Fourth Ward historic press ready to roll again |

Fourth Ward historic press ready to roll again

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Virginia City historians Chic DiFrancia and Carol Clifford will use 19th-century equipment to teach 21st-century visitors how to print the old way.

The hands-on demonstration will be 3:30 -5 p.m. Saturday at the Historic Fourth Ward School, as part of “Comstock Typeslingers and Sagebrush Journalists,” an exhibit featuring 19th-century newsmen, their careers and equipment.

“We’re going to print on the C&P, or Chandler and Price letterpress, that students used,” DiFrancia said. “It was built around 1889.”

Many are familiar with Mark Twain’s stint as a journalist on the Comstock but, DiFrancia said, the Fourth Ward School students also produced their own newspaper, called the Senior Dynamo, typesetting and printing it themselves.

“The students printed their own newspaper sometime after the turn of the century,” DiFrancia said. “I assume the equipment came from the Territorial Enterprise. We can’t prove that, but I think they might have donated it.”

He said the first Senior Dynamos were one-page publications.

“It was just local stuff, they would go downtown, get the stories, then type up the stories and set the type,” he said. “They had their own little print shop there, and all that was going on until the school closed in 1936.”

He said that in addition to the newspaper, students printed invitations, forms used by the school and other items.

“They had one big press they printed the newspaper on, and they had a smaller press that we’re going to use Saturday,” he said.

DiFrancia said the C&P that visitors will use was the most popular platen press in the nation during that era.

“People can print their own souvenir,” he said.

The exhibit will feature biographies of all the old Comstock journalists, including Mark Twain, DiFrancia said. They’ll have all the typesetting equipment on display, along with other memorabilia.

The demonstration and exhibit are part of the Comstock’s Historic Preservation Weekend, which coincides with the state’s Historic Preservation month with events throughout May on the Comstock, in Carson City, Reno, Dayton and Silver City and other counties throughout the state.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.


Historic Preservation Weekend In Virginia City

The event is part of Archaeological Awareness and Historic Preservation Month, May 2007. For a full list of events throughout the state, go to:

Friday-Sunday: Comstock Historic Preservation Weekend is celebrated in Virginia City. All events take place at the Fourth Ward School (FWS), 537 S. C St., unless otherwise indicated. Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for children (ages 6-16). Call Barbara Mackey at 847-0974 for information on times of events and reservations:

Friday: Opening of the exhibit, “Comstock Typeslingers and Sagebrush Journalists: 19th Century Newspapermen” 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Friday: “Parties of the Year” follows exhibit opening at 5:30 p.m. Cost $25 per person.

Saturday: Chic DiFrancia and Carol Clifford will demonstrate the use of the Chandler Press, once used to print the Fourth Ward School newspapers and annuals 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Observers can take home a printed souvenir.

Saturday: The 13th annual Comstock Children’s Chorus under the direction of Squeek LaVake will perform 2:30-3 p.m.

Sunday: Ronald James, State Historic Preservation officer will present the 2007 preservation awards to individuals and organizations that have made a significant contribution to historic preservation in Nevada at 1 p.m.

Sunday: Historic Costume Fashion Show will take place from 2-3 p.m.

Sunday: The Carol Morgan Page Memorial Silver Tea , tea and locally prepared treats will be served 3-4 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: Piper’s Opera House, Union and B Streets, Virginia City, will feature “Rip Van Winkle” by the Virginia City Theater Muckers. “Rip Van Winkle” was performed at the opera house in the 1860s. Curtain time is 7 p.m. Cost is $15 for adults, $10 for ages 18 and under. Call Paul Fitzpatrick at 847-0433 for details.


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