With the celebration of Ben Franklin’s 313th birthday last week, a time traditionally known as International Printing Week, this is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the International Printing Museum this last year and our goals and aspirations for 2019. We think of the Printing Museum as the West Coast home for Ben Franklin, Printer!
2018 proved to be a good one for the International Printing Museum in Carson. In addition to increasing our Boy Scout Merit Badge Day, Book Arts Patch Day for Girls, our school tours, and various holiday celebrations, we expanded our activities in a few additional areas. These included our new summer Letterpress Wayzgoose and our annual Los Angeles Printers Fair every fall.
The Printing Museum’s Letterpress Wayzgoose & Surplus Sale
With our warehouses overflowing with letterpress machines and supplies, beyond what we can make use of at the Printing Museum, we decided to launch a new summer event to offload the surplus inventory and raise funds to underwrite the Museum’s educational efforts. But the vision is more than just making room in the warehouse; instead, it is to bring together the letterpress printers and artists with a special event that allows them to explore the Printing Museum’s collections, print on the presses and learn new techniques and skills.
Titled The Letterpress Wayzgoose & Surplus Sale, we launched this new event last August with great success. A “wayzgoose” was a traditional printer’s gathering that dates back to the early 17th century. It was traditionally held in August and was an annual event first to clean up the printing shop, and then to celebrate the art of printing, usually with a great feast and plenty of beer!
At our event nearly 150 people gathered, many arriving very early in the morning to see what treasures could be found among the dozens of presses for sale, the many fonts of wood and metal type, supplies and sundry books on printing. The letterpress sale proved very successful for the Museum, raising nearly $25,000. And just as important, we were able to clear out space in our warehouse and get those presses and fonts of surplus type into the hands of many new letterpress artists. Throughout the day, visitors were able to print on various presses in the collection, get their names cast on the Ludlow or Linotype.
In the coming year, we plan to expand beyond the equipment sale by turning the Letterpress Wayzgoose into an educational event with workshops, presentations, and demonstrations. Our goal is to bring new letterpress printers, who are learning and developing the art of printing, together with old masters that are eager to pass on their skills, knowledge, and printing techniques to the next generation.
The 11th Annual Los Angeles Printers Fair at the Museum
The Printing Museum’s annual celebration of letterpress every October, The Los Angeles Printers Fair, continues to expand. One of the significant changes this year was to extend the Fair to full two-day event. 2,000 visitors attended over the weekend to experience the art of printing and paper with nearly 90 vendors. What continues to make this event so unique and engaging for the public, beyond a standard art fair, is how hands-on and interactive the experience is. Guests have the opportunity to actually participate in the process by printing their own keepsakes and posters, making their own paper, learning printmaking techniques or screen-printing their own commemorative t-shirt.
We invited Kevin Bradley, the letterpress artist formerly of The Church of Type in Santa Monica and now of Voodoo Rocket Press in Ashville NC, to create a special wood type poster for the “new” 1905 Heidelberg Press on display. Fellow NY artist Martin Mazorra engraved an image of the press and Kevin set the First Amendment in wood type. The result was a stunning testament to Freedom of the Press that guests were able to print themselves. It was a delightful challenge for our printing team to learn how to operate this large beast without any instructional manual. This was our first time using the press that just arrived from Verona, Italy.
Chris Fritton, The Itinerant Letterpress Printer, was our guest artist at the Los Angeles Printers Fair. Chris exhibited his stunning and colorful collection of posters that he printed over his 18-month sojourn across the country, created in partnership with dozens of letterpress shops that he visited. On Saturday evening, Chris gave a great lecture about the project, detailing stories from the journey and the process, and what he learned about being a tramp or itinerant printer. Chris also signed copies of his newly published book, The Itinerant Printer.
Our goal for the Printers Fair is to continually expand this event to reach even more of the general public. This year a local television station, KTLA Channel 5, broadcast four-weekend news segments that really promoted the event. You can see one of those segments below.
Additional Goals for the Printers Fair
In 2019, we are looking to develop corporate sponsorship opportunities for the Printers Fair. One local institution we hope to work with is the Los Angeles Times. The Times has many public activities that dovetail with the Printing Museum’s stated mission to “bring the history of books, printing, and the book arts to life for diverse audiences.” The synergy between these activities has led to some interesting conversations.
During recent meetings, representatives from The Times expressed enthusiastic interest to partner with the Museum on many different levels including educational programs, participation at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (the nation’s largest literary festival), and helping with creating an historical exhibit about The Times to be displayed at their new El Segundo offices.
One particular LA Times program I found especially interesting is a multimedia news outlet created for and by students. It’s called Los Angeles Times High School Insider. Students from 350 high school journalism programs publish their own version of The Times. Imagine the historical, technical, and hands-on experiences these students will be able to have at the Printing Museum.
We are currently exploring ways to use the Museum’s facilities and develop a special tour or program to engage and inspire these students.
Imagine a High School Insider tour in which the students experience what it’s like to produce a newspaper the “old school” way of 60 years ago. They can type their stories on the museum’s typewriters, watch as their story is typeset in metal on a Linotype machine, create headlines from wood type, or design the front page of the paper. This wouldn’t be career training, but instead, it would make the world of newspapers more kinetic and personal. We’re always looking for that “Aha! Wow!” moment, that instant when history comes alive and education sticks.
Something magical happens when you use your own hands to make something like a newspaper come alive. That’s what we do at the Printing Museum. It’s our very distinct approach to education and learning. We create activities, school tours, public art events, theater shows and more, all with the constant underlying premise that we want visitors to engage in a dynamic, engaging, and memorable learning process.
The Museum’s Connection to the Los Angeles Times
Most of you may not realize this, but the Printing Museum has a connection to the Los Angeles Times that can be traced back to the early 1900s.
The International Printing Museum features the Ernest A. Lindner Collection of Antique Printing Machinery. This collection of equipment, ephemera, and memorabilia span more than 500 years of graphic communication history. The connection of the Lindner family to printing and newspapers began in the early 20th century.
The Crocker-Langley San Francisco Directory for the year ending 1909, lists Ernie’s father, August R. Lindner, and his uncle and namesake, Ernest G. Lindner, as working for the Mergenthaler Linotype Co. 110 Russia Avenue, San Francisco. Frank Van Shaick, the Linotype branch manager, who came west in 1902 to open the first west coast sales office for the Mergenthaler Linotype Company, employed them.
In 1910, unionists attempting to unionize the Los Angeles Times newspaper employees bombed the printing plant. The paper lost 21 employees, including 16 Linotype operators. It was uncle Ernie who helped Harrison Gray Otis, president and general manager of the Los Angeles Times, replace six destroyed Linotype machines. Ernie used coastal steamers to ship the machines from San Francisco to Los Angeles thus the equipment was in place within a week.
In September of 1912, uncle Ernie once again came to the rescue of another newspaper publisher. When a fire destroyed the building and printing plant of the Ocean Park Journal along with the Decatur hotel, various other buildings, and a pier on the Santa Monica coastline, Ernie went above and beyond the call of duty.
According to the Linotype Bulletin, volume VIII, No. 1, Ernie not only took the order for a new Linotype machine, he “found the owner of the lot adjoining the print shop and got his permission to put up a building.” He then found a builder, secured the needed supplies and began construction on the new building. Within days, the concrete foundation had been laid for the new press and printing equipment.
The attention the Lindner brothers provided to their clients was impressive. One such client wrote a letter to the Linotype offices in San Francisco. He noted that the brother’s service extended beyond the simple delivery of the machine. The client wrote that they could be seen “donning overalls and working far into the night, that we may be ready for the day shift.”
Recognized for their dedication and sales abilities, the Lindner Brothers were promoted within the company to open the first branch office in Los Angeles. In September of 1913, they sold and installed a new three-magazine Linotype machine at the San Pedro News Pilot. The brothers continued their work all throughout the southwest, installing new Linotypes and training operators in printing shops across several states.
The brother’s dedication to their clients led to another encounter with the Los Angeles Times. In 1932, the newspaper was looking to upgrade their technology. The standard protocol for the LA Times was to buy new Linotype machines. By this point, the Lindner brothers were frustrated with the Linotype Company and recognized the limits of advancing within the company. Uncle Ernie was such an exceptional salesman, along with father August such a master machinist, they were able to talk the Times into a contract to rebuild 30 typesetting machines. With that contract in place, August and uncle Ernie formed the E. G. Lindner Co. in downtown Los Angeles.
It was just a few years later in 1939 that young Ernie A. Lindner went to work in the family business as an apprentice machinist. His love and romance for the old printing and typesetting machines was ignited during those formative years. Later in the 1940s and 50s, Ernie began collecting antique printing equipment, “under the watchful and skeptical eye of his uncle,” as he mentioned to me.
One of Ernie’s prized acquisitions was the first press used to print the Los Angeles Daily Times, as it was known back in 1881. Known as a Potter Cylinder Printing Press, the press was placed on display for 25 years at the Smithsonian in their Centennial Exhibition. The press came home in 1998 and is now on display in the lobby of The Times’ Olympic Boulevard plant.
Back in the mid-1980s, some of Ernie’s collection was on display at The California Museum of Science and Industry (known today as the California Science Center). It was then that The Times stepped forward to help underwrite the Lindner collection and make it a permanent part of the museum. Due to a significant fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in April of 1986, the funds were diverted, and the Lindner collection had to go back in storage. In 1988, the collection came out of storage again as it found a new home in Buena Park, California. Thus began the International Printing Museum, which I helped to establish with co-founders Dave Jacobson and Ernie Lindner.
2019 will be a year of progress and growth, as we expand our programs including the summer Letterpress Wayzgoose, the Los Angeles Printers Fair, a new world history tour for 6th graders, and a new high school newspaper program with the Los Angeles Times. We’ll also develop our rich shared history with the Los Angeles Times and hopefully bring them alongside as a strong corporate partner of the International Printing Museum. All this, along with the other educational work we continue to remain engaged in, will make this a great and busy year! I encourage you to come along for the journey.