Behind the main Ackley Publishing building is another building filled with antique printing equipment. Mayor Daggs welcomes students/classes from Iowa State University who come here to see first-hand how printing used to be done.
The building houses 1500-1600 fonts, some of which are shown above. Changing fonts hasn't always been a one-click experience! Until the 1890s, type was set by hand. The linotype machine was invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1884 and was commonly used until the end of the 1970s.
If you wanted to print something, the first step would be to choose your font magazine from those shown in the first photo. You would bring your magazine and place it in the linotype machine above. An ingot of lead, tin, and antimony would be dipped in the melting pot on the side of the machine, which would be heated to 540 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using the keyboard, you would compose what you wanted to write. Once you had a line written, it would be cast. After a letter is used, its matrix is mechanically carried back to the magazine, and the matrix's teeth act like a key, allowing it to drop back into only its proper place.
Once the type is set/cast, it's used in letterpress printers (like the one shown in Part 1). After the project is complete, the metal is recycled--melted back into ingots and used again.
The printer above was made in 1929. For a number of years it sat behind another print shop gathering rust. Mr. Daggs asked the owner if he could purchase it, but the owner did not want to sell it yet--maybe someday. Finally he brought a tarp over and covered it. "What are you doing?" the owner asked. "Protecting my investment," Mr. Daggs replied. A couple years later the man finally sold it to him. The tarp had helped a little, but it still needed extensive rust clean-up before it could be used.
Above you can see how a gold foil wedding invitation is made. The paper is placed on one side of the foil, and the photosensitive magnesium plate on the other. The plate is heated to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heat transfers the foil onto the paper.
Another thing Mr. Daggs does is print cards and flyers with witty sayings using his letterpress machines. Some that you can find throughout the shop are shown above. One of my all-time favorites is "STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS." The Kwitchurbeliakin sign is just one example of language-mangling that hints at the town's strongly German roots.
Besides being a historic treasure trove, Ackley Publishing has great prices and excellent quality workmanship.
To top it off, the Daggs always take the time to talk with you about life and current events; they'll stop everything and pray for you if you have a problem and ask for prayer. And God answers their prayers.
If you're ever in the Ackley, Iowa area, I recommend you think of something that needs printed.
Many thanks to Mr. Daggs for the tour!