Week 12: Moveable Type at Thaddeus Stevens

On Tuesday of this week, we visited the “print shop” at Thaddues Stevens. I suppose my favorite parts were:

1) Obviously, the fact that we were using (as if it were nothing) antique presses that cost no less than $15,000
2) The fact that the print workers were all very elderly — apparently they graduated from Millersville in 1969

It was interesting learning about workers living even as recently as the early 1900’s, whose only job was to set type and routinely check the grammar and spelling of every single line. Workers were paid by the line, which is a fact I stored away to tell my Dad, who has fond memories of picking tomatoes and getting paid by the bushel, or putting up fence posts and getting paid by the post.

I also thought it was interesting how the California Job Cases we used (named California Job Cases because the original two-level, two-sectioned job cases didn’t travel well across the rugged landscape to California during the Gold Rush, and so a new one-level, three-sectioned case was designed) contained so many different spacers, or blocks of blank type used to separate characters (called em quads, en quads, etc.). In order to center my text on my composing stick, I had to use several spacers of various sizes. I loved it. One can get very particular with this sort of thing.

The press that I used worked quite easily. It didn’t take long to get an efficient system going, slipping the paper into place, moving the lever, removing the paper while sliding in another, and onward. It often seems like workers with one job like this, all day, had it hard. But I think it would actually be easier than we think, if everyone else was doing it.

I decided to print my first and last name in green ink on white paper. Looking forward to its delivery…


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