Southern printers

As I work to build a small print shop at my home, I find it increasingly odd how little letterpress equipment there is in the South. Were there no print shops down here (I am in FL), or has everyone up North acquired it.

Maybe I am not asking the right people or looking in the right places.

Not really a rant, just curious as to why most of the ads for letterpress equipment are from people up North.

This thread made me jealous I do not live in Western Ohio:

Log in to reply   16 replies so far

When the Mayflower landed all the letterpress stuff was just too heavy so it stayed here in the area.

Your question is valid. Consider that most of the major foundries were located on East Coast, Midwest and West. They sold printing equipment along with their type. Same for press manufacturers, located in Ohio and the North East. I assume Atlanta may have had a Foundry Office but that is my best recollection. We have a lot less out here on the West Coast also.

I guess those up north had more of a mindset to keep such equipment, or perhaps being so close to the manufacturer made it a bit more practical to keep the old presses around longer.

I think that the density of population in the industrial north probably accounts for a larger amount of old equipment surviving until the present day. The south and west were more rural, so even if there were printers in every town they would have been further apart. I have some old printer’s directories from the mid-1930s and they show most of the printers that were operating at the time. Of course the most printers were concentrated in large cities, but if a town had a newspaper, they had a printer.


Fifty years ago, there were tons of letterpress equipment in the south. Atlanta had some great type shops. Birmingham, Memphis, Nashville were mecca’ s for quality printing. Miami was known for typography. But, in fifty years, much of our history has been dumped. In those days, there was a print shop on every other corner. Each shop had at least one kluge and several handfed presses. Time has marched on. Not in a positive way, just a forced march!

We’ve imported a bunch of northern letterpress equipment to the south, as Rise and Shine Paper moved from Philadelphia to Alexandria, Louisiana in 2009. So far I have had a lot of luck finding gear in Texas, and recently some very nice stuff in Louisiana. It’s out there.

Here in Houston, all the equipment was shipped to Mexico in the late 80s.

It is also important to be ready to travel to pick up a good press. In setting up our shop, I’ve bought equipment in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and I physically went there to move all of this stuff!

The only presses that were shipped came from California.

I had pretty good luck finding things by keeping a local wanted ad up on Craigslist. I had so much luck with this that I’ve taken it down so as not to be tempted further!


Aaron brings up as good point that does not get mentioned much. As letterpress lost ground to other processes and became somewhat commercially obsolete, it was still very much “state-of-the-art” in third-world countries. That includes Mexico and all of Central and South America. For several decades tons and tons of equipment was bought up, bundled together and transported south to the border. The same holds true for the steady stream of containers headed for Asia.

This may explain why there simply isn’t as much left in the South and West Coast as there is in the North East.


Even here in the northeast we had a lot of equipment sent all over the world, Mexico, India, South America.

Some thirty years ago when I was still at Hatch Show Print,a guy came by and offered better than scrap prices for old type. He said that his company had a freighter in Florida, and was travelling all over the country purchasing type to fill it up, at which point it would be shipped to Russia. I mentioned this to the owner, and he said, “…sure, he’ll sell it to Russia, and they’ll make it into bullets, and shoot it back at us.”


thanks for all the comments. interesting stuff. While I was ever hopeful of finding a press close to me, I wound up traveling 350 miles to get my Golding, which was totally worth the drive, and am finding it quite fun getting other supplies off ebay, and reading on BP of the companies still producing or stocking letterpress supplies.

another thought, does anyone know if there is a database being kept of the known presses and their location, if only for posterity’s sake?

Make a list of what your looking for and email it to me. I might be able to find it for you. I travel the country buying. Make it fast, when I am out I don’t check email that often.

Thanks, Theo. So far so good. I have a press, new rollers are being made at Ramco, can get ink and paper locally, and everything else I have found online.

This wasn’t necessarily a thread for me to find anything, just a curiosity about the seemingly short supply of letterpress equipment in the Southern region.

We do have a pretty cool Letterpress and printing museum in Homosassa, Florida. I feel you though, I live in Florida as well and there just isn’t a lot of stuff that pops up for sale around here.

If you’e in north Florida, there are a couple letterpress printers here in Tallahassee.

There is Rick Hawkins in Athens, GA
He occasionally promotes his services on this forum and usually has a solid inventory of presses and other equipment for sale.