History repeats itself

Sep 29, 2015

By Kathy Johnson
White Bear Lake, MN

ST. PAUL, MN—National Newspaper Association President John Edgecombe Jr. and his wife, Jo Ann, traveled from Nebraska to Minnesota in August to go back in time and experience the publication of newspapers the way they were produced in the 1930s.

The Minnesota Letterpress Museum, located on the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, has a special educational exhibit sponsored by the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation. This working museum is open and operated by volunteers for the 12 days of the state fair. The Maynard (MN) News is printed each day on letterpress equipment. The type is set on a Linotype and Intertype, the pages, complete with photographs, are made up, and the paper is printed on a Meihle Press. All the equipment is from the 1930s and is put to use producing cards, note pads, the newspaper and other handouts for fair goers. Newspaper printers’ hats are folded and given out to those who are interested.

Edgecombe owns the Nebraska Signal in Geneva, NE. He is the fourth-generation owner of this newspaper. His sons, Jim and Mike are fifth-generation newspapers publishers. Jim at The Minden (NE) Courier and Mike at The Hebron (NE) Journal-Reporter.

John attended Linotype school in 1965, but before that he had done everything from sweeping the floor to casting Linotype pigs, to killing pages prior to that. He served in the Navy from 1966 to 1970 and worked as a printer aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard and the Ticonderoga, after which he spent two years in the Navy print shop in Norfolk, VA. He returned to Geneva in October 1970 to resume his responsibilities at the family newspaper.

He inherited the newspaper in 2013 after the death of his mother.

Edgecombe has served the newspaper industry in several capacities. In Nebraska, he was president of the Nebraska Press Association in 2001 and Nebraska Press Advertising Service in 1992.

While at the Minnesota Letterpress Museum, he refreshed his memory on the Linotype, proof press and visited with multiple fair visitors, answering their questions. Jo spent much of the time making newspaper printer hats for visitors to the museum.

Edgecombe’s comment at the end of his experience at the museum was, “This is a great place; it brings back lots of memories. We need to get a museum organized in Nebraska while there is still equipment and old timers around to make it work.”