Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dad Buys the Duluth Shop

Ever the bargain hunter for type and cuts, my father Gary Hantke had an opportunity to add substantially to his print shop in 1970. He’d heard of a commercial printing plant liquidating in Duluth, Minnesota. Sherman Printing Company, located on a steep hill above the Lake Superior waterfront, was stuffed with printing machinery of all sorts, as well as tons of type. My dad was given his pick of anything in the shop for a relatively low price.

Dad got the largest rental truck available, and he and my mother headed for Duluth. I was in college at the time and had exams, so was unable to come. But I got to hear about the bounty of the Duluth shop, the wealth of material my parents found in it, and some of the treasures they had to leave behind.

At this point my father wasn’t looking for more presses or machinery. He might have been, but his basement print shop was already jammed. Dad was a master at cramming printing gear into limited space, but clearly something had to come out of our basement if something new went in. Besides, my mother laid down the law. Always tolerant of my father’s printing acquisitions, she only asked for space for her washer, dryer, and canned goods cabinet. None of these could be replaced by yet another press or cutter. So in the interest of peace in the family, Dad agreed to limit himself to type, cuts, and borders at Sherman Printing.

He found plenty of those. The place was brimming with type cabinets, galley racks, and rule cases. Piles of galleys with standing forms lurked in the corners. My mother went through those while Dad perused the rest. Happily after attending numerous printer’s gatherings, Mom could pick out the good stuff. Under galleys of dull business forms she found wonderful old type and cuts, which she hauled to the truck to add to Dad’s growing stash.

The day went by quickly, and the truck filled fast. Finally with darkness falling and the truck overloaded, Mom and Dad had to call it quits. Praying the brakes would work on the plunge down the hill, they headed back to La Crosse with their load of printing loot. For years Dad speculated on what they might have left behind. But what a haul!

On the unloading end, I got to help carry Dad’s new letterpress treasures into the print shop and the garage. The overflow ended up (temporarily) in my grandfather’s garage nearby. Over the next couple of years, Dad sorted and organized, amalgamating the Duluth type into his shop alongside the large collection he’d acquired earlier from A.A. Liesenfeld. By the time he was done, Dad had over 1000 fonts of type, plus a huge cut and border collection.

Though my husband and I have made our own acquisitions over the years, the combined Liesenfeld shop and Sherman Printing Company form the core of our print shop today. And we are thoroughly enjoying it!

Stacks of type from Sherman Printing Company line the walls of Dad's print shop as the material from Duluth gets sorted.

The combined logos of A.A. Liesenfeld and Sherman Printing Company, the largest contributors to our letterpress shop.

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