How 100-Year-Old Wood Adds Meaning to Christmas

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, WI

Last week I spent a hands-on day at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, WI. What a great day! For all you typophiles (yes, there’s actually a forum for you), Hamilton is the largest collection of wood type, wood cuts and historic printing machines in the world. It’s a fully functional museum, which means artists, typographers and letterpress wannabes like me can spend a day playing with paper, ink and über alt alphabets.

Like the cool dudes in this picture.

mural of men who worked at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing

Actually these men may or may not have done printing. As craftsmen for Hamilton Manufacturing Company, they were the oomph of the collections we have today. They cut and sanded logs of wood. They carved and refined letters. They were the master makers of wood type.

The original company, called J.E. Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company, was founded in 1880 and within 20 years was the largest manufacturer of wood type in the United States. Even as letterpress printing gave way to newer technologies, Hamilton continued producing wood type until the end of the 20th century. Today the company is Hamilton Scientific.

Display cases at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

So now we have the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum! With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and 45,000 square feet of space, it makes for a jaw-dropping, creativity-cranking museum and workshop.

Pantograph at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, WI

Before we started with our printing, assistant director Stephanie Carpenter led us on an informational tour. She’s a great guide and knows her stuff well. She proudly explained the museum’s dedication to the preserving wood type production, including carving letters with this original pantograph machine. Once a month a now-90-year-old, retired Hamilton employee tutors two staff members on this highly skilled craft.

Letterpress printer at Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, Two Rivers, WI

How many you dream of owning a letterpress like this? Join throngs of like-minded Ebay shoppers and prepare to spend oodles. In the meantime, the Hamilton museum has a full display of presses from throughout the industry’s history. Imagine the pages they printed back in the day!

Linotype at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, Two Rivers, WI

After letterpress came linotype. Hamilton Manufacturing Company didn’t produce linotype machines, however the museum has a wonderful display for this era of printing.

print workshop at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

And then we started our own printing! Probably like most first timers, I completely underestimated how meticulous and time consuming setting type by hand can be. I quickly simplified my design.

print workshop at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

Caution! Wet Ink! Arcint Architecture owners Edward Haydin and Ryan Thacker made these stunning posters to commemorate their firm’s second anniversary. What a great idea! (This upcoming year marks a big one for Adunate—I may head back up to Two Rivers and make posters of my own.)

Adunate Christmas Card 2014

Ta-da! And here’s my final product. I never got into scrapbooking or stamping, simply because it’s one more hobby I would find myself obsessing over. But, hey, this printing, punching holes and threading jute by hand…after spending hours at the computer, it’s a tactual delight!

Adunate Christmas Card 2014

The best thing about making your own cards—writing your own message.

Adunate Christmas Card 2014

Merry Christmas to everyone, especially my dear customers. God’s blessings to you in 2015!

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