Slugs, Dingbats & Tramp Printers! Printing in Santa Clara Valley

April – December 2015

History San José is proud to present the exhibition Slugs, Dingbats, & Tramp Printers! Printing in Santa Clara Valley, opening April 2015, in partnership with the San Jose Printer’s Guild.

Printing from moveable type was first introduced into Northern California around 1825 by Agustin V. Zamorano, then a government official in Monterey. In 1834 the soldier-printer replaced a small “seal press” (whose wood block type could print only 100 words at a time) with a Philadelphia-made Ramage Press and a small quantity of old metal type. When he set up California’s first press operation, advertising his service to the public with a printed circular, Zamorano began a long and vibrant tradition of California printing. That same press would be used to print California’s first newspaper, The Californian, in 1846.

The printing press played a key role in American society. The press was a bulwark to an informed and politically active public, and printers were vital to the routines of government. This was no less true in San Jose and surrounding communities, as San Jose hosted Gold Rush California’s first state legislature, and then blossomed as the center of a vibrant agricultural and business community.

In addition to the area’s many weekly and daily newspapers, newspaper offices often served as “job printers,” creating the letterheads, invoice forms, advertising cards, and other commercial documents needed by local businesses. They also helped advertise San Jose’s growing array of commercial and cultural activities, including the area’s lively music, theater and vaudeville entertainment venues.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw many significant developments in printing technology: chromolithography, the rotary press, the linotype, the typewriter, mimeographs, photocopiers, computerized typesetting, and inkjet, dot matrix, and laser printing. While many of these technologies originated elsewhere, they were rapidly adopted by local printing firms, and are represented in the exhibit with artifacts and printing output.

Silicon Valley itself became an important player in printing technology advancements. For example, the process of laser printing was developed in Palo Alto’s Xerox Parc in 1970. More recently, San Jose’s Adobe Systems introduced Adobe Postscript, whose fonts have become industry standards.

Visitors will learn the fascinating stories of these people and companies through photographs and historic printed documents, as well as the presses, tools, and equipment used locally over the past century and a half. They will also be introduced to the art and skill of printing through demonstrations and videos.

Exhibit Press

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