In the early 1900s, the Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company was the biggest producer of wood type in the US. The company was founded by J Edward Hamilton in 1880, after he was asked to produce type for a poster advertising a grand ball in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
Hamilton was the first manufacturer to use veneer type: Letters were cut from thin pieces of holly wood – 50 percent cheaper than the more commonly used maple – and affixed to a wooden block which was sanded and planed. It was a major innovation and one that allowed Hamilton to sell its wood type at half the price of the competition’s. By the 1890s, the company had bought out most of its rivals.
Hamilton Holly Wood Type later changed its name to Hamilton Manufacturing and in 1917, the company switched wood for steel. But since 1998, Hamilton’s wood type heritage has been researched and documented by staff at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum.
Established by Two Rivers residents, the museum is the only one in the world dedicated to preserving the history of wood type. It houses more than 1.5 million type pieces from Hamilton Holly Wood’s collection as well as printing presses, advertising cuts and specimen catalogues.
The following prints were produced between 2003 and 2013 at Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum using Hamilton’s type and border collection. The museum is currently closed after being evicted from the old Hamilton factory, but will re-open at 1816 10th Street, Two Rivers, later this year.
Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum woodtype.org