Cardinal Cadence Fall 2012

Preserving the art of printing

Thomas K. Lamb Jr.The heritage of T.A. Lamb & Son, Printers – founded six years before the Lucas gusher of 1901 – lives in in a new exhibit at Lamar’s Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

Thomas K. Lamb Jr., the last president of the family business, preserved a full set of printing and typeset machines in hopes of finding a place to display and educate future generations about a dying trade.

Four years ago, Lamb received support from the university to open a “print shop” in the museum and immediately began working toward that goal. The project received broad support, with contributions from individuals, members of the Lamb family, businesses and local foundations, including the Mamie McFaddin-Ward Heritage Foundation, Foundation for Southeast Texas and H.E. & Kate Dishman Foundation.

“It’s a great historical exhibit and it presents the heritage of our family in Southeast Texas,” Lamb said. “The history is important because of the evolution of printing.”The exhibit celebrated its grand opening Oct. 27.

The Lamb family arrived on the shores of Texas in 1875 and two decades later opened a printing shop in downtown Beaumont. Through five generations, Lamb’s helped businesses and individuals with their printing and office furniture and supply needs. “Lamb’s Printing was in business in Beaumont for more than 70 years,” Lamb said. “In the ’70s, we stopped printing to concentrate on office supply and furniture.”

“This new addition will help us tell more of the Spindletop story as well as expand our discussions about technological advances of the late 19th century,” said museum director Mark Osborne. “Having opened six years before the Spindletop discovery, Lamb’s printing would have done a lot of work related to the oil boom.”

Since H.B. Neild & Sons completed the 1,200-square-foot building in spring 2012, work has continued on installation and restoration of antique printing equipment and an educational presentation.

“Moving in has been a big chore,” Lamb said. “Every piece is heavy and awkward, so it was hard to move and handle. But we had a professional company move it for us, and they did a marvelous job. We have been working on the equipment for months, mostly cleaning and some repair. It is all as our company used it. Some of it easily goes back to the early 1900s.”

The exhibit features two hand-fed Chandler and Price platen jobbing presses, a functional Linotype, two stone composition tables, the extensive engravings collection, as well as a binder, punch, perforator and other machines used in the print shop. The largest and most technologically advanced machine is the Linotype, which would create a casting of a full line of type in lead in a process known as “hot metal” typesetting.

“It is an absolutely amazing machine,” Lamb said. “Ottmar Mergenthaler invented it in the 1880s, and the newspapers were quick to snap up Linotype machines because it was so much faster. Thomas Edison is credited with calling the Linotype the eighth wonder of the world.

As printing moved to offset, Lamb said, “You no longer needed all these cases of type and the great time it took to put together a printed piece.

“For future generations it will be important to understand how the evolution of printing occurred,” Lamb said. “I heard on the news that the state of Texas was talking about going to e-books and doing away with textbooks. I don’t know how many generations it will be before they won’t ever hold a book to read.”

by Brian Sattler
October 2012