In this digital era, many gadgets, once common, have been replaced by new technologies. We all know the power our smart phone has, practically a billion gadgets rolled into one. I recall a life without that ‘all powerful’ piece of tech, as daily tasks were a tad more difficult. The compass, the watch, the typewriter and the landline phone have become practically obsolete.
Yet, there are others, as equally important, that may not come to mind. I discovered one museum focusing on a company that produced a mainstay in the world, before personal computers and printers. This mainstay has been used for over 500 years and the company, itself, opened its doors in 1880.
That company was known as Hamilton manufacturing and, even if it also produced appliances and furniture, it was known as the country’s largest wood type producer. The company closed its doors in 1993. With its closing, the historical society of Two Rivers, the town it has always called home, saved the remnants that resided in the factory.
What is wood type? That’s simple. It is simply a block of wood used to print a character(Such as a letter or number). It was used for Newspaper headlines into the 50’s, because large metal pieces tended to have uneven surfaces or would crack. It was also used widely for posters into the nineties.
As I enter the place, which is a large open expanse, I don’t feel as if I’m in a Museum. It’s a throwback to a time where cinder blocks and wood siding were common. This isn’t some trendy establishment going retro-its genuine. Its a break from the norm.
It’s filled with wood type art, which I find interesting. But of course, what’s most interesting are the bulky machines I see off to my right, as I receive a little history from a staffer.
I learn, from this staffer, that Hamilton’s competitive edge was holly wood. No, not the celebrity laden city in California. The wood from a holly tree proved perfect for presses. Hamilton, after discovering this, bought out his competition and his company blossomed with the design of many other products.
The staffer concludes her brief intro and I’m free to ramble across the concrete floor. As I have already mentioned, I find the metal monsters used to manufacture the wood type. There are placards informing me what these were used for. I find it all a bit technical, I’m not really a woodworking junky, but it’s cool.
After the cutting, sanding and what not, I’m left to appreciate the final products. I find it incredible that these were created, almost to perfection, in such an early age.
When I was young, My grandparents owned an abandoned farm. I’m not sure what their intentions were, as it had a farm house, barns, fields and a swampy woodland. I just remember the barn being full of antique tractors and machinery. Also, the house had storage uses, as radios from the thirties and other used items always captivated me. That’s kind of how this Museum strikes me, almost an old warehouse holding Items that have no place in the modern world.
To prove this point, I find a room full of appliances and furniture, all proclaiming the Hamilton name. They’re not restored. There’s rust, scrapes and scratches on the furniture and signing. However, they look as if I could still find a use for these relics, if need be.
I make my way from the furniture and appliances, once built in Two Rivers, and find a cool collection of printing presses. The linotypes are my favorite, kind of like an enormous typewriter. I look at the antique, cumbersome, and monstrous machinery, thinking that at one time, in the technological evolution of our world, that this was cutting edge. In the upcoming days, I will write of my experience on something incredibly smaller. My device is able to communicate text and display color photos, all with the click of a button.
I leave with an appreciation of this modern world. The digital era has made it so much easier to communicate, versus the days of the tedious printing presses. So much, these days, can be communicated, whether we appreciate every sentiment or not.
This is a great place to visit if your in the Two Rivers area. I think this would be a great learning opportunity for any child who utilizes social media. I truly believe the fact that, once before TV and Radio, an eight page newspaper connected people would blow a kids mind . It kind of blows mine, what would I do if I couldn’t follow Donald Trump’s boisterous tweets.
Admission $5 Children, veterans and seniors $3.