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L. B. Benton was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of a newspaper editor and publisher. At a very early age he learned to set type and studied jewelry repair. In 1873 he bought the Northwestern Type Foundry after it went bankrupt and began to learn the type founding business. He was an extremely meticulous and precise person who even lamented the fact that steel would slightly change size if one breathed on it. Reportedly he had an office boy whose sole task was to keep the pencils on Benton's desk sharp.
He invented several pieces of equipment; one, the delineating machine, had to be demonstrated to the U. S. Patent Office as it was thought to be a mechanical impossibility. He is best known for developing the Benton Pantograph, a pantographic cutting machine or engraver originally designed to cut punches for type, and later adapted to cut type matrices. The machine was licensed by the Linotype Co. to cut matrices for their casting machines.