Many people would not be excited by the phrase “wood type.” But that’s because they’ve never stepped inside the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum.
Wood type has fallen in and out of favor many times over the centuries. First developed in China a millennium ago, wood type as practiced by Edward J. Hamilton began in 1868, when he was asked by a rushed printer, who had no time to order a special type set from Chicago, to carve a set of wood type. Hamilton did so on a foot-powered scroll saw on his mother’s back porch, and the type was a hit. By 1900, Hamilton was the largest wood-type provider in the United States. Many of America’s most famous printed materials were done in Hamilton wood type, including the infamous “Wanted” posters so often seen in westerns.
Over time, wood type fell out of common usage. Today the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is, per its website, the only museum “dedicated to the preservation, study, production, and printing of wood type.” The museum is owned and operated by the Two Rivers Historical Society, and has 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns.
The museum’s most impressive display is the 145-foot wall of type, the world’s largest wall of wood type, as well as thousands of different styles to be discovered in drawer after drawer of wood type. The museum also has a functional workshop and educational venue that offers workshops, residencies, and more.