Press: 30

To anyone who ever worked for a newspaper or wire service the number “30” has a special meaning. At the bottom of a page of editorial copy it indicates the end of the piece. Most frequently it is encountered in telegraph-reports. Years of use have made it a symbol to be woven into obituaries and floral offerings for deceased brethren of the Press. But whence came the term? Frank T. Owen, 47 years an employe of the Utica (N. Y.) Daily Press, canvassed his friends far & wide, compiled eight more or less plausible theories. Last week Editor & Publisher reported them:

1) When newspaper stories were handwritten, “x” meant the end of a sentence, “xx” the end of a paragraph, “xxx” (Roman for “30”) the end of the story.

2) In Bengali “So” means “farewell” or “I quit.” A report of the East India Company misprinted the figure as “30.”

3) Linotype machines cast type slugs of 30 ems maximum length, hence “30” means the end of the line.

4) A telegraph operator whose number was 30 once stayed at his key sending news of a disaster long after his assistants had fled and until Death came to him.

5) Long ago in the West dispatches were delivered by messenger from the telegraph office to the newspaper office. The telegraph office closed at 3 a. m.; hence, the operator scribbled at the bottom of the last sheet “3 o’clock” which became abbreviated in turn to “3 o’c ” “30,” “30.”

6) When the Associated Press was established each member paper was entitled to 30 telegrams per day. Last of the day’s quota was labeled “30.”

7) Early telegraph operators had a code for conversational asides on the wire:

1 = Wait a minute.

4 = When shall I proceed?

13 = What’s the matter?

30 = End of item.

73 = Kindest regards.*

8) “The 30 magistrates appointed by Sparta over Athens at the termination of the Peloponnesian War were called the ’30 tyrants,’ and were overthrown after one year’s reign. The end of the tyrants was heralded with a spirit of gladness—”30.'”

*A code of numerical symbols originated in 1879 by the late Walter P. Phillips, head of the original United Press, is still in use. But the numbers most commonly used—”30,” “73” and “95” (“urgent”) do not appear in it.

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