Thursday, January 31, 2019

The TBAS and Cracker Country Work Together to Produce the New Edition of an Old-Time Newspaper at the Florida State Fair

Studio Associate Joshua Steward stands on the porch of the Chronicle building. He previously worked as a docent for Cracker Country acting as resident printer for school tours.  Now at the Tampa Book Arts Studio, he helps Carl rework and update the Cracker Country Chronicle pages each year.
Joshua Steward in the printshop at Cracker Country shows
young visitors how to print a page.
Thousands of visitors to the Florida State Fair will stop by the vintage printshop in the “Cracker Country” area of the Fairgrounds this year, to watch volunteers demonstrate old-fashioned letterpress printing and to collect a sample of the Cracker Country Chronicle “hot off the press.” The “hot type” for that old-fashioned local newspaper has been set and cast in metal here at the Tampa Book Arts Studio at the University of Tampa.

Known formally as the “Mildred W. and Doyle E. Carlton, Jr. Cracker Country,” the Florida pioneer village at the Florida State Fairgrounds is Tampa's only living history museum. It includes a collection of thirteen historic buildings dating from 1870 to 1912 that were relocated to the grounds from around the state. Today they have been restored and decorated with period furnishings. Staffed by costumed history interpreters, they help portray a sense of daily living for early Florida pioneers.

Of course, a printing press was a key resource for Florida pioneer residents. It helped spread important news, share commercial messages, announce local births and deaths, and build community.
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Robin Willis standing at the turn-of-the-century platen press on which the newspaper is printed each year.
(Photo courtesy of Cracker Country)
This year the Florida State Fair, February 7-18, 2019, will be doubly significant for the Cracker Country Chronicle, since a new front-page story in the Chronicle is a tribute to long-time Cracker Country volunteer Robin Willis, who passed away in August at the age of 92.

After serving in the Navy during WWII, Robin worked for various newspapers in the South before settling in Tampa, where he lived and worked for almost sixty years. His services for both typesetting and printing were in demand, and after retiring, he demonstrated printing and hot metal typesetting on a Linotype for fairground visitors to Cracker Country. When the machine Robin had used there was no longer in operating condition, he came to the TBAS to set the Chronicle’s type, bringing his own Linotype mats with him so that the typeface would be the same from year to year.

TBAS volunteer Carl Mario Nudi typesetting at the keyboard of our Intertype linecasting machine.


Since 2015, TBAS volunteer Carl Mario Nudi has done the annual typesetting for Cracker Country Chronicle on our Intertype linecasting machine, producing newly written articles and news items, designing new headlines, and giving the form a general freshening-up each year. The annual newspaper is, all told, a labor of love that celebrates and supports the work of Cracker Country and helps sustain appreciation for the old-time letterpress printers. And in Carl’s case, working on the Chronicle newspaper is especially appropriate, harkening back to his years of doing hot-metal composition work for the Detroit Free Press daily newspaper, and then becoming a reporter for the Bradenton Herald. For this year’s 2019 Florida State Fair the work continues, as the Tampa Book Arts Studio and Cracker Country continue their collaboration, this time with a mutual admiration and appreciation for the many contributions of Robin Willis.

Carl inspects and proofs freshly cast lines of text (left) while Josh tightens the Chronicle form in its chase for proofing.

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