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Could look at this woodtype all day

What a joy to see - glorious type made from pantograph-cut hand-finished hard maple. A visit to Virgin Wood Type Manufacturing Company in Rochester, NY was one highlight of the ATF conference our Executive Director Tom Parson went to this summer.   Co-founder Geri McCormick and Matt Rieck and Jim Grieshabe displayed their equipment and type including their newest chromatic type. 



Fun with families in Sheridan

Depot executive director Tom Parson and board member Marc Silberman worked the roller proof press and the Curtis and Mitchell Columbian platen press for those attending Sheridan Celebrates on September 24, 2016.



My $70,000 Printing Press

I have returned to the long journey of restoring, or resurrecting, a beautiful piece of antique printing machinery, the Campbell “Century Pony” flatbed cylinder press. It is a two-revolution press which, unlike the larger “drum cylinder” presses, uses a smaller cylinder that makes two revolutions for each impression on the horizontal bed that moves back and forth underneath. On the bed’s return under the cylinder, impression is avoided by a slight upward movement of the cylinder. 

The Campbell Century Pony presses were a great success and were made between 1895 and 1906, being developed out of Campbell’s earlier “Economic” model. My Campbell came with a counter that was dated 1897. This could be a good clue as to its production year. Moreover, during the life-span of a press’s production the number produced is usually weighted toward the beginning. (Yearly production numbers usually tailed off sharply in the final years.) The “Century” was marketed to the approaching new century, and most of the advertisements are seen in the mid-to-late 90s. For example, a picture in an article of 1896 depicts my press very accurately (From Printer’s Ink, Vol. 18):

The article states that the press weighs over 8600 pounds and is valued at $1600 – a pretty penny back then! One online source states that the average wage earner in 1890 made $1.53 a day and worked 279 days a year, thus making about $480 for the year. The Campbell was thus 3.33 years of wages for the average worker of the time. A low wage today ($10 / hr), at 5 days a week for 52 weeks gets you about $20,800 for the year. We might say that the Campbell would be valued at $70,000 in today’s dollars.  It’s a high-end “19th century flatbed cylinder press” in design and spirit, which was a major purchase for any upstart printer that took decades of hard work to pay off.  One question lingered for me: where was it born? 

Where the Campbell Was Built

A little research reveals that the Campbell Printing Press and Manufacturing Company originally built its own presses in Brooklyn but in 1879 the patent owners contracted with Mason Machine Works in Taunton, Massachusetts, to build the presses. It was a windfall for that company, and they expanded their operations. By 1893 some 950 people were employed.

A 1904 article in the Iron Age, Vol. 74, proves that Mason Machine works was still building the presses in 1904. Consequently, it’s almost completely certain that my Campbell was forged and built in this facility in Taunton, Massachusetts:

This is from an 1899 publication of the company. Shipping of presses west probably routed through Illinois. More research in Leadville might uncover its arrival and presence there. I wonder how and when my Campbell press made it to Colorado. There are several scenarios. It may have shipped new to the printing operation in Leadville, sometime between 1895 and 1906. It may have begun its work in some other town, and was purchased used at some later date. It went from Leadville to Arvada in the 1970s, where Mr Stoddardt used it to print posters for Lakeside Amusement Park. It supposedly hadn’t been run for 20 years by the time I heard of it in 2010. It was moved to my shop in Fort Collins in March, 2011.  Two weeks ago I inked up the press and flawlessly hand fed 20 newsprint sheets for a letterpress poster through the press. It took one minute, running at 1200 impressions per hour.  



Raising the beast out of its cave

I found the little town in northeast Iowa easy enough, but had some difficulty finding the gravel road that led into the country, to the old farmhouse of the Stromberg family, where my printing press awaited.  

The weather-worn old farmer was sitting in his truck, waiting for me. The surrounding fields were chest high with corn, and the sturdy old family house was getting rough around the edges – a few broken windows, screen door flapping in the wind, tumbleweeds slapped against the barn. 

“We don’t live out here no more,” he said. “Grandpa was the printer, over in Elkader, and after he retired he kept a little shop in the cellar.”

We went around back, and he opened the cellar doors – old-style double doors that revealed concrete steps going down under the house. It was a dank, cobwebby place. Engine parts and tools were piled against the wall. Boxes and old furniture were stacked everywhere. Tom pulled a chain and a bare bulb illuminated the space.

“It’s over here,” he said, and shoved a dresser out of the way. Back in the corner, the iron beast with its big flywheel sat forlornly.

“Is this where he did his printing?” I asked.

“Yup. I can remember Grandpa workin’ down here, and all those little metal pieces of type. He did the church announcements and other things - birthdays and flyers fer raffles and what not.”

“Any other old printing stuff around?”

“Let’s see … this cabinet is part of it.” He pulled a tarp off a wooden cabinet and opened some drawers. Ding bats and type, wood furniture. Despite the tarp, a leaky window had dripped for decades and damaged one of the sides of the cabinet. But is was old hard wood, and still sturdy.

Lingering over the family treasures, the old guy seemed to dwell on old memories. Then he blurted, “Well, we got some type, some ruler things and gizmos here … whatever was for the printer is yours.”

Tom and I hauled the cabinet out of the basement ourselves – nine steps up, and tipped it into my pickup. I slid it toward the cab and roped it down.

Now I faced the main dilemma – moving the beast. I estimated it weighed about 1200 pounds. One strategy is to take it apart, which is not advisable due the likelihood of stuck gears and stubborn bolts. All advice was to definitely not fiddle with it, haul it straight out, if possible, and onto your truck.

I got my winch, chains, boards and rollers from my truck and started clearing a path to the stairs. Metal pipes would serve as rollers. Luckily it was already bolted to hard wood 2 x 4s. A heavy duty pry bar could be wedged under one of the leg supports, to lift the beast just high enough the get one of the rollers in on the corner. Then the other corner. Then the backside too. Once on rollers, you could push it pretty easy.

At the stairs, I chained it around and tied my winch around a tree outside. Then, downstairs, I pried the beast up to the first stair, yelling to Tom to crank the winch. We did this till it was angled up onto the stairs’ incline, tipping a bit precariously but in position. I climbed over and out the cellar, and slowly cranked the winch, one inch at a time. I climbed back into the cellar, and out again, back and forth, making sure it was clearing the steps. One false move, or broken chain, and its cast iron limbs would be shattered. As rain clouds blossomed and distant thunder threatened ominously, the iron beast rose slowly, slowly emerging from its cave of some sixty years.

An Old Style Gordon, 8 x 12 chase size, never motorized, with intact foot treadle. Nice. Complete, no breaks or welds. With the V-shape throw-off arm, so an early model. Probably about 1890. Letterpress printing, a dying art, replaced by offset in 50s, and computer laser printing in the 90s. But it was real printing, with metal type, impressing the page with the inked type, just like Gutenberg did over half a millennia ago in the 1450s.

Outside, the second challenge became apparent: Hoisting it up my wooden ramp into my pickup. “Wait a minute,” Tom said, and disappeared into the barn. A few minutes later a trench digger tractor emerged, with a big dump bucket on the front. “I see what you have in mind,” I said. “Let’s chain it up!”

Together, we strategically wrapped chains around the press and used the tractor’s bucket arms to lift the beast straight off the ground. I quickly back my pickup truck under it. Tom smiled at his ingenuity as he lowered it onto the bed. The rest was a mess of compression straps and ropes, a chore that always took me forever and made me feel like one of the Three Stooges, unraveling and retying endless knots. As the rain started plunking down, I bungeed a tarp all the way around. Wouldn’t want the beast to rust before we got home.

A couple hours of work, a few scraped knuckles, and it was mine. And $100. Tom had disappeared into the house. When he finally returned he handed me a book. A big old ATF type specimen book.

“Thanks, Tom,” I said.

“I was gonna scrap it,” he said. “But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Grandpa spent a lot of time with that machine. So I’m glad I found someone to use it.”

I waved as I pulled slowly away, with a 15-hour drive in front of me. Yeah, these old machines were discarded and scrapped wholesale in the 70s. But you still find a few around. Thank God for guys like Tom (and Craigslist), who make an effort to get them placed in caring hands. At 1200 pounds, he could have gotten $200 at the scrapper for it. ‘Course, you’d still have to haul that big old beautiful beast out of its cave. This is one beast that will live again, doing what it was born to do – press inked metal into paper and make books. Books that in all likelihood will far outlast digital printing.

(c) John Major Jenkins. Read more about his work:


WWBD workshop


WWBD workshop

The WWBD workshop - What Would Brad Vetter Do - was a weekend of pressure plate printing, wood type, ice cream (in honor of Hamilton) and a lot of fun. A $200 level perk for the Pressing On film, it brought people from around the country to Denver.  Jason Wedekind, Tom Parson and Jeff Shepherd filled in for Brad at Genghis Kern. Slideshow of the printers and their work below.



20 Steps to a Christmas card and the joy of letterpress!

After taking workshops with the Depot, German Murillo  of the Antique Photography Studio wrote two wonderful blogs 

 Treats for the holidays!





Photopolymers and letterpress

Letterpress printing does not always have to begin with metal type.  If you have a fragile type you don't want to wear out, if you want to use a computer-generated font, if you have a large amount of type to set and your composing stick hand is tired, you can use photopolymer plates.  Above a student in a Depot workshop is washing out the plate after it has been exposed. To see the whole process check out Tom Parson's pictures on Flickr or call him to schedule an individual workshop 720-480-5358.




Ink-filled days

Things have been very busy in Depot-land.  Our traveling workshop, which starts next weekend, sold out in one week - 7 students, 4 teachers, 4 printshops, 4 days. More workshops to come in the future. Tom Parson also held his first one-on-one workshop - $100 for 4 hours. If interested, email us at

The Book & Paper Fair (slideshow below) was a wonderful time for all-things Book Arts.  Tom printed, David Ashley calligraphed names, and Karen Jones explained book conservation.  The Depot, the Colorado Calligraphers Guild, the Guild of Bookworkers and Book Arts League all were represented. It was a great time to meet others interested in book arts, and spread the word about the Depot.  This past weekend, Tom and I again printed - this time at a birthday party, where guests were encouraged to join, and several did.

On the building end, meetings with architects, civil engineers and others ongoing; some weed-whacking and planting too.  If you'd like to volunteer for anything - trenching, re-orienting leaks, putting together shelves, helping with the next event, or if you know an accountant/CPA who might volunteer their skills - email

If you missed PBS NewsHour's coverage of Arion Press, check it out.

Thanks for following the Depot (also find us on Twitter @letpressdepot and on Facebook





Slideshow: Thank you for a great Depot Poster show

A steady crowd came all First Friday to the poster show - a whole lot of fun and talk and buying of posters.  In the next few weeks, we will offer the posters for sale online.  Here are some pix of the event- then down further namin' some names of  the people who made it all happen

Thank you to all who came, to all who bought and to those without whom there would not have been a show:  printer and show impresario Jason Wedekind, board members and other volunteers Karen Jones,  Diane and Ray Tomasso, Lonnie & Sandy Smith, Wilson Thomas, Peter Bergman, Trey Maserang and Tom & Patti Parson. And of course the presses who are donating their work - Birdwood Press, Baltimore Print Services, Book Arts League, Brad Vetter Design, Carimbo Letterpress, David Ashley Studio, Dog & Stars, Foolproof Press, Genghis Kern, Hamilton Wood Type Museum, Inky Lips, Keegan Meegan & Co,  Matter, Moongirl Productions,  Power & Light Press, Shepherd Letterpress, Springtide Press, Strongarm Press, Sweet Letterpress and the Press at Colorado College.  We are grateful to BookBar for hosting the show. And last but not least, because it lies underneath much of this printing, Neenah Paper. Thank you for your generous donation.



13 people 2 forklifts loads of presses & type

Glenn Moore and his family generously donated their dad's incredible print shop. Volunteers rallied to move it into a 48' trailer until the Depot is ready for such treasures.  Here is a slideshow of that effort.

Special thanks to our moving team: Glenn Moore, Heather Page, Patti & Tom Parson, Ed Popovitch, Susan Porteous,  Marc & Darrien Silberman, Lonnie Smith, Doug Sorenson, Wilson Thomas, Ray Tomasso and Jason Wedekind.  Follow us on twitter @letpressdepot





Englewood Depot News, May 20, 2014

depot winter.jpg

It’s been a long winter, uncertain weather, recurring snow, but now it is May and our activities spring to life. Many things to catch up, but first – a letterpress show.

Come see posters by 20 of the world’s best letterpress printers, all designed especially for the Depot. Printers from New Mexico to Australia, from Oregon to Brazil, and of course from Colorado, have created some spectacular examples of what can be done on a letterpress. This Depot Poster show will be held June 6 at the BookBar at 4280 Tennyson. (Depot members/supporters viewing at 5 pm; BookBar is open for First Friday Art at 6 - more details soon.) A limited quantity of the posters will be offered for sale. All donation proceeds, of course, to the Depot. For those of you who already have ordered work from this letterpress portfolio, you can pick them up at the event. Board member Jason Wedekind and Diane Tomasso were masterminds behind this project. Amazing support from the amazing letterpress community!

Posters of this portfolio project are also on exhibit at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, through the annual Wayzgoose of the Amalgamated Printers Association, June 13-17!


Book arts workshops. Thanks to board member Peter Bergman of Metropolitan State University of Denver, we are making plans for a variety of workshops. As construction for the Depot is just beginning, we will offer these events at satellite locations. Bonus: payment for any workshop or class will give you a basic membership; subsequent workshops in the same year are 10% off for all members. I will send out an email once we have dates, but also check out our website for news and events, as well as more details on membership.

Our website is up! 

Type and equipment donations! The Letterpress Depot has been the recipient of, quite literally, tons of type and presses. This coming weekend we will be moving Glenn Moore’s father’s MECA printshop into a truck storage trailer, until our building is ready. Highlights of this historic collection include a Vandercook SP-15 proof press, a pantograph router-engraver which might be used for making wood type, other equipment for preparation and mounting of printing blocks, and over 20 cabinets of excellent type. If you can help with some heavy lifting (or cheerleading) this weekend or in the future, please let me know. Thanks to Wilson Thomas for helping with logistics of the move. Food and drink for all those who come join us! Call or email me for details.

We also have received generous donations of equipment and type from Dave Clark and Brett Lareau. So when we can get the 4th foundation wall up in the Depot and an access ramp built, we are ready to roll.

moore equipment.jpg


Progress for the old depot. Design and construction plans for the lower level foundation wall and access ramp, and everything else needed on the building, are tied to our agreement with the City of Englewood for a preservation easement on the historic building. The Colorado Historical Foundation has accepted our proposal for the easement, with legal negotiations and details to be approved before actual construction can begin. CHF has been very supportive but there have been hurdles – governmental, administrative, legal, financial, and just plain annoying – imagine: paperwork as a printer's way of life!


Roof repairs this week; meetings with our architects, plumbing contractor, a structural engineer, and others with consultation about concrete work, landscaping, modifications for ADA access, preparation for funding possibilities for historic rehabilitation – we expect to be ready once the easement is set. One special find in the course of all the moving paper: we have located the architectural drawings of the foundation, the designs and plans when the building was relocated in 1994! Thanks to City Engineer Dave Henderson and our architect Kathy Lingo – those missing details now inform our design work as well as our history of the Englewood Depot as it is transformed into a living letterpress museum.


Volunteer projects! We need your help:

  • moving equipment (come get muscles!)

  • ideas and participation in developing workshops, program ideas, publications (just imagine!)

  • gardening, weeding, landscaping, grounds-keeping (It's spring, come play in the dirt!)

  • website, calendar and blog entries (help us post your activities for the depot community!)

  • inventory, assess, repair donated equipment and type (get ready for our use and our museum!)

  • make it new, make it your own, let us know how!

Thanks to board member Karen Jones, we now have postcards to publicize the Depot.
Let us know suggestions to help us use the cards, to call attention to our projects.

All in the community! As you can see, our board has been busy - meeting monthly, plotting and planning. Many of our board members and supporters, Karen Jones, myself, Ray Tomasso, David Ashley, have collaborated with other book arts groups in demonstrations, participating in the recent Gathering of the Guilds and with workshops presented by the Book Arts League. We are planning participation (with the Calligraphers Guild, the Guild of Book Workers, and the Book Arts League) at the 30th Rocky Mountain Book and Paper Fair, Friday and Saturday, August 1-2 at the Denver Merchandise Mart.

We will be in touch. Let us hear from you as well - by email (, phone (720-480-5358), or regular mail to the Depot, Box 798, Englewood, CO 80151.

Tom Parson

for the Englewood Letterpress Depot




For those of you who missed the grand finale to the Month of Print – Steamroller Printing at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD), check out the video. Kudos to the Invisible Museum for a wonderful series of events celebrating “print.”