On April 18, 1906 at 5:12 a.m., an entire city shook and crumbled to the ground. In just under a minute, the city of San Francisco was devastated.
The San Francisco earthquake measured approximately 7.8 on the Richter Scale and left more than 3,000 people dead, 225,000 homeless, 28,000 buildings destroyed and over $400 million in monetary loss, according to the United States Geological Survey. But San Francisco was never left without a newspaper.
The Morning Call, the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle all finished printing the news for April 18 when the earthquake hit. The three papers joined together for one edition and published the paper at the Oakland Tribune.
Today’s date marks the 100th anniversary of the great quake and the actual printing press used by the San Francisco Chronicle that day is housed at Cal Poly. The Campbell Country Cylinder Press is still in working order and is located in the Shakespeare Press Museum in building 26, Room 116.
The museum is home to over a dozen antique pieces of printing equipment, more than 500 fonts of handset type, multiple transcripts dating back to the early 1900s, and an abundance of historical information.
“We actually have the printing press used to print the Chronicle, and it is still used,” Department Head of Graphic Communications Harvey Levenson said. “It’s one of only two working museums west of the Rockies.” Students and club members can use the equipment to print wedding invitations, fliers, memos, posters, cards, announcements and much more, he said.
“It is a famous collection,” Levenson said. “It has been publicized about as far away as Russia. People call us up just to say ‘Hey, can we see the museum?’”
The museum is accessible to students and tours will be given during open house this weekend. The Friends of Shakespeare Press Museum Club is an active club on campus and is headed by faculty advisor and museum curator Tom Goglio.
“We use it two to three times a year for demo purposes,” Goglio said. He said it takes a couple of days to set something up.
The collection of historic equipment provides first-time visitors with a sense of what old machinery was like in the late 1800s. The students involved in the club and other visitors of the museum are “interested in the history” of the machinery, Levenson said.
The history of the Shakespeare Press Museum dates back to the 1930s when Charles L. Palmer began collecting and restoring historic printing equipment. According to the graphic communications Web site, Palmer was known to his friends as “Shakespeare” and in approximately 30 years, he managed to collect several pieces of historic equipment such as typefaces and printing presses used by American printers during the late 1800s.
“A good deal of the original collection is here,” Levenson said. The Cal Poly Graphic Communications Department owns all the equipment in the museum, but Levenson said the family is still involved in the project.
Palmer’s collection was transferred to Cal Poly beginning in 1950, when the first head of the graphic communications department, Bert Fellows, provided a permanent display location in Cal Poly’s new printing department. According to the Web site, Palmer continued to send equipment until his death in 1964. After years of restoration the museum opened to the public on May 24, 1969.