The Acquisitions Table: An Unidentified Printing Office by Photographer C.P. Michael

The Society’s collection of photographs of working print shops continues to expand (see blog posts on this topic from 2014 and 2017). Most of the photographs feature businesses in New England, New York, or Pennsylvania. This newly acquired photo, showing a tidy shop with a ca. 1882 Hoe flatbed newspaper press, was taken in Nebraska. The city of Norfolk, where the photographer was based, was founded in 1866 by German farmers from Wisconsin. The first newspaper, The Norfolk Journal, was printed in 1877 and by 1879 the town was connected to the railroad.

The mount is stamped with the name C.P. Michael, who had a photo studio in Norfolk in the 1890s. Around 1900 he made a series of interior views of businesses in Madison County, including a bank, a general store and a barber shop, all on identical mounts (copies in the Nebraska Historical Society). While this photo was acquired primarily for the details of the shop interior, research once the piece arrived in Worcester revealed more about Michael.

In 1903, the photographer was active as a member of the International Reform Society (a temperance and moral reform organization). Local reports of him threatening news dealers in Fremont with legal action for selling novels and periodicals like The Police Gazette and Vanity Fair appeared in the Norfolk papers. In his defense, Michael stated that the society was “determined to stamp out blood and thunder literature, stories of crime and immoral and sensational publications, to the best of its ability.”

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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