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Great Western was founded in Chicago in 1868 by a family of German immigrants and primarily served the German newspaper market. The business was very unsuccessful and a year later was sold to Warren and A.E. Barnhart, newpaper publishers from Iowa. The Barnhart Brothers first got into the type business when they accepted type as payment for a debt and sold it. The Barnharts made Mr. Spindler, the foundry foreman, a partner and formed Barnhart Brothers & Spindler foundry.