Oldest Press
Chandler and Price, 1921
Chandler and Price, 1921
Featured Oldest Press Story #4:
Chandler and Price, 1921
Submitted by Dick Barnett of RB Printing, Mattawan, MI

"I am a Chandler and Price 9x12 New Series Handfed Letterpress. I was manufactured in 1921 according to my serial number, B55887.

The first years of my life are unknown until about 1951. Herb Willis was a printer for many years until he took a job with Consumers Power. It was at his retirement that he purchased me used from Kalamazoo Printing Machinery Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

I was then transported to Ludington, Michigan, where I was installed in his basement. It was there that my original purpose of printing the church bulletin was done on a weekly basis. From that point on I continued to gather more business until I was very busy every day printing business cards, letterhead, envelopes, receipt books and bookmarks.

As time passed, more and more foundry type was added to keep me busy and happy. During that time in my life I met Dick Barnett, the great nephew of Herb. Dick was about 12 years old at the time. He would show up on Thursday nights to observe Herb change the lines of type to get ready to print, then do some makeready, proofreading and then ready to print the weekly new church bulletin. That is when Herb sent Dick to the basement steps to observe as Herb would print the bulletins. All the time Dick wanted to print some of the bulletins, but Herb felt it was too dangerous.

As time passed, Dick went on to Ferris State College to get his degree in Printing. No doubt because of his exposure to me at an early age.

After graduation from college, Dick worked for a few print shops and a newspaper doing what he wanted to do, "putting ink on paper."

Then the sad day finally came when Herb could no longer make me hum like he used to and I sat idle in that basement for over six years, with my ink rollers rotting.

Finally, the day came. "Dick," said Herb's son, "I'm selling the house. Would you like to have the old letterpress? I know you used to come over to the house to observe my dad print the bulletins. And you are in the printing business." Without hesitation, Dick said YES.

Now, the real job would be to get me out of the basement. With my flywheel removed, there would be just enough room to move me up the steep set of stairs. With four men, two ropes and a moving truck attached to the ropes, I was slowly pulled up the steps with sheets of plywood placed on the steps ahead of me. Once in the clear and on the truck, I was sent to storage for a few weeks.

Then the big day came. I was loaded up and trucked back home, to the Kalamazoo area, Mattawan, Michigan, to be exact, about 7 miles from Kalamazoo. I was moved into a building behind the house, which later became a print shop. I received a new set of rollers and roller trucks. Now I was ready to get going once again.

I started out by printing business cards. Then I moved up to wooden business cards, wedding and anniversary napkins. Like before, I got busier and busier, printing 35 mm slide carriers, die cutting small J cards, crash numbering two- and three-part Appleton NCR PAPER* brand invoices, and even imprinting two-pocket folders. Just like I had done before in Ludington, I started a business. This time around I lost much of my business to an offset press that was purchased later. But it was good to be put to use again.

It has now been over 30 years since RB Printing was started and I was moved to this location. I don't get used as much as I used to, but there are jobs that only I can do. When I get the call, I am ready and willing to get the work done, even at the ripe old age of 88."

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