Printing Museums — Old World Craft Lives On

Even in Hawaii, printing has its place in history. In Lahaina, situated on the Lahainaluna Campus is the Hale Pa’i—the house of printing—shown here. The restored building started out as a seminary, where students learned to run a press.

In other words, this sounds like a really fun place as opposed to a stuffy old display behind glass. Alan Runfeldt, owner of the shop, was in the middle of moving (his home, not the shop) and admits that the The Excelsior Museum is in quite disarray. But it’s an actual, living, breathing job shop. He also loves to trade and sell presses and related gear.

“I just packed up a press to send to Austria,” he says. “People drive for hours to come here and buy a press. They know presses can get damaged when shipped, so they take them home themselves. Letterpress has become very popular again.”

In addition to running jobs, Runfeldt restores the equipment that he moves on to other letterpress aficionados, from Excelsior platens to Chandler & Price platens and Vandercook & Challenge proof presses. Runfeldt named his shop, naturally, after the press line and well before the Internet age, so he couldn’t have foreseen the number of calls and e-mails he’d received from people thinking his shop is the official Excelsior company.

Similarly, when we think of Hawaii, we think of sun-splashed skies, leis, hula dancers and Don Ho. Printing is pretty far down the list in any word association game. But printing has its place in the 50th state’s history. In Lahaina, situated on the Lahainaluna Campus is the Hale Pa’i—the house of printing. It was restored in 1983 after falling into disrepair over a 20-year period.

Missionaries who came to Lahaina in 1823 stressed to Hawaiian Royalty the importance of an educational institution; eight years later, the Lahainaluna Seminary emerged (it’s now the city’s public high school). The Hale Pa’i was borne from the seminary. A Ramage press was installed in 1834 and students were taught how to set type and operate the press.

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  • http://Virginia Virginia

    Does anyone know of an organization that would be interested in a Large Paper cutter, I don’t have the specifics but it appears to be Very Old and could be put in a museum…. Free to whomever wants it!

    Virginia Land
    Charlotte, NC.
    land23@comcast.net