This Is Houston


Though it has been open since 1982, I’ve not visited The Printing Museum until recently. It explores the intersections of the history, art, and technology of printing and demonstrates its enduring impact through exhibitions, interactive tours, and creative workshops. It was fascinating to track the impact of printing on the development of civilization in a series of intimate spaces.

The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg. While it improved book production, can you imagine how tedious the process where each piece of type had to be placed by hand?

Printing on this primitive device also required considerable strength as I found out when giving it a try!

The ability to print maps had to be a huge boon to early explorers. It is likely that maps also made people more aware of the world in which they lived.

Over time the printing press evolved making it easier to disperse information. In this country, the first press was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Newspapers were among the first publications in the colonies, and it is said they played an important role in discourse involving a developing democracy.

Much later the introduction of the Linotype machine changed everything. No longer did type have to be hand set which not only saved time but allowed production to increase. As a result newspapers such as those printed by Hearst became a source of mass communication.

I was especially interested in the role of printing in Texas from 1820-1840. Early on, its history was turbulent as Texas transitioned through a series of wars and forms of government. Without printed materials from those days, much of the story would have been lost.

In addition to the Albion Press in the Texas gallery were a couple of wonderful collages made from assorted reclaimed printing paraphernalia.

As I wandered the museum studying each iteration of the printing press, I could only wonder what early printers would think of mass communication today. Could they ever have dreamed of the ease with which information is spread quickly across the globe? Sometimes it is hard to appreciate what we take for granted until seeing how challenging it was in another era.

13 thoughts on “This Is Houston

  1. Thank you for this!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. My pleasure to share what I find interesting.

  2. How interesting.

  3. Thanks, Linda, will have to visit on one of our trips to Houston!! My own 30-year involvement with print production began with producing typeset galleys and and cutting and pasting to make precise “mechanicals” for each page, ready for the photographer to make into plates for the printing press. Then, about 20 years later, I created my first online Blurb book, a catalog for one of Bruce Brown’s photography exhibitions. And I remember watching my grandfather at work 60 years ago (yikes!) at a small-town newspaper. operating the linotype machine and even setting some type letter by letter on a letterpress (for ads, maybe?)..

    1. You remind me of my own experience with printing, including producing an art magazine. Going back in time I loved visiting my uncle’s shop which was Linotype printing g.

  4. Such great history gathered in this museum. I, too, wonder how people from printing press days would react to the internet!
    Happy weekend to you. I bought the ingredients for Buttermilk Pie and plan to make it when we have our pastor and his wife over this Thursday…

    1. Hopefully the pie is a hit at your dinner table. Though I’m sure somewhere there’s a person who doesn’t care for it, it’s not been at our house.

  5. Dear Linda –

    The Camden group are here now (Leslie also arrived just this afternoon) and coming for dinner tomorrow evening – YOUR YUMMY BUTTERMILK PIE IS ON THE MENU!!!!!

    Much love

    Loie

    1. Oh what fun. Wish I were there to join you!

  6. I found this all so interesting! My Dad was a printer. He set type by hand for almost everything.
    Unless he was printing a newsletter then he used his Linotype.

    Fun memories… thank you!

  7. Great post Linda, fascinating to watch history and communication evolve…
    Jenna

  8. It’s amazing how the “printed page” has evolved. I still love books and magazines that I can turn the page and prefer to do a written note of thanks and send special cards vs. an email or e-card.

  9. Thank you Linda for sharing this very interesting post. I must admit I know very little of the history of print.

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