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Exhibit Spotlights Printing and Papermaking

Readers may recall our Ahead of the Curve article from November 1, 2017, which reported on a special project underway at The National Museum of Industrial History (NMIH). The project included plans to restore a rare 1933 miniature paper machine as part of a larger exhibit on the importance of printing and its role in spreading knowledge throughout the world.

Thanks to support from Specialty Minerals and others, the exhibit opened May 1, 2018 at the NMIH in Bethlehem, PA, and will run to the end of October, 2018.

Papermaking at 5 FPM
The exhibit is called "Hot Off the Press: Printing and Papermaking," and it showcases the early days of the American printing and paper industry. Visitors will have an opportunity to explore the evolution of paper, inks, and fonts. A key display will be the working miniature Rice & Barton fourdrinier paper machine made in 1933 for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.

The machine has undergone a painstaking six-month refurbishment and is now able to once again produce paper at 5 fpm and 9.5" wide. The machine was ordered in June, 1933 and delivered in November, 1933 for a purchase price of US$3,740 (adjusted for inflation, that is the equivalent of more than US$72,000 today.) Various clothing companies suppled the wires and felts and The Sinclair Co. supplied the dandy roll.

This miniature fourdrinier has a long history. In the past, it was used at various events at the Franklin Institute as well as loaned out to many other public events. However, the machine had spent the last eighteen years in storage in a degraded state. NMIH obtained the machine on loan from the Franklin and found volunteers and donors to restore it to working order. Several companies built working miniature paper machines, but this is the only one by an American machinery builder.

As part of the NIMH exhibit, the machine will make runs on June 24th, July 15th, August 12th, September 16th, and October 21st. It is believed that this is the only miniature machine made by Rice Barton & Fales of Worcester, MA.

Printing, Inks, and Book Binding
Visitors to the exhibit will also marvel at printing plates, work tables, type cabinets, presses, and historic printed materials. They will learn how to set moveable type and use an 1874 J.W. Daughaday & Co. printing press; they'll even be able to take home a souvenir of their day in the Print Shop. Several types of printing processes are featured, including letterpress, linotype, Anastatic printing, and platen press printing. Demonstration dates are found at the NMIH web site in the press release for the exhibit. Various demonstrations will take place during the run of the exhibit. Rare printed materials will be displayed including the first German-translated Bible printed in the Colonies. (Learn more at nmih.org.)

"The rich history of printing is relatable to people of all walks of life, from our forefathers who literally printed history to our parents reading newspapers to our kids growing up in libraries," said Kara Cenni, president and CEO of the NMIH. "This exhibit is an exciting hands-on experience that will delight children and adults alike and allow them to connect with an industry that is still relevant today."

The Museum and Its Mission
The National Museum of Industrial History opened its doors in August, 2016 and is dedicated to preserving America's rich industrial heritage. It is located in Bethlehem, PA in the 1913 former Bethlehem Steel Electrical Repair Shop on the largest private brownfield site in America. The Museum is home to 20,000 square feet of exciting exhibitions and hosts several engaging programs monthly. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday.


Editor's note: If you visit the exhibit, please let us know! We'd love to share readers' experiences of this exhibit, or any other paper-related historical visits.


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