Off Eighth Street in Lower Price Hill sits a piece of Cincinnati history, one that Gary Walton learned to operate in middle school and consequently, turned into a 40-year career.
Cincinnati's rich printing history and a passion for the craft led Walton, a long-time professor at Cincinnati State, to partner with BLOC Ministries to open the Cincinnati Type & Print Museum and the BLOC Letterpress Shop.
The museum, set to officially open to the public early this summer, is a hands-on opportunity for visitors to not only see what the history of the printing press was from a Cincinnati perspective, but also to experience it firsthand.
One of the goals of the museum is to showcase the history that is the Cincinnati Letterpress — from former printing companies to those that continue to show success in the area, such as CJK Print Possibilities.
Today, letterpress printing is more commonly seen on handmade cards and announcements, but there is a solid history behind printing both on a national and local level. The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, has evolved over the centuries from wood block type and print to large, heavy metal printing machines. According to Walton, the Cincinnati Type Foundry was a large manufacturer of typefaces, matrices and other type equipment from 1826-1892 (when it merged with American Type Founders).
Henry Barth, a German immigrant, was employed by the Foundry in the late 1840s/early 1850s and helped to make Cincinnati the center of the industry. He contributed to the invention of a number of special machines for the Cincinnati market, including the first cylinder presses, a double casting machine and an automatic casting machine. When the merge with the American Type Founders Company occurred, Barth’s work was exclusively owned and patented, as he was an expert in the field.
Aside from the historical nature of the museum, BLOC intends to make the print shop into a job creator, specifically for Lower Price Hill residents. In learning about the history of printing, the artistic character behind it and the skills required, both BLOC and Walton hope to see an increase in the number of students that wish to pursue a career in printing.
The building where the museum is located was renovated to the tune of $250,000. While this may seem like a thing of the past to some, printing is still a growing career. Plans to expand the facility, add more machines and historical context and offer classes are in the works as well.
For more information, visit the museum's website and stay tuned for more information as its opening nears.