This city was once the second-largest printing center in the U.S. Today we’re 11th. Gary Walton, longtime printing professor at Cincinnati State and head of Price Hill’s nascent Cincinnati Type & Print Museum, is determined to get the Queen City back up that list, through traditional print and, eventually, printing electronics. The museum—which will allow artists to come in and actually use the historic machines and typefaces, plus provide job training for recovering addicts—is just one piece, coming this fall.
“Cincinnati has a rich heritage of these family owned businesses that have been around four, five generations. We want to honor them,” says Walton, who has been working with Katy Kern, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of the founder of the Cincinnati Type Foundry. “Back in 1888, this book would [show] all the different typefaces, rulings, symbols, and pictures [printers] could buy.”
In the 1820s, New Englander Darius Wells developed wood type as a more durable, less expensive, and more variable alternative to metal type. He cut the letters (pictured here) by hand. “You can tell [that it’s his if] you find the letter A and his name, Wells, is on the back,” says Walton.
“The way a printer would show his wealth is how many different typefaces he would have,” explains Walton. “That’s why a lot of [old] print looks like bad design—it’s got 15 different typefaces, but he was showing off.”