U.S. Printing Museum Loses Its Benefactor

By: Jim Rosenberg

Veteran Linotype repairman, aviator, and world traveler Ernest A. Lindner died recently, but his lifelong love of printing equipment is preserved in the large collection he gave the International Printing Museum in Carson, just south of Los Angeles between Torrance and Long Beach.

Functioning independently of Lindner as a “nonprofit organization for 13 years now,” the museum preserves what is essentially its late founder’s collection and definitely remains open to individuals and groups, said its executive director, Mark Barbour. Its Web site is found at http://www.printmuseum.org.

Operated for educational purposes — by appointment weekdays, with regular hours on Saturday only — the museum has occupied its current quarters at 315 Torrance Blvd. since 1999 after the collection was in storage for 18 months.

“We are … exercising an option to purchase the building we are in,” said Barbour, adding that a three-year fund-raising campaign will kick off in January. Separately, contributions made in Lindner’s memory will go to a museum memorial to the remarkable man.

The building will give the museum 22,000 square feet for programs and exhibition space for a collection comprising thousands of smaller items and what Barbour said are “probably about 200 main pieces,” such as presses and linecasting machines.

When not repairing and selling the latter at a business owned by his father and uncle (both former Mergenthaler Linotype Co. employees), flying combat missions in two wars, or racing hot-air balloons, Lindner acquired a historically significant array of industry artifacts in the course of his travels. The collection ranges from centuries-old objects to early industrial-age machines to 20th-century equipment, such as the first web offset press — designed 60 years ago to print butter wrappers for a San Francisco firm.

Perhaps of greatest interest to newspapers is the 1875 Potter press — shipped around Cape Horn to California by the early 1880s, sent back East in recent years on a loan to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and just returned to Los Angeles. “Gen. [Harrison Gray] Otis used that press to print the first issue of the Los Angeles Times” under his ownership, said Barbour. Powered hydraulically when diverted flow from the Los Angeles River was passed over a waterwheel, the press is now back on display at the L.A. Times. The river disappeared long ago. But before it did, according to Barbour, a misguided fish once managed to shut down production of the paper when it became lodged in a pipe that diverted the river’s water to the press drive.

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