The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. With 1.5 million pieces of wood type and more than 1,000 styles and sizes of patterns, Hamilton's collection is one of the premier wood type collections in the world. In addition to wood type, the Museum is home to an amazing array of advertising cuts from the 1930s through the 1970s, and all of the equipment necessary to make wood type and print with it, as well as equipment used in the production of hot metal type, tools of the craft and rare type specimen catalogs.
Located between the East and West Twin Rivers on Lake Michigan, the Hamilton Manufacturing Company was the largest wood type producer in the country, when virtually everything was letterpress printed. The company was founded in 1880, and in addition to wood type, the company has manufactured medical office furniture, light tables, the first gas powered clothes dryer (really!) and more; now in its 130th year, the company produces steel lab equipment.
Thanks to Our Volunteers
Established and managed by the Two Rivers Historical Society, the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum is in its fourteenth year as a living museum. The Museum is operated by staff and volunteers of the Two Rivers Historical Society, many of whom are part of the history of Hamilton, as former employees. We are quite lucky to have among them former type cutters, trimmers, and sales staff, who are helping us tell the story!
"We have benefited from the life experiences of the many people who actually made the exquisitely detailed wood type and who still reside in Two Rivers," says Jim Van Lanen, Sr., the founder of the Museum. "These people are in their 70s and 80s. They show us, from memory, how the type workshop really operated - the old secrets that make these extraordinarily beautiful and distinctively American alphabets."
A Working Museum
The Museum, at 45,000 square feet, is no doubt one of the largest fully functional workshops in the world. Not only do the thousands of visitors who come through every year get to see how wood type was made at the factory, students, artists, typographers and designers visit to take workshops and actually put their hands on and use the collection to create works of art and scholarship in our pressroom at the Museum. To be able to use the type and cuts and a press to make a print can broaden a design student's understanding of typography and color and layout, and artists make work with wood type that would have surprised and delighted Ed Hamilton, the company's founder.