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Use Of Printing Presses In The Red River Valley


Christie Anderson

Without the use of the printing presses in todays smallsocieties, the people would have a hard time knowing what was going on aroundthem.

Printing came into existence before 700 A.D. This typeof printing that appeared, was known as the wood-block printing that theChinese invented. Early printing presses resembled presses that make wineand cheese. They only pressed a piece of paper against an inky surface.

For printing, the engraved block was inked on the surface,and placed on the bed of the press. The printer then placed a sheet of damppaper on the type. A wooden block was then screwed down on the paper andtype with great enough pressure to make a clear impression. It was necessarythat the paper be damp because the press bed was often uneven.

The process of putting paper on the press, and screwingdown the block for a length of time was slow and tiresome. Sheets of paperprocessed a day only totaled into the 3 and 500's. Something was neededto speed up this process, so metal was used in some parts of the pressesduring the 1700's. Except for the minor improvements, not much change occurredin printing presses for more than 300 years after Gutenburg invented hispress.

In 1539, printing presses finally appeared in North America.An Italian named Juan Pablos, established a printing shop in Mexico City.Stephen Day, a locksmith, founded the first printing press in English Coloniesat Cambridge, Mass. in 1639.

The early American printers did more than operate printshops. They became the first publishers in this country, as they producednewspapers, books and magazines.

In the 1800's men wandered around as printers. They wereusually known as "tramp printers." These wanderers moved fromtown to town taking any printing jobs they were offered. They performedjobs that had to be done and then moved on to the next town. These printerssometimes traveled with the pioneers, who finally settled in the WesternStates. No matter where these printers went, no new community lacked a printerfor very long.

As the presses spread over North American and in the RedRiver Valley, they were improved by the addition of metal, in fact the firstall metal press was invented by Earl of Stanhope in the last years of hislife. This press had the same screw device as the Gutenburg, but it didn'ttake as much pressure to make clear impression. This press is still in usetoday, but not as a regular printing press. It is used mostly for printingtrial copies or (pulling proofs).

From the metal printing press, came the idea of havingpresses run by steam to speed up production. Several of these presses, withideas taken from Stanhope, began to appear between 1800 and 1825. A laterversion of this printed not only 200 sheets of paper a day, but 4,000 to5,000 an hour. In the next 20 years, the presses were so improved that theycould print 10,000 copies an hour.

Today, 37,000 plants make up the printing industry in theUnited States. All the plants, however, don't have to be large press factoriesor do they have to employ a large number of people and last they don't haveto be in big cities to be appreciated. An example of such a statement isin the Red River Valley, in a small city called Pembina, North Dakota. Theprinting press business place manufactures a paper they call the PembinaNew Era. It is also the name of the business. The paper is published oncea week regularly by Mr. DeFrance (Roy), and his two employees; Cecil Cleem,from St. Vincent, Minnesota, and his daughter Ione DeFrance. These are theonly ones he has ever employed because with a shop this size three peopleare sufficient.

Mr. DeFrance was born in Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania. What?you may ask made him decide to come to Pembina from Pennsylvania to workin a print shop? Mr. DeFrance's answer to this question is short and tothe point. "Well, I started out as a telegrapher but I thought I couldmake a fortune in the paper business and that's were I am today. I don'tknow if I'm making a fortune or not but I am satisfied and I also enjoymy work."

Mr. DeFrance came to Pembina and took over the printingpress shop in 1910. William G. Deacon, prior to the time Mr. DeFrance tookover, was agent of the press. The equipment Mr. Deacon used was similarto those of the earlier presses manufactured. It was a simple hand presscalled the Washington hand press.

Mr. DeFrance used the same press used by Mr. Deacon butafter 5 or 6 years of further use he felt it was time for equipment thatwould do the job faster. He purchased a cylinder type press at Hallock,Minnesota which they are still using today. This cylinder type press canrun from 700-725 sheets of paper an hour and Mr. DeFrance and his employeesare able to put out one paper an hour. With only three people working approximately7-9 hours a day, they work hard at putting out a good paper that is an interestto the people in the city of Pembina and the people in the surrounding townsand villages as well.

The information for the weekly paper is usually gatheredby Ione DeFrance or by volunteer news items brought in by anyone who caresto have news printed in the paper.

Mr. Roy DeFrance enjoys his work very much and enjoys printingpieces of information that are of interest to the people of the communitybut feels it may soon be time for himself to quit and let someone take over,just as he took over from Mr. William G. Deacon.

Also see The Oldest PaperEssay


Also see The Oldest PaperEssay