History And Overview:
Operated by volunteers of the Two Rivers Historical Society, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton's collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world.
On one end of the museum, an 145-foot wall displays the world's largest wall of wood type. More than 1,000 different styles and patterns, ranging in sizes from 1/4-inch to 48-inches, all are housed in cabinet after cabinet, in drawers and on shelves.
Hamilton began producing type in 1880 and within 20 years became the largest provider in the United States. During that time, as waves of immigrants helped build the republic, news and public information was printed in many styles of wood type.
"When people see wood type they often remember the classic 'Wanted' poster," says Historical Society board member Jim Van Lanen. "If you discover the other printed items of our nation's graphic history, you will find wood type in almost every historical society collection. You will find printed documents and posters that help illustrate how people communicated with each other. Whether it was the sale of horses or land, political rallies, booklets, packaging or circus posters - wood type expressed the message of that day."
The museum is arranged as a fully functional workshop and educational venue. In addition to its massive collection of 19th, 20th and soon-to-be-added 21st Century wood type, the museum also illustrates antique printing technologies including the production of hot metal type, hand operated printing presses, tools of the craft and rare type specimen catalogs.
Hamilton volunteers host educational demonstrations, field trips, workshops and offer opportunities for artists, printers, historians and other scholars to experiment with this vast wood type collection. "We have benefited from the life experiences of the many people who actually made the exquisitely detailed wood type and who still reside in Two Rivers," says Van Lanen. "These people are in their 70s and 80s. They showed us, from memory, how the type workshop really operated - the old secrets that make these extraordinarily beautiful and distinctively American alphabets."