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A taste of ink and type in a country printery

The CHN blogger enjoyed an informative and interesting visit to a small museum as part of History Week 2018 conducted by the History Council of New South Wales.

The museum in question was the Penrith Museum of Printing located in the Penrith Showground.

Penrith Museum of Printing signage (2)lowres

 

The museum has a collection of fully operational letterpress printing presses and equipment from the 1860s to the 1970s. It is part of the living history movement that is so popular with tourists in North America, Europe and increasingly Australia.

The printing equipment includes linotype machines, flat-bed printing presses of various types and platen presses. There is also a substantial collection of hand-set type.

During the History Week visit the operation of the different presses was explained by retired tradesmen who had been printers and compositors. They kick started the presses and linotype machines and demonstrated their capabilities.

Penrith Museum of Printing Linotype Machine 2018
Here a museum volunteer and former operator demonstrates  and explains the operation of a linotype machine at the Penrith Museum of Printing.  This is a hot metal typesetting system that casts blocks of metal type for individual uses. The machine creates lines of type for the compositor to set-up a page for printing a newspaper. Hot lead was used to create the letters and was heated to over 500 degrees C. These machines were used across the world to set print for  newspapers, magazines and posters  for large metropolitan dailies to small local country newspapers up to the 1980s.  This machine is belt driven and in the late 19th or early 20th century a printery would have had a steam engine and boiler to drive the equipment. (I Willis, 2018)

 

The museum is setup like a 1940s printing shop and the visitor  gets the experience of the noise of the press and linotype machines and the smell of the ink. It is the authentic real deal.

Linotype machines were introduced to replace hand-compositing of pages for printing. Hand setting was very slow. What would take a compositor hours to set in a page would take minutes with a linotype machine.

The printing museum is also a site for the demonstration  of the traditional trades of the printer and compositor.

The printing museum give a real demonstration of how the local newspapers of the Macarthur region were produced before the current era of off-set printing. The processes for printing the local paper were labour-intensive despite the introduction of these pieces of equipment.

Penrith Museum of Printing Albion Hand Press 2018
This is a demonstration of the hand-operated Albion Press by a volunteer and former printer at the Penrith Museum of Printing. The museum website states ‘This beautiful old Albion Press was manufactured in London in 1860 is a magnificent example of 19th Century printing press design and craftsmanship’.  The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences states that ‘Albion printing presses continued to be manufactured, in a range of sizes, right up until the 1930s. They were used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century and after that mainly for jobbing work and by private presses.  The arrival of small hand printing presses enabled the publication of newspapers in country regions.’  (I Willis)

 

This type of equipment had a profound influence on the production of local newspapers across the world.

It is interesting how much of the terminology used in computer word processing derives from the smell and noise of the print shop and the lives of the printers and compositors.

The Macarthur region newspaper printeries

The Sidmans in the early 20th century introduced the latest equipment at the principal printery located in the building that houses the Camden News office and printery at 145 Argyle Street Camden.

Camden News Linotype printing machine 1930 CN
This image shows the Camden News printery in the 1920s at the rear of the building and office occupied by the newspaper at 145 Argyle Street, Camden. From the left are N Bean, printer, Charles Sidman, linotype operator. The Penrith Museum of Printing states that this is likely to be a Payne’s Wharfedale Cylinder Printing Machine and sheets of newsprint were hand fed into the press by the operator. (Camden News, 22 October 1980)

 

The Richardsons had the latest equipment at their headquarters and printery at 315 Queen Street Campbelltown for the Macarthur Advertiser and other newspapers.

History of Penrith Museum of Printing

The Penrith Museum of Printing website outlines the short history of the museum. It states:

The story of the Museum  begins with Alan Connell, the founder of the museum who had a desire back in 1987 to develop a “working museum” of letterpress printing machinery and equipment.

As the story goes, many years had to pass before Alan’s dream was able to be fully realised via a Commonwealth Government Federation Fund Grant. The Penrith Museum of Printing was officially opened on the 2 June, 2001 by Ms Jackie Kelly, M.P. for Lindsay, the then Minister for Sport and Tourism.

A large proportion of the machinery and equipment on display  originally started its working life in the Nepean Times Newspaper in Penrith, NSW Australia, while many other items have been donated by present and or past printing establishments.

To experience the smell and noise of the local newspaper printery a visit is a must to the Penrith Museum of Printing.

Penrith Museum of Printing Tour group 2017
Tour group enjoy their visit to the Penrith Museum of Printing. Visitors are watching a demonstration and explanation of the equipment by museum volunteers who were former compositors and printers. (PMoP)

 

For contact details go to the website of the Penrith Museum of Printing.

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Living History at Belgenny

The CHN blogger was out and about recently and attended an informative and interesting talk at Belgenny Farm in  the Home Farm meeting hall. The presentation was delivered by Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, USA.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018 sign
The signage at the entrance to the Belgenny Farm complex at Camden NSW. The farm community hall was the location of an informative talk by Mr Peter Watson from the Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Mr Watson, an advocate of the living history movement, was the guest of the chairman of the Belgenny Farm Trust Dr Cameron Archer. Mr Watson was on a speaking tour and had attended a living history conference while in Australia.

 Peter Watson and Howell Living History Farm

Peter Watson presented an interesting and far ranging talk about Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey and its programs. He was responsible for setting up the Howell Living History Farm.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018May2 Peter Watson2 Talk
Mr Peter Watson giving an interesting and information talk in the community hall at the Home Farm at the Belgenny Farm Complex on the experience for visitors to the Howell Living History Farm in New Jersey. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Mr Watson said, ‘He initially worked in the US Peace Corps in West Africa and gained an interest in the living history movement through teaching farming methods.’

‘The 130 acre farm was gifted to the community in 1974 by a state politician with the aim of showing how farming used to be done in New Jersey.

Mr Watson said, ‘We took about 10 years to get going and deal with the planning process, which was tenuous for the government authorities who own the farm. Politics is not good or evil but just develops systems that do good for people. New Jersey state government have purchased development rights per acre from land developers.’

Howell Living History Farm is located within a one hour of around 15 million and the far has 65,000 visitors per year and 10,000 school children.

The experience

Mr Watson said, ‘The main aim at the farm is the visitor experience. The farm represents New Jersey farming between 1890 and 1910 – a moment in time.’

Mr Watson says, ‘We do not want to allow history to get in the way of an education experience for the visitor. The farm visitors are attracted by nostalgia which is an important value for them.

Camden Belgenny Farm 2018May2 Peter Watson Talk
An interesting presentation was given by Peter Watson on 2 May 2018 at in the community hall at the Belgenny Farm complex outlining some of the activities and experiences for the visitor to the farm in New Jersey, USA. (I Willis, 2018)

 

Most historic farms are museums, according to Mr Watson and he said, ‘At Howell Farm visitors become involved in activities.’

The farm uses original equipment using traditional methods and interpretation with living history.

The living history movement is concerned with authenticity and Mr Watson said, ‘Living history is a reservoir of ideas in adaptive research using comparative farming methods between decades.

Mr Watson illustrated his talk with a number of slides of the farm and its activities. He stressed to the relieved audience that the farm activities used replica equipment, not historic artefacts.

Howell Farm ScreenShot 2018 blacksmithing
Screenshot of the Howell Living History Farm website in New Jersey USA. The farm attempts to provide an opportunity for the preservation of the traditional trades. Here blacksmithing is being demonstrated with a forge. (2018)

 

Howell Living History Farm offers a strong education program for schools.

‘This is a different experience for school groups and we do not want to do up all the old buildings. Different farm buildings show a comparative history  – 1790, 1800, 1850,’ Mr Watson said.

Stressing how the farm lives up the principles of the living history movement Mr Watson said, ‘The farm is a learning, education and entertainment facility using traditional farming methods that provide an authentic and ‘real’ experience. The farm seeks to preserve the traditional methods which have cultural value.’

 

Literature prepared for the Howell Living History Farm education program states that:

Howell Farm’s educational programs engage students in the real, season activities of a working farm where hands-on learning experiences provide the answers to essential questions posed by the New Jersey and Pennsylvania State Standards of Social Studies, Language Arts, Science and the Next Generation Science Standards. The farm’s classic, mixed crop and livestock operations accurately portray the era of pre-tractor systems, creating a unique and inspiring learning environment where history, technology, science converge…and where past and present meet.

 

‘The farm is a guided experience and there are interpreters for visitors. Story telling at the farm is done in the 1st-person.’

Farm activities

‘The farm has a cooking programme for the farm crops it grows, which is popular with organic producers and supporters of organic farm products. Crops grown using traditional methods include oats, corn and wheat.’

Howell Farm ScreenShot 2018 farm produce
Screenshot of the Howell Living History Farm website in New Jersey USA. This is  some of the produce sold in the Howell Farm shop to visitors. All produce sold in the farm shop is grown and processed on the farm. (2018)

 

‘The farm sells some its produce and it includes honey, corn meal, maple syrup, used horse shoes, wool, flour.

‘We sell surplus produce at a local market. Activities include apple peeling. There is a sewing guild every Tuesday and the women make costumes.’

‘The farm has an ice house which makes natural ice during winter. Mr Watson made the point that ice making in the US was a multi-million dollar industry in the 1900s.

 

The promotional information for the farm’s seasonal calendar program states:

Howell Farm’s calendar reflects the cycles of a fully functioning working farm in Pleasant Valley, New Jersey during the years 1890-1910. Programs enable visitors to see real farming operations up close, speak with farmers and interpreters, and in many instances lend a hand. Factors such as weather, soil conditions and animal needs can impact operations at any time, resulting in program changes that reflect realities faced by farmers then and now.

 

The farm has run a number of fundraising ventures and one of the more successful has been the  maze.

Mr Watson said, ‘The farm maize crop has been cut into a dinosaur maze of four acres and used as a fundraiser, raising $35,000 which has been used for farm restoration work.’

‘The farm is a listed historic site with a number of restored buildings, which satisfy US heritage authorities to allow application for government grants,’ said Peter Watson.

Howell Farm ScreenShot 2018 activities
Screenshot of the Howell Living History Farm website in New Jersey USA. This view of the webpage shows some of the historic farm buildings that are typical of the New Jersey area around 1900. The farm aims to provide the visitor with an authentic farm experience that has now disappeared from the US countryside and farming landscape.  (2018)

 

‘Traditional farm fences in New Jersey were snake-rail fences which have been constructed using ‘hands-on’ public workshops.’

Mr Watson stressed, ‘The farm is an experience and we are sensitive about where food comes from. Animal rights are a problem and you have to be honest about farming practices.’

 

Learn more

Scott Magelssen, Living History Museums, Undoing History Through Performance. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Scarecrow Press, 2007.

Howell Living History Farm  70 Woodens Ln, Lambertville, NJ 08530, USA

The Howell Living History Farm, also known as the Joseph Phillips Farm, is a 130 acres farm that is a living open-air museum near Titusville, in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. Wikipedia   Area: 53 ha. Operated by the Mercer County Park Commission.