FRONT ROOM PRESS

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History
MILLER'S PRINT SHOP

Of the three print shops from where most of the equipment in my shop originated the vast majority came from Miller’s Print Shop including the press itself. I’m documenting the equipment and how it came into my possession on my Web Log and this will ultimately be found under The Press section of the website. It is my desire here and in the entries for the other two shops to preserve at least a part of the history and legacy of those shops and the men who worked in them.


Information for documenting closed small businesses is often hard to come by when it's available at all. The last owner of Miller's Print Shop is possibly still alive but his whereabouts are unknown. So I was fortunate that the man from whom I obtained the press and equipment had a longstanding business relationship with him. My efforts here have been further aided by finding some of the original business records and other documents in some of the shop furniture. I will update this history as new information becomes available.


Based on the earliest available document, which is shown below, Miller’s Print Shop was in existence at least as early as the end of 1937. The vast majority of the existing paperwork has the name of Warren E. Miller but as the document below shows there was also a James Miller. The question remains unansered as to who this was. I've speculated that it is Warren Miller's father who may have started the business. In any case, the shop's first location  seems to have been at 449 Tilghman St., Allentown, Penna. 18102. An employee of the shop, Alan R. Bechtel, signed a 1941 receipt for heating oil. He would turn out to be the last owner of the shop that went out of business in 1998 when he retired.


 

Not very clear reproductions unfortunately.



By some point in the 1960’s, at least as early as May 1968, the shop had moved to a new location in Allentown at 322 N. Franklin St. (Rear) with a mailing address at 625 S. 25th St., Allentown, Penna. 18104. Records show that at this time in addition to the print shop operation Warren E. Miller was engaged in buying out estates and selling items at local flea markets. He did this through a business called Schoenes Eck with the same mailing address as the print shop. Schoenes Eck in German means “pleasant corner”.


About 1980 an urban “renewal” project claimed the building the shop was in and it was moved to a residential area on 3rd Street in Allentown and into the large garage of a private residence. Mr. Miller had apparently died by this time and Mr. Bechtel was the owner and operator of the shop. The garage was rented from and located in an alley behind the house of the man I bought the press from.


Throughout its time in business with the several moves to new locations the shop remained within the same roughly three square mile area of Allentown. It was a job printing shop serving the many local businesses, schools, and various local government entities as well as clubs and private individuals. An example of a request for printing is reproduced below. This undated document raises an as yet unanswered question: What was the Queen City Manufacturing Company and what relationship did it have to Miller's Print Shop or "Mr. Miller"?



I have only a few documents from the 1930’s and 40’s about half of which I’ve already shown here. The majority of the remaining business records are from the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I believe the invoices for most if not the entire year of 1972 are preserved. Of possible interest with regard to earlier business practices is the way these invoices were created. Sheets of paper 6” x 9” were printed with the Miller’s Print Shop letterhead. These were then put in a typewriter with a sheet of carbon paper and and a plain piece of paper behind and the invoice typed out. The top copy went to the customer and the bottom apparently got shoved in a drawer. By modern standards it was not only primitive but also minimalist in the extreme. To get an idea of the type of work the shop did and for whom they did it I’ve made up a list taking two examples from each month of the year 1972. Most of the businesses listed show up in the records many times throughout the year, some monthly.


January 4 - Lehigh Super Market – 200 tickets, two sizes, numbered - $6.50

January 7 - Dougherty Travel Agency – 2000 #10 white window envelopes - $19.00

February 4 – Allentown Diocese, P.C.I.A.A. – 20,000 tickets, ten changes, numbered - $65.00

February 23 - Machinery Sales Co. – 2500 letterheads, rag bond - $30.75

March 7 - Slim Costantini – 1500 business cards - $16.00; window cards - $9.50

March 8 - Central Catholic High School – 6000 musical receipts - $30.00

April 10 - St. Paul’s Rectory – 1500 #10 white window envelopes - $26.00; 1500 #6 ¾ white window envelopes - $6.00

April 14 – Muhlenberg College – 2 sets 500 each drawings double size sheets, punched - $47.00

May 5 – Warren-Ehret Inc. – 500 time cards - $9.50

May 12 – Stalek Woodworking – 1000 billheads - $12.00

June 6 – Central Catholic High School – 2500 Commencement Programs - $161.00

June 15 – Marianne’s School of Dance – 1500 programs, 8 pages - $129.00; imprinting ribbons - $4.00

July 19 – Markle & Co. – 1000 duplicate wholesale bill, no., perf., and stitched - $26.00

July 29 – Oakwood Medical Clinic – 1200 forms, green index, two sides - $39.00

August 10 – Downtown Youth Club – 400 tickets - $6.50

August  22 – Robert Fix – bowling schedules - $19.50

September 8 – A-Treat Bottling Co. – 31,000 bottle markers - $120.00

September 12 – Dr. Herman Light – 1000 #6 3/4 white window envelopes - $9.50; 1000 statements - $9.50

October 6 – Allen Fire Co. No. 7 – 200 membership cards, two sides, perf. - $12.00; 200 banquet tickets - $7.00

October 19 – Cross Keys Social Club – 1000 tickets, no. and perf. - $12.50; 500 newsletters - $19.00

November 3 – Atlantic Oil & Heating Co. – 2000 check record sheets - $26.00

November 8 – Robert Long – 100 post cards - $6.00; imprinting same - $5.50

December 2 – Baker’s Florist – 2000 florist cards, green ink - $15.50

December 19 – Miller & Seng Co. Inc. – 1500 post card notices - $14.00; 1000 business cards, two colors - $17.00


Its difficult to reconstruct exactly what the shop consisted of in terms of equipment, type, and etc. except from what was left after the move to the garage on 3rd Street. There was certainly more equipment at one time as the earlier site on Tilghman St. consisted of several row houses with doorways knocked through the connecting walls to join them together. I've learned that there were apparently multiple presses and several employees at that time. By te time the shop ceased operation in 1998 there were two presses in the garage and it had obviously become a one man operation. There was a C&P 14 x 22 with Rice feeder and the C&P 8 x 12 that I now own. Two entries on my Photos page show what the 8x12 looked like at the time I bought it. The last job run on the press was still locked up in the chase: Lion's Club raffle tickets from that same year. I've since learned that Mr. Bechtel was very active in that organization. There were three circa 1940’s or 50’s type cabinets holding 48 cases each of type along with two antique cabinets, one with 16 Yankee 2/3 cases and one with 14 California 2/3 cases. These two latter cases are part of my shop now.


It is clear that at various times in the past the stock from other print shops that had gone out of business had been purchased. This was evident from the address labels and marked-down pricing on some of the packages of paper. It was also revealed that several pieces of the furniture including the imposing table and both of the antique type cabinets had come from O.P. Knause’s Progress Printing House of Macungie, Penna. when it went out of business in 1989 and its contents sold. I was very fortunate to get these items and some others and this is the reason for the section on that printing house's history below.

PROGRESS PRINTING HOUSE

I would like to thank Dale Eck of the Macungie (Penna.) Historical Society for this history of O. P. Knause and his printing house. 

Oscar Penrose Knauss (know to everyone as O.P.) was born on September 4, 1859 in Emmaus, Penna. and moved to Macungie with his parents in 1863. He married Sarah L. Kemmerer on January 17, 1880; and had one son, Eugene Penrose Knauss (b. August 30, 1880 - d. October 18, 1888).  O. P. Knauss died on November 11, 1946.  O.P., Sarah, and Eugene are buried in Fairview Cemetery on East Main Street in Macungie, Lehigh County, Pennsylvnia.

In 1887 Knauss applied for work as an apprentice at the local print shop owned by Levi Smoyer (Captain, Company A, 176th PA Regiment, American Civil War) in Macungie. Soon thereafter he purchased the business and on April 8, 1888 began publishing a weekly newspaper, the Macungie Progress. He named his new business the Progress Printing House. Knauss published the weekly newspaper until March 30, 1911 when he sold his subscription list to the Allentown (Penna.) Morning Call. Knauss continued as a correspondent for the Morning Call until sometime in the 1940s.

Around 1944 Knauss retired and sold the printing business to his friend and employee Herbert E. Seibert. Seibert continued to operate the printing business until the 100th Anniversary of the Progress Printing House in 1988. He then closed the business for health reasons.

In June 1957 while reflecting on the Borough of Macungie Centennial celebration David A. Miller (President; Allentown Call-Chronicle Newspapers) wrote an editorial about O. P. Knauss. "Oscar P. Knauss, who for many years was printer and publisher of the Macungie Progress, was one of my most intimate friends in the publishing business... . He was more than an ordinary publisher. He was an historian who knew most of the people of his area, and at the time of his retirement in 1944, estimated that he had written more than 10,000 columns of news. ... Mr. Knauss's newspaper was one of the most original of the county papers and it was a delight to read his productions. For a man who did not have more than an ordinary education, he was outstanding in his writing. There was a quaintness and a fascinating style which belonged to him alone. ...He was not only an able writer, but a good friend and a very likeable associate."

Knaus published several works including a regularly updated History of Macungie. In the 1943 edition he included several aanecdotes from his days in the print shop that are reproduced below. This work is the largest of his three published Histories and also the most interesting.

 




Here are two photos taken by Dale Eck showing the Progress Printing House as operated by Herbert Seibert in the 1980's.







NA-VET PRINTING COMPANY

As the name implies, this business was started in 1946 by a Second World War navy veteran. Located in Elizabeth, NJ and still owned by the same family it continues to produced letterpress, offset and as of recently photo-offset job printing. The recently hired manager of the shop has 30 years experience with all forms of printing and along with the son of the founder is largely responsible for the shops resurgent business in this last year. I hope to have some further information and some photos in the near future.
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