Los Angeles has plenty of unique collections and unusual museums, but we were delighted to find out that it touts the largest collection of vintage printing machinery — in the world! — at the International Printing Museum in Carson, California.
The Los Angeles Obscura Society set out to view the collection, and learn about how the Industrial Revolution brought books, bibles, and printed news to the masses, making literacy not just for the elite.
All photos by the author.
Inking the galleys
The International Printing Museum’s collection includes a number of floor- and table-model iron, proof, and clamshell presses, Unitype and typography machines, as well as typewriters. It is so unusual, many producers have placed the printing equipment into their period films and television shows, sometimes even shooting at the museum itself.
Sometimes, the printers’ tools would be made of organic materials that the rats found tasty, and they’d be discovered gnawed away in the morning (and yet remained in use).
After a docent-led tour around the museum, we were finally able to start touching things and feel the entire printmaking process with our own hands, from making paper (with wet fibers spread across a drying screen) to inking, pressing, and rolling across different cardstocks and papers, leaving with a few unique souvenirs.
Ready to roll
The big finale of our extensive visit was getting to see a professional operate a real working linotype machine from the first half of the 20th century to typeset the letters of our names, and generate an alloy slug with which to print one memento of our visit.
Keepsake printed on a Vandercook HS-27 proof press
Our imaginations captured, our interest piqued, and our appetite whetted, we caravanned two miles to the next town over to visit one of LA’s most recent craft breweries, Smog City in Torrance, which prides itself in creating small batch, artisanal beers using traditional machinery and processes (which also evolved out of the Industrial Revolution), with a creative twist.
Operations Manager Ryan Trousdale giving the brewery tour
New bottling equipment
Although small, Smog City is growing and has begun bottling their beers for wider distribution. Every taproom visit is unique, since they are constantly experimenting with different varieties of their beers (new flavorings, smoking, barrel-aging, etc.) and offer a rotating cast of taps for tasting.
Thanks to Ryan for the tour and the delicious beer! We’ll be back for more soon.
The Obscura Society is the real-world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura We seek out secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities for our community to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us. Join the Los Angeles Obscura Society mailing list for our next adventure in the area!