The following can be found in the dedication from the book Linecasting Operator Machinist, by Edwin B. Harding and Noel M. Loomis, 1958. (


Dean of those jewel-like individuals, the conscientious freelance linecasting machinists. John's ending was sad and a little inglorious, but his life must have been rich and full with the satisfaction derived from intelligent and uncompromising work on his beloved mah'sheen.

For the many who still inquire, John was born in Bohemia, served an apprenticeship as a boilermaker in that country, came to the United States a little before World War I, worked in the Mergenthaler factory, and eventually established a repair route, principally in South Dakota and southern Minnesota. He died in 1939 in Gettysburg, S. D., where he is buried.

This word of appreciation comes from one who has grunted many a time loosening a bolt that John had tightened - for he had that rare and priceless quality, a feeling for metal, the faculty of knowing exactly how far he could go without twisting off a bolt-head, and the stern control that kept him from going further. It still is possible to find machines in South Dakota that can, by the tightness of the bolts, be promptly identified as having been once in John Wagoun's care.

John Wagoun

This vignette of John Wagoun piqued my interest, his story seemed tragic, but the scarce details left much to the imagination. So I started researching...

John Wagoun (20), accompanied by Marie Wondrak (22) and her grandmother Barbara (70) arrived in the United States on March 12, 1905. They sailed from Bohemia (which was to become the Czech Republic in 1918) via Bremen Germany. John and Marie married in Chicago, Illinois on July 1, 1906. They had three children; Lillian, born in 1907, Bessie, born in 1908 and Millicent, born in 1910. There may have been one other child, a son born in 1909 that did not survive.

Some time before his death, John appears to have become somewhat estranged from his family.

Aberdeen Daily News - October 15, 1920

JOHN WAGOUN VISITS NEWS - Expert Linotype Mechanic Visits Friends and Works on Machines - The American-News has been enjoying a visit from John Wagoun, expert linotype machinist, residing at 927 Homer St., Omaha, Neb., who is on his quarterly tour through South Dakota in the interest of better linotype efficiency.

John is a freelance as a linotype machinist, having a route through Nebraska, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Minnesota, which he covers four times a year, stopping at such plants as have made a request for his services. He makes a flat charge to stop for an inspection, which prorates his railroad expense plus a very reasonable wage per hour for the actual work he puts on the machines.

To say that John has a busy welcome a the American-News is but just, for with his 15 years experience as a linotype machinist, three years if which was factory work, he knows all the kinks and quirks of linotypes which puzzle the ordinary operator and machinist, and when he leaves a place it is with the machines working like clocks and everybody happy from the operator to the foreman.

Wagoun spent two days with the American-News, adjusting the six machines of the plant, checking up to see that the necessary extra parts were complete for emergencies, and is today bidding his many friends in the Aberdeen printery good by until his next quarterly round.

Aberdeen Daily American-News - March 21, 1922

John Wagoun, the expert machinist from Omaha, Neb. yesterday completed is overhauling of the American-News' five linotypes and one monotype and goes this morning on his South Dakota itinery. He leaves "the battery" working like clocks.

Fifteen years experience with linotypes has made Wagoun one of the best in the country with a comprehensive working knowledge of all models of both linotypes and intertypes.

For three years he machinist with the Mergenthaler company, out of the main factory at Brooklyn, N. Y., following which he was machinist for one year for Chicago Tribune. For 10 years he has been "on his own."

Wagoun has an established route in the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, with several hundred offices on his "Call list" including 120 linotypes in South Dakota alone. His home address is 927 Homer St., Omaha, Neb., from where any calls for work are forwarded him.

Leaving Aberdeen, for the balance of the month, he will make linotype repairs with the following newspaper offices

Ipswitch, Democrat, Mar. 21.
Webster, Reporter, Mar. 22.
Canova, Herald, Mar. 21.
Howard, Pioneer, Mar. 23.
Carthage News, Mar. 36.
Iroquois, Chief, Mar. 27.
De Smet, News, Mar. 28.
Arlington, Sun, Mar 29.
Lake Jordan, Enterprise, Mar. 30
Volga Tribune, Volga, Mar. 31.

Aberdeen Sunday American-News - September 5, 1922

WAGOUN, MACHINIST, HEADING DOWN SOUTH - John Wagoun, the linotype machinist expert, whose route lies through this section of South Dakota, departs tomorrow for his wanderings around the southern part of the state, spending the past week in the vicinity of Aberdeen. After calling at Webster and Redfield, Wednesday and Thursday, "John," with his sunny smile, put in a new assembler Friday with the American-News, fixed up "squirts" on Rot Vletch's linograph at Groton and planned a little duck hunting today.

This week, Wagoun's route will be as follows:
Mon., Nov. 6, News at Woonsocket.
Tues., Nov. 7, News at Wessington Springs.
Wed., Nov. 8, Republican at Mitchell.
Thurs., Nov. 9, Graphic at Kimball.
Fri., Nov. 10, Democrat at Chamberlain.
Sat., Nov. 11, Register at Chamberlain.
Sun., Nov. 12, Herald at Alexandria.

Aberdeen Sunday American-News - September 10, 1922

Word comes to the American-News, from John Wagoun, expert linotype machinist, who has a regular route thru the Dakotas for his work, that he will be in Winner, S.D., with the Advocate fpr Sunday, Sept. 10: In Wood, S.D., with the Pioneer for Monday, Sept. 11; in White River, S.D. with the News fur Tuesday Sept. 12; and Gregory, S.D., with the Times-Advocate for Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Wagoun lives at 927 Homer St., Omaha, Neb. when not on the road and can be reached there by correspondence of wire at any time through his wife who forwards the messages to him wherever he is working, but "John" makes his South Dakota headquarters with the American-News a great deal, ang generally keeps this office informed of his whereabouts whenever in this vicinity.

And for the convenience of publishers needing repairs to their linotypes, the American-News publishes Wagoun's routing when in this "neck of the woods" so he can be reached without delay and at a minimum of road expense.

Aberdeen Sunday American-News - September 26, 1922

AMERICAN-NEWS TO NEED WAGOUN TO SET UP NEW NO 8 - Seeking Expert Through Ether To Help Put Up New Linotype Here.

The American-News is in receipt of a thanksgiving letter from Jown Wagon[sic], expert linotype machinist of Omaha, who travels this state, operating with a surgeon's skill on invalid linotypes, intertypes, linographs and monotypes. John says "the bit turkey and the tart cranberry for you next Thursday is my wish"

"sure, John, and the 'same to you'"

But what do you think of this route sheet that came with the letter:

Monday, Nov. 27, at Tyndall Tribute, buying ticket for home.
Tuesday, Nov. 28, en route going home to Omaha.
Wednesday, Nov. 29, at Omaha getting ready for big dinner.
Thursday, Nov. 30, at Omaha busy with large turkey.
Friday, Dec. 1, at Omaha, resting after hard work.
Saturday, Dec. 2, at Omaha thinking about starting out.
Sunday, Dec. 3, en route to South Dakota via Minnesota.

The American-News is not certain as to whether Wagoun has a broadcasting station or not, and whether this newspaper will be able to "wireless in" and hear "John's" S. O. S. for help with the big turkey, but it is planned to drop up to Eureka and have the Isaac boys do a little broadcasting to John. For instance like this

"John, John, John Wagoun, are you listening. Take your pencil and note this down. 'Mergenthaler people write American-News new No.8 linotype will be shopped November 30. Drop the turkey and hurry to Aberdeen so as to be ready to set it up when shipment arrives'"

Evening World-Herald - May 31, 1923

REAL ESTATE TRANSFERS - ... Homer St 48 ft E of 10th ST S S 48x120 E G Taylor and wife to John Wagoun and wife $3,000. ...

Argus-Leader - February 19, 1926

Nearly every South Dakota weekly newspaper publisher who has a linotype has been aided in times of distress by John Wagoon [sic], well known machinist for typesetting machines, and they are greeting John here at the editorial convention. John is accompanied by his two attractive daughters, Bessie and Millie, who entertained on the editors' program with violin numbers.

The Daily Plainsman - August 15, 1929

John Wagoun, linotype machinst of Omaha has closed a two weeks' job servicing the Model 14 linotype owned by Sherwood & Sherwood, publisher of the De Smet News. The machine was damaged in the recent fire in their plant.

Lead Daily Call - December 10, 1932

John Wagoun, of Omaha Neb., accompanied by Mrs. Rosie Clausen, Mrs. Hattie Marcus, Mrs. M. Zeitner of Mission, S. D., arrived in Lead last evening by automobile for a visit at the home of Mr. and Mrs. L. C. DeCory. The visitors left again today to return to their homes.

Argus-Leader - May 25, 1934

John Wagoun linotype machinist of Omaha, met with a serious accident when his car overturned due to defective steering apparatus, near Lake Andes. Federal Officer James Geboe of Greenwood was the first to arrive on the scene of the accident and give aid to the injured man. Dr. T. A. Duggan of Wagner was summoned to attend to numerous cuts and bruises. He found it necessary to take 20 stitches in Mr. Wagoun's right arm. Mr. Wagoun is confined to the Lacey hospital in Lake Andes.

The Freeman Courier - November 24, 1938

John Wagoun, the linotype doctor, came down from Redfield Tuesday and said they had more than 4 inches of snow and a regular Dakota blizzard. The ground was covered with snow about 5 miles south of Huron.

The Freeman Courier - AUGUST 22, 1940

Eureka - John Wagoun, linotype machinist who visits eureka regularly and the owner of the automobile that is equipped with all the very latest gadgets suffered and accident last Tuesday. John received little injury but his bright, new, shiny automobile took the count for approximately $275 worth of disaster. The mishap occurred near Howard, South Dakota, when Mr. Wagoun attempted dodge a pheasant hen and her brood of little birds.

The Freeman Courier - SEPTEMBER 25, 1941

Saturday's Argus Leader brought the sad news of the death of John Wagoun, the linotype machinist. He has serviced our machine for some 20 years and is known to many people in town. Mr. Wagoun was full of pep until two years ago his health began to fail. The least two years he has spent much time in the hospital during the winter months. He leaves a wife and three daughters, Milly, Bessy and Lily who live in Omaha and they all have out sympathy. John died in Gettysburg. He was overhauling the linotype there. After finishing up, he went to the room in the hotel. Later they found him dead in his room sitting in a chair, which makes it plain that he had no struggle but just fell asleep.

The Freeman Courier - October 2, 1941

Many people here are anxious to hear particulars about John Wagoun's death in Gettysburg, and the Gettysburg News has the following report about his death. Regular subscribers will pardon the intrusion of this copy regarding the death of John Wagoun, linotype mechanic who served machines in South Dakota for over 20 years. This wil serve to inform the several who have phone and letter of the manner and time of John's passing. John arrived at The News office Tuesday forenoon, the 16th, extremely ill and very weak. He insisted on spending time on The News machine, went to his hotel room that evening as usual. The News was called the next day and administered to his wants to the best of our ability. No amount of argument would persuade him to go to a hospital or call in a doctor, tho to all outward appearances he was "on the way out". At seven in the evening one of us went to his room again, to find him in a chair beside the window. Life had taken flight. A call to the address of his family at Omaha, from whom he had been separated for some years brought some of his people Thursday evening. They decided to bury him in Gettysburg, paid funeral expenses, gathered up his personal belongings including his car, and left for Omaha shortly after interment service at 1:00 o'clock Friday, the 19th. Former patrons of Mr. Wagoun will please pass this information along, to the end that all may know in due time that John can no longer serve us.

The Freeman Courier - FEBRUARY 3, 1944

This week we had two machinists from the Yankton Press & Dakotan plant, Mr. Harold Cunningham and Ole Gunderson, to overhaul our slugcasting machine. The achine was serviced by John Wagoun for more that 20 years, but John went to his eternal rest and now it was done by the two above named gentlemen. We are fortunate to find help so close as home. They used to say when the doctor is close the pain gets less and psychologists call this a psychological effect. Yankton being so close the psychological effect on our machine ought to eliminate many troubles. We appreciate their coming out and helping us out very much.

Morning World-Herald - JUNE 21, 1952

WAGOUN - Mrs. Marie Elizabeth, age 66 years, 927 Homer St. June 20, 1952. Survived by daughters, Mrs. Lloyd L. Feller, and Misses Lillian M. and Betty; 2 grandchildren. Funeral notice later. Brewer-Korisko service, MA 1234.

Evening World-Herald - JUNE 21, 1952

WAGOUN - Mrs. Marie Elizabeth. Funeral Monday 8:30 a.m. from Brewer-Korisko Chapel to St. Rose Church 9 a.m. Committal St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery, Rosary at chapel Sunday 8 p.m.