1920 Hamilton Mfg. Co. Oak Printers Cabinet

1920 Hamilton Mfg. Co. Oak Printers Cabinet


45H” x 72W” x 24.5D”

A beautiful, solid oak cabinet, made by Hamilton Manufacturing Co., with recessed and sectioned flat drawers for storing lead type for letterpress printing. This circa 1920, rare double-bank cabinet features brass drawer pulls and its original typeface labels. A unique piece of history. We also have some lead type.

J. Edward Hamilton founded the original Hamilton factory, called J.E. Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company, in 1880, and within 20 years became the largest manufacturer of wood type in the United States.

Edward Hamilton was born in Two Rivers and lived there until he was in his teens. When his father died fighting in the Civil War, his mother took her family to Lockport, NY, to be closer to her brothers-in-law, and for two years Hamilton attended Lockport High School. In 1868, the family moved back to Two Rivers, and at the age of 16, Edward went to work as a tender of a clothespin lathe in a chair and pail factory. Tending a clothespin lathe was not enough to satisfy Hamilton - in addition to figuring out ways to improve his production and the quality of his work, he volunteered in the engine room to learn about steam power and the mechanics of the equipment; next he managed a brick factory for his uncle until the business folded; and then he sought his fortune in the 1876 gold rush in South Dakota.

In 1878, back in Two Rivers, at the pail factory once again and determined to make his way in the business world, the opportunity presented itself that would put Two Rivers on the map and make Hamilton a name known among newspapers and print shops (and eventually housewives, dentists, doctors, architects, scientists and more) nationwide.


William Nash, Editor of the Two Rivers Chronicle, needed large decorative type to print posters for a Grand Ball at Turner Hall in Two Rivers. With no time to order new type from Chicago, he asked Edward Hamilton if he could make the type. Hamilton, who had run his own business making wall brackets and other ornamental furniture for a time, took a sketch of the type that Nash wished for, and cut the type on his foot-powered scroll saw on his mother's back porch, and mounted the letters on another block of wood. Then he sandpapered and polished the surface.

It printed so well that Hamilton made up a few samples and sent them to nearby printers. After receiving his second order he quit his job at the chair factory and he began the J. E. Hamilton Holly Wood Type Company. Initially, Hamilton produced a veneer wood type. Holly wood was used in preference to maple, because it was 50% less costly and it could be cut 1/16 thick and glued to cheap pine. Eventually, the Hamilton Company would switch over to end grain wood and use the rock maple that was abundant in the Wisconsin forests.

Add To Cart