Our mission is to advance the understanding of our printing and design heritage by documenting, archiving and reproducing the history and images of American letterpress printing. Our premier collection of printing type, engravings, library, prints and equipment support scholarship and education at all levels by preserving through use, research and demonstration.
T his is the source. Hamilton Manufacturing was America’s largest and longest wood type maker. We have the world’s greatest collection of type and the tools to use it. You can tour over 40,000 square feet of printing history from slabs of rough-cut maple to row upon row of exquisite type. We show the process, the machines, the presses and the product. As a working museum, you can see a pantograph that cut the type 100 years ago. On workshop days, watch new printers pulling proofs or sign up for a unique experience. Wander the gallery to view new or traditional posters by artists near and far. Take a tour or visit Hamilton Dry Goods, the museum store, filled with prints and products often made by museum staff. Visit, learn, print, repeat. The video to your right was shot at our annual Wayzgoose conference in November 2016.
1.5 Million Pieces of Wood Type
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, 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 manufactured medical office furniture, drafting tables, baby furniture (cribs, playpens, potty chairs) and the first gas powered clothes dryer (really!). Eventually the company was recognized for its laboratory furniture, offered in both wood and steel, and fume hoods.
Plan Your Visit
Whether guided by a museum affiliate or browsing at your own pace, a visit to Hamilton is sure to leave you with a wealth of wood type knowledge. Self-guided tours may be taken any time during regular business hours and guided museum tours are offered daily at 1 and 3 p.m. Learn about historic and decorative wood type from one of the world's largest collections, take a journey through the machines and tools that were used to manufacture wood type, and see working pressrooms where we teach and continue to produce letterpress printed pieces.
A Working Museum
The museum, at 40,000 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, those students, artists, typographers and designers visit to take workshops and actually put their hands on the collection to create works of art and scholarship. The experience of creating a print can broaden a design student’s understanding of typography, color, and layout. And artists make works with wood type that would have surprised and delighted J.E. Hamilton, the company’s founder.