Object Lesson

printing pressSome things just can’t be replaced in our digital age. Like the craftsmanship of letterpress printing. This Chandler & Price printing press, which dates back to the early 20th century, resides in the Fouts Center for Visual Arts. It was donated to the college in the 1970s by Frank McCaffrey, who ran the well-known Dogwood Press in downtown Seattle. Larry Dodd, archivist emeritius, who worked in the Whitman College and Northwest Archives from 1969 to 2003, knew McCaffrey.

“A lot of people went to Frank to have things published,” Dodd said. “It was very well done. He was not a throw-it-together publisher or printer.”

McCaffrey had visited the campus and was impressed. There was a desire in the art department to utilize a press as an educational tool, and he donated two presses – the Chandler & Price and a roller press, the latter of which went to the student newspaper. When the newspaper office grew cramped, the students sold the roller press, which angered McCaffrey, Dodd said.

“It was probably his baby, and he gave it to us, and we up and sold it,” he said. “It did take some time to smooth things over with him. That’s why we made time to see him in Seattle. Every time I went to Seattle, I talked to him to try to keep him on the college’s side. Each time, I tried to find things that he printed and that the library didn’t have.”

Through Dodd’s efforts at diplomacy, the college now owns one of the best collections of McCaffrey’s work.

Skip Novakovich ’69 helped truck the presses to Whitman in the 1970s. He worked in Whitman’s print shop as a student. Novakovich, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, is now the Port of Kennewick (Wash.) commissioner. He owns and operates Esprit Graphic Communications in Kennewick, a business that specializes in, among other services, printing and bindery.

Novakovich said the Chandler & Price presses were “some of the first presses that came out West.

“I still own two of them that were built in 1899. They were basically the first things that people used to print newspapers, handbills and posters.”

Assistant Professor of Art Nicole Pietrantoni said the press is still used by both students and faculty members for letterpress, printmaking and book projects. Last year, visiting artist Jack Metcalf used the press to work on projects with printmaking students.

—David Brauhn