One of the misfortunes of the digital age is the loss of a colorful and stereotypical character that once populated printing companies throughout the United States. It’s well known that Mark Twain started his career as a printer for his brother’s newspaper in Hannibal, Missouri. When he left Hannibal in 1853, he became a journeyman pressman, perfecting his printing skills in St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain in his printing and publishing days (Wikimedia Commons)

The journeyman was a fixture in the printing trade of the late 1800s and early twentieth century. They were an itinerant group with specialized skills that were in demand wherever they landed, but also considered to be uniformly insufferable by the owners of the printing concerns that they drifted through. Cranky, finicky, and protective of their art, they had no patience with other workers. Interestingly enough, many were illiterate, but had no respect for the other “monkeys” who composed, set type, or performed the time and labor intensive duties that enabled the pressman to practice their craft.

It’s a fair guess that Twain would be both amazed and dismayed if he could witness the activity in a modern printing company. If the famous author walked into Thomas Press today, he might actually recognize a couple of old presses that are still in service, but the machines that do the daily work might be dismissed as sheer magic.

The days of the journeyman pressman are long gone, and the digital printing equipment that printers use to practice our craft today really isn’t magical. The onward march of technology has certainly changed the role of print, but it has simultaneously made it more accessible and affordable. Digital print has replaced the labor intensive process of Twain’s day and greatly expanded the range of possibilities for organizations who realize the enduring value of print.

New Opportunities with Digital Print

Here are just a few of the benefits that digital print provides for Thomas Press customers:

For years, even larger companies with big budgets limited the color on much of their printing to one or two spot colors. Full process color was expensive and a color brochure was a costly investment. Today’s digital presses produce beautiful color that is easily as good (if not better) than offset print.
Cranking up an offset press was costly in terms of both time and materials, so long runs were required to reduce unit costs. While there’s still some time and effort required to produce the first sheet with a digital press, short runs of 100 or 500 pieces are practical and affordable. Short run capability allows you to customize print collateral for targeted markets and to produce materials for very specific purposes. The closet you once used to store large inventories of outdated brochures can be used for other purposes.
Lead times for print have literally been reduced from weeks to hours. We still love it when we have a day or two, but it’s quite possible to turn the .pdf file on your desktop this morning into a folded brochure this afternoon.
Merging personalized data into a printed product creates immense value. Variable data printing allows you customize individual pieces for each recipient. It’s also possible to combine several versions of the same brochure into a single print run.

No more cranky pressmen?

The journeymen are gone, but printers  actually still get a little cranky. We just try hard not to let our customers know about it. Digital printing has given us a lot less to get upset about, though, because the process is so much easier that it once was. Want to read a little more? Click the button below for a humorous look at how the process of producing a raffle ticket has changed.
How to produce a Raffle Ticket