Saturday, October 14, 2006

hamilton wood type museum

If you ever happen to find yourself in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, you must stop by the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. The Hamilton Co. started manufacturing wood type in 1880 and quickly became the largest provider in the U.S. Newspapers as well as other public information such as those old wanted posters, were printed using wood type. The museum is in a less-than-flashy building in an even more less-than-flashy town. The museum is run by a small group of volunteers, many of whom originally worked in the factory. When you look past the dust and homemade displays, you find over 1.5 million pieces of wood type, beautifully aged and worn, scattered about the building. From the second you walk in the door, you become immersed in a part of history often overlooked. While I consider myself a little ahead of the game when it comes to the general public's knowledge of letterpress, I never thought about things like... "in all the old ledger books, pre-computer age, how did the little red and blue lines get there"... Perhaps this seems obvious to you but I had no clue. At Hamilton, they have the original machine from the 19th century that used this elaborate system of strings coated in red & blue ink to put the lines onto the paper. It is pretty incredible. The Hamilton Co. also dabbled in other things, which are on display, such as medical examining tables and the first gas dryer ever invented. The museum is free to visitors and for letterpress folks, you can rent time on their presses (mostly Vandercooks) for $30 a day. After a day at the museum, head across the street to the Washington House, the original site of Ed Berners' Ice Cream Parlor... the officially recognized location of the first ice cream sundae.