New Orleans’ printers have been getting the word out for 250 years.
"I like running machines,” Justin Winston says, explaining his affinity for printing. As a student at Fortier High School, Winston worked on the school paper and “a couple of times I took the paste-up to the printers.”
“I looked at all the equipment – I thought this was great! And, I got a summer job there and I learned to use an offset press.” Winston wasn’t deterred by the fact that the former pressman had lost some fingers on the job.
By 1960, he had bought a small offset press for $30. “It was just a little duplicator press. I didn’t even know where to buy ink.” As a student at the University of New Orleans (then LSUNO) he had part-time jobs at print shops.
Winston once worked at Gosserand Superior Printers on North Claiborne Avenue. Leo Hall was the long-time operator of the shop, according to Rubin Cohen, whose father owned the tuxedo rental store next door. “Their big business was for posters on phone poles – like for bands and dances,” Winston says. “He was really good, he did some screens and offset, and some things with block type.” Winston also recalled a unique ink: “His gold: it really looked like gold leaf, and he never told anybody how to do it.”
Continuing with his own equipment, Winston, “printed the first issues of The New Orleans Poetry Review.” He had to turn down an offer to print a novel for a local English professor who brought in a giant manuscript. The book would become The Confederacy of Dunces and John Kennedy Toole was Winston’s would-be customer. “I would have gone bankrupt publishing it, and he would have, too,” Winston wryly admits.
Eventually Winston became an instructor in Graphic Arts at Jefferson Parish Schools’ Cullier Career Center in Marrero. “I taught offset, screen printing, composition – when I started there was no digital printing. I convinced them to get a computer.” After 23 years of successfully starting students in printing careers, Winston retired in 2013.
In 1989, Florence Jumonville compiled a Bibliography of New Orleans Imprints: 1764-1864, when just being a printer could be dangerous. First in town was Denis Braud. Four years after setting up shop, Braud printed a manifesto from French colonists protesting the Spanish occupation of the city. Braud was arrested, explained that as the government’s official printer he was following orders and escaped execution or exile. After Braud came Antoine Boudousquie who printed Louisiana’s first literary work: poetry by planter Julien Poydras. An 1898 banquet program for a Printers Association Banquet still listed a Boudousquie in the business.
Also on that 1898 program was a representative of Hauser Printing, and today Gary Hauser is still a printer. “My grandfather started that company in 1898, Dad took over in 1935 and in 1968 I took it over,” Hauser says. The company founder had come here from Georgia, and before starting his own firm, was a machinist for the Picayune linotype machine, a major 19th-century innovation in printing.
The giant linotype machines used hot lead to set rows of type. For decades, Tulane University had two of the machines in the basement at Gibson Hall. After a move to the Newcomb campus, the machines were finally dismantled and removed in the 1960s.
The Hauser printing firm began in the 600 block of Poydras Street, when the area around Poydras and Camp streets was filled with newspaper offices. The firm moved to the 700 block of Poydras Street, at corner of St. Charles Avenue, and Hauser would merge later with American Printing to become Hauser-American at Magazine and Gravier streets. Ultimately the company was reorganized as Hauser Printing, and under Gary Hauser’s leadership moved to Jefferson Parish.
“We survived Katrina with the building and equipment in good shape – but our customers and employees did not fare so well,” Hauser says. Another local firm, Harvey Printing, had lost its building in the storm. Merging with Hauser, it became Harvey-Hauser at Hauser’s Jefferson location. By 2010, Garrity Printing merged with Harvey-Hauser and the enterprise moved out of the Hauser building and into the Garrity headquarters.
“I had a building that was going to be empty, and so in 2011, I went back into the printing business. It’s Gary Hauser Press, now,” he says. Hauser has seen printing go from the old letterpress using type, to offset printing (using plates – with a full image containing both type and illustrations – created in a process involving cameras and film) to today’s digital imaging.
“Once computers came out, people started setting type and doing layout and design for themselves,” Hauser says. Today, he can do both printing and digital production. “The difference is in the length of the runs: for 500 copies and up we still do printing, under that it’s high quality digital images.”
Joseph Makkos’s background comes from “the creative writing side of things.” However, he likes the hands-on feel of old printing presses, and has four of his own (along with some 30,000 or so very old issues of The Times-Picayune.) “I print small run commissions, book covers, broadsides, CD covers for bands.” The Cleveland, Ohio, native has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from UNO.
Makkos hopes to make use of artwork from his old newspapers in new ways, and you can learn more from his websites: LanguageFoundry.org and NolaDna.org (the DNA is for “Digital Newspaper Archives). He has a particular goal for printing his own poetry: “When I put it on the page, it’s the bridge between language and painting.”
Even after 250 years, New Orleans printers are still making an impression.
Assault on Paper
Older printed material is endangered today. The pervasive use of online storage, digitization and microfilm has drastically reduced library newspaper collections, according to author Nicholas Baker’s 2001 book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. Downsizing had one good result: New Orleanian Joseph Makkos, who teaches English at Delgado Community College, found a truckload of 1888-1929 issues of The Times-Picayune on Craigslist in the “free” listings. Makkos’ remarkable find was reported in the Columbia Journalism Review this January. Surprisingly, the copies may have come from the British Library, where they had gone through a Nazi bombardment only to be auctioned off in 1999.