Field trip - get out of your office.

I had two great field trips in a row this week. Not wanting to be in the office for yet another lunch hour, I ventured out to just drive around. I used to do this a lot before gas got a few dollars more expensive. Yesterday I ended up in downtown Joplin, MO. The old downtown is beautiful with old brick buildings and retro street lights lining part of the main drive. I purchased my two Vandercooks out of a building on Main Street a few years ago. Well, a block down and across the street from where the Vandercooks were found is a window with gilded lettering that has aged badly. It was an old printing shop, closed for years. On a whim, I pulled in to the parking lot of the adjoining detail shop and walked in to inquire about the owner, and how to contact him. As luck would have it (even though I don’t believe in luck), the owner happened to be in the building, and I had a chance to talk with him for 30 minutes.

He had recently had some some health issues come back after going into remission for a time. His cancer is the reason he closed the doors to his business years ago. He was a tall thin man who had bought and sold a dozen shops worth of letterpress and offset equipment through the years his shop had been open. He seemed completely oblivious to the beauty that his shop contained, even with it’s poor lighting, and dank and dusty smells. He told be about his junk that is so old it is probably just good for scrap. This scrap was 2 clean and complete Intertype machines and an 8 x 10 C&P. He though a bit more highly of his 10 x 15 Kluge with paper feeder and had much to say of his Original Windmill. All of which could have at any time be dusted off, oiled, and set in motion. The thought of which gave me chills as I looked at the equipment. The shop was also full of composing tables, cabinets and treasures that I wish to go back and look at again and again. He had long since sold the lead out of each drawer to a company that hauled it away to be melted down.

I wish I had more time to listen but I had to get back to the office. I left with a huge thank you and gave him a business card. I asked him to contact me about the equipment if he ever felt like he was ready to let it go. I am not going anywhere anytime soon so if he chooses to let it go I am sure I will still be here. I am no stranger to waiting, my Vandercooks took me five years from the time I found them to the time I was able to purchase them. I hope the ideas of it staying local and being used will somehow stick in his head.

Todays trip landed me at a local print shop in Carthage, MO. I met the owner at an auction when I picked up my 8 x 10 C&P. He has 2 Original Windmills that he said I could come and look at if I ever wanted to. Thy are not for sale. One gets used regularly and the other is their back up incase they need parts that you cant order. He also has some other manual equipment that is tucked in with his offset shop. Right before I left he remembered that he had some cases of small type that he thought I would like to see. So we went back into his storage area of the building and he retrieved a small case that had 5 individual boxes in it. The cases seemed familiar and as he described the press that they went to it hit me that he was talking about a foil stamping machine. Single lines of type for cards or books. He then said he would probably never use it and wanted to know if it was something I would be interested in. Of course I said yes! He has about 5 or 6 of the mini cabinets of type that lock in to the foil chase. I am excited to hear what he wants for the type and foil machine. I will hopefully hear back from him in the next few weeks. But regardless of if I I get the foil stamper or not, I now have an open invitation to watch and learn about Windmills should I ever purchase one for my studio.

Two great lunch hours! All because I got out of the office and walked in a door I had never entered before. I didn’t have time to eat but didn’t seem to be hungry either. I would gladly give up any lunch to listen to a good story and look at amazing presses.

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Great Advice. I make a point to visit shops on my travels, even in foreign countries, just to see what they are doing and how the equipment is being used. You can usually strike up an interesting conversation with the old press person and occasionally come away with a souvenir of your visit.

John Henry

Every once in a while I remember to slow down. I need to have a lunch adventure at least once every other week. It was fun to just listen.


Interesting. No names revealed here but:

I knew a fellow who was fairly well known in the printing industry who would stop by every foundry (domestic or foreign) wherever he traveled and tell them, give me whatever it is you are casting. He had a great collection.

When he died one of our beloved dealers contacted his wife and told her he could solve her new problem by removing all of that.

She was pleased.

I am sure that if I die before my wife she will be thankful for someone to just haul all this heavy junk away. It makes me laugh to think about it.