Roy Chatters Newspaper and Printing Museum

August 25th ~ Palouse, Washington

Roy M. Chatters Newspaper & Printing Museum

*When we walked the small town the day before, we had noticed the small newspaper printing museum. Posted hours were only open on Saturday from 10-2. Since we had a short drive to our next stopover, we were not in any hurry to break camp.

We decided to get all packed and hooked up, ready to pull out and then walked the two short blocks from our site. The museum was open as we approached. 

“Roy M. Chatters, a retired nuclear researcher at W.S.U., opened this museum in 1976 to preserve and share the process of letterpress printing. His friend J. B West donated the building.” ~ Museum handout

In 1996 a flood filled the museum and the wooden floors fell apart from the weight of the heavy equipment. The building remained closed until 2003 when it was reopened thanks to a grant from the Washington State Historical Society.

Admission is free, donations happily accepted.

Tony Sittner warmly greeted us and asked if we would like a tour. He teaches printing classes and was full of knowledge of both the history and workings of each machine.

Johannes Gutenberg

Movable Type:

“In the mid-1400s, Johannes Gutenberg was instrumental in developing “movable” or “handset” type. Each letter was locked into place in a metal frame (the chase), inked, and pressed on to paper. Once assembled, multiple copies could be produced, and literacy began to boom.” – Museum handout

The individual letters were stored in wooden cases. Each drawer contained a single font. The drawer was called a “case”. Initially, there was a case for capital letters, and another case for non-capital letters. The capital letters were typically stored on top of the non-capital letters – hence the names “upper case” and “lower case”.

All of the letters were later combined into just one case.

Another tidbit or information we received related to setting the individual letters. Both the letter “p” and the letter”q” are shaped the same, just oriented differently. Since making errors in typesetting was costly as well as time-consuming to correct, the typesetter was reminded to “watch you p’s and q’s”.


Our guide Tony in front of the Linotype machine

A huge step in printing came about with the invention of the linotype machine. Invented in the late 1800’s, the operator could type out the message, and this complex machine would then quickly move the selected letters into place, creating one whole line (“slug”) at a time.

No longer was it necessary to clean, sort and put each individual letter pack into the wooden case, as the linotype would automatically sort and return each letter to their proper place in the machine.

After the lines of type were printed, they were melted and the lead reused again.

Storage drawers for different fonts

The tour continued with information regarding “The Stone”, “Casting Machine”, “Platen Press”, “Flat-bed Press” and “Off-set Printing”.

I got a kick out of a sign in the front window:

1888 Ordinances

More rules and a fly 🙂

COMING NEXT: Coeur D’Alene, Idaho

GRATITUDE MOMENT: I love learning where names and saying originate! How fun to learn about Upper Case and Lower Case and why we watch our p’s and q’s.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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13 Responses to Roy Chatters Newspaper and Printing Museum

  1. I don’t know if you enjoy bicycling, but if you do you might want to check out the Hiawatha scenic bike trail. It’s a “rail to trail” (railway turned into a bike path) that begins just on the Montana side of the border and travels 15 miles (all downhill!) through tunnels and over trestles into Idaho. We did it last year and had a wonderful time. The views were amazing and the company that we arranged our trip with (they provide the bikes, helmets, headlamps for the tunnels, and transportation from the bottom of the trail back to your car at the top) was great. Not for anyone afraid of the dark (the tunnels are long and dark) or heights (the trestles are high), but I highly recommend the adventure. If that sounds like fun, you can get more info at Happy trails!


  2. Pingback: Origins | Mitigating Chaos

  3. paperpopups says:

    Wonderful – beautifully written. Thank you. I love the detail you put into your articles and I throughly enjoyed the photos you thoughtfully added.
    New York


  4. I also enjoyed learning about upper and lower case and minding your p’s and q’s. If there were a $50 fine for vulgar language on public streets these days, we could get rid of all the taxes!!


    Liked by 1 person

  5. joliesattic says:

    Wonderful! I can’t believe how similar this printing shop is to the one in Tombstone we visited. It is fascinating. My husbands grandfather taught typesetting at Reader’s Digest in NY and there’s nothing worse than playing scrabble with someone who knows typeset terms. This family requires you define any word you put down and you don’t dare challenge them because you will lose a turn. LOL


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