August 25th ~ Palouse, Washington
*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.
“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”.
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”.
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.
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:
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.