Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The La Crosse Job Case

Our basement print shop features something that may be unique. If anybody else has La Crosse job case cabinets, I’d love to hear about it! These circa 1886 mahogany case stands have a different arrangement of compartments for the characters in a font of type than the standard California job case. Probably very few were made, and the two we have may possibly be the only ones that have survived for about 125 years.

So how is a La Crosse case different? Actually it’s a 2/3rd size case condensed, with three rows of compartments in front, which allows room for capital letters and all the extra characters in a font of type. (See diagram and picture of the case below)

According to an article published in the January 1886 Inland Printer, the La Crosse case was designed by Mr. N.P. Tucker of La Crosse, Wisconsin for his printing company. Marder, Luse of Chicago manufactured the case stands for Tucker, and offered them for sale to other printers of the day. At this point nobody knows how long the La Crosse job case was manufactured or how many may have been produced. Maybe it wasn’t that popular. A Marder Luse specimen book from 1890 shows several kinds of type cases, but not the La Crosse job case.

So how did we come by these unusual type cabinets? We inherited them from my father, hobby printer Gary Hantke. He bought them from the defunct Inland Printing Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Inland Printing had acquired the equipment of its nearby competitor Spicer and Buschmann, which in 1884 was a few blocks from N.P. Tucker Company. In an article printed for “It’s a Small World”, my father speculates that these may have been the cases made for Mr. N.P. Tucker. Certainly they’re of the same design.

Obviously this begs for further research, and at some point we hope to learn more about the La Crosse job case. But for now, these beautiful old type cabinets with their square cut nails are a centerpiece in our print shop. And they are terrific for storing small fonts of display type efficiently. I would think Mr. N.P. Tucker would be proud that his innovative type case design is still on the job in the 21st century!


  1. The La Crosse Job Case are beautiful. I don't understand what a 2/3rd size case is and really don't know what a regular case looks like in comparison. I just thought the cabintry was different and that's what made the case different. But then, I'm not a letter press person!

  2. A 2/3rd case is 2/3rd the size of a regular case. Case sizes are pretty much standard, though there are a few variations. The California job case is the most common arrangement of the compartments, but there are several others.