Friday, July 31, 2009

Extra! Extra!

Let me first apologize as so often before because of the poor quality of the photos below. I'm left with the ancient Sony digital camera that records on 3 1/2" floppy discs. Enough said. But I figure they must still be worth at least 750 words.

I live in Hunterdon County in central New Jersey and while today there is only one local newspaper, the Hunterdon County Democrat, at one time there were a dozen or more papers published in many of the little towns that make up this area. The largest town in the county was and still is Flemington, today about a 45 minute drive north from Trenton.

Peter Haward was a teenage immigrant, later one of Flemington's leading citizens. In his diary for October 11, 1802 he recorded: "In Trenton I got the Newspapers at the Printing office, & left at sun-rise, rode to New Market & left a package at Benj. Johnson's, then at Price's tavern, arrived at Flemington at 11 o'clock, delivered packages there, had dinner, then to Pittstown, left papers there, then to Mr. Exton's, left one paper, then to John Maxwell's in Bethlehem [Pennsylvania], arriving about sun-set, left two packages of papers there, returned to Mr. Exton's, having ridden 48 miles."

The first local paper was the Hunterdon Gazette, originally The Hunterdon Gazette and Farmers' Advertiser. The first number was published on March 24, 1825. It was a one-sheet, four-page paper with four columns to the page. By the 1880's there were numerous competitors, many openly aligned politically as was common in the 19th century; some independent; some of a religious character; and even some amateur efforts like The Amateur Sun and others published by boys of the Jersey Blue Amateur Editors' Association. Another was The Jerseyman published by H.E. Deats who described his paper as "an Amateur Journal devoted to airing the pet opinions of the Editor and others."

One of the regular local papers was started in 1880, The Milford Leader. Living in Milford, NJ as I do, this paper has a special interest for me. The "Leader" was an independent paper meaning it was not aligned with a political party or local interest group, at least not in an overtly partisan nature. Most independents strove to give balanced coverage even as they maintained a character of their own given to them by their editors. The proprietor of the "Leader" in 1890 was George B. Corson and the editor Samuel H. Bast.

The Hunterdon Democrat, today the Hunterdon County Democrat, had its roots in the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. The Gazette was a Whiggish paper and most of New Jersey had gone with the democrats in the election of Jackson. So the county officeholders were determined to have a paper that would "hew to the official line". Over the course of the next 100 years many of the small local papers failed and the Democrat bought out the others. In 1949 they purchased the Frenchtown Star and the Milford Leader, merging them into the Delaware Valley News. The Democrat ceased publication of the News two years ago and is now the sole surviving local newspaper.

The photos below show the original press used to print the Milford Leader; a "turtle" used for transferring chases from stone to press; and the last issue of the Leader from 1949. Some other misc. bits and pieces of the printing trade are also present. All are on display in the foyer of the Democrat's office in Flemington.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Family Affair

I love vintage photos of print shops and try to latch on to as many as I can. This is one that came my way while online this afternoon. I think it shows a family operation and I think my hunch is a reasonable one. The age of the three boys: young, older, and oldest; the presence of those who appear to be a father and mother of appropriate age to be the parents; and an older man who seems the right age to be the scion of the family. How likely is it that a group with those characteristics would be found working in a small shop. I think it likely that this is a newspaper office also doing the real money-making job work.

I'm particularly drawn by and attracted to this photo. One reason is for the apparent family relationship and that it therefore represents a not uncommon though seldom seen working scenario of that era. Another is that it shows regular, daily print shop activity including the accompanying work that goes on in any shop. The woman appears to be collating or otherwise sorting and stacking printed matter for some kind of jobbing work.

Unfortunately I don't have any information about where this photo was taken or the date, but based on the clothing, equipment, and facilities I'm thinking circa 1900-1920, possibly out west or in some rural area.

I wonder what ever became of them all...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ship, Ahoy!

The mystery is no more. Of all things, it turns out that the cut is for an advertisement for the mast of a sailboat. Three respondents suggested this and two provided links.

The link with the most comparable information is here:

Since the basement print shop was near Hartford, Conn. it makes sense that there would be something nautically related. But I never would have figured out it was the cross section of a mast. And the text is not just random filler but the the arcane specifications for such a thing.

Now, how to use it...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cut It Out!

I have a mystery cut that I recently acquired. It was packaged well in paper and looks to be unused. The use it may have served is a mystery to me. The "border" does not look like anything that I have reference to and the text is equally mysterious. My guess is something to do with sports or fishing. Because the cut appears to have come from the manufacturer and never been opened I'm assuming the text is related to it's use, but perhaps is just a bizarre filler. It consists of Lino slugs and 2 pt leads and 6 pt slugs for spacing. It is slightly snug but not tight enough for a lockup. It would need another lead or some other means of wedging it a bit tighter. If anyone can provide some insight I would really appreciate it.

The text reads as follows:


Length 4.25

Width 3.00

Wall 0.95

lxx 2.10 in. 4

lyy 1.23 in. 4

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Return Of The Native

Well, it's been one of those months when not much has gotten done around the shop in terms of printing, my day job has been extremely stressful and tiring, and so finding a real need to relax I helped some friends move thousands of pounds of iron, wood, and lead. Oh, yeah.

The first such adventure was helping my friend Sarah Smith of Smith Letterpress move her recently acquired C&P 8x12 press, a Challenge paper cutter, imposing stone and bench, and misc. items from Alan Runfeldt's Excelsior Press in Frenchtown, NJ to Long Island on a Saturday the second week in June. Interestingly enough, this paarticular press was my first press which, as readers of this blog may remember, I traded for a 10x15 last Fall. I can't say how happy I am that Sarah now has this press.

The day started out fine as we used a small U-Haul box truck with a pullout ramp to move everything. It looked like we might avoid the rain but no, after traversing the Lincoln Tunnel, Manhattan, and Queens, we ran into some wetness just before arriving on the north shore of the "Big Island". It was then we found out that the layout was not quite what we had thought and the truck had to be parked somewhat further away from the storm cellar entrance than we had anticipated. But we had come well prepared with plywood and 2x6's and as you will see from the photos. Good thing we had recently watched Bridge on the River Kwai.

Photos are posted here:

When all was safely in the basement we were treated by Sarah's very gracious, easy-going and companionable parents to massive, juicy, marinated and delicious BBQ'd steaks and accessories. I took advantage of an offer by Sarah's mom and took an outdoor shower that was extremely refreshing. We sweated and we grunted and we ate, and then we had a long drive back home. All in all it was a very satisfying and enjoyable adventure.

Adventure No. 2 started on Friday morning the 24th about 9:30 and ended Saturday morning about 5:15. The mission was to travel to Clinton, Conn. and retrieve a Heidelberg platen press, a Golding jobber, a paper cutter, cabinets of type and galleys, and misc. treasures. The shop was once owned and run out of the basement of Alan Duran who began printing privately about 30 years ago. He recently passed away and the house is being sold. His son and grandson wanted his equipment to go to people who would preserve and use it and carry on Mr. Duran's legacy. They contacted my friend Alan Runfeldt of the Excelsior Press who in turn found a man in West Virginia looking for a Heidelberg. It was arranged that he would come up with a trailer and pick Alan and I up and then continue on to Conn. where we would pick up the equipment. We would stop back at Alan's shop and unload everything but the Heidelberg which would continue on to its new home father south. Alan will make the other equipment available for sale to help others building their shops and provide funds for his Excelsior Press museum.

Here are photos of that move:

Fortunately the shop was in a basement that was at garage level and we only had to demolish a short section of wall to make room to get everything out. The wall was somewhat makeshift and will be easy to replace if necessary. Once again there was plenty of rain and we just missed a tornado. But though extremely tiring and taking nearly 24 hours from start to finish, it turned out well and we all have a few more things for our shops and to pass on to others. Mr. Duran's family was very personable, only to be expected of members of a Bluegrass band of course, and provided labor, coffee, pizza, and plenty of moral support. I even got a vintage oscillating fan from the garage sale pile for my shop!

All in all it was an eventful month even it it did keep me out of the shop. Now it's on to pending projects.