic within the forests. Certain cities didn’t fair so well and we have been left with rather characterless places in Bialystok, Poland; Daugavpils, Latvia; and Siauliai, Lithuania (not illustrated). However, some very interesting historical cities faired better, and my article and comments speak about sleeper travel from Riga, Latvia to Tallinn, Estonia, as well as between Vilnius and Memel (Klaipeda), both Lithuania.
    Vilno (Vilnius), also of great historical importance, has its own interesting narrative, because during the period of the conflict it was under Polish occupation. Due to the loss of a capital, the Lithuanians promoted the town of Kaunas as their new capital. There was extensive and dynamic architectural development in this period, making a visit today well worthwhile.

  2. Malcolm Sharps says:

    Sorry, I was rather harsh on Bialystok. Although, it has many modern buildings, the rebuilding was done well.