Right to Remain Silent Didn’t Apply to Printing —MichelsonJune 2010
HOLLYWOOD MOVIES and television shows have made the Miranda warning—legal rights that are dutifully recited by police officers to suspects during real-life arrests—famous the world over. That infamous piece of Americana ("You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law..."), surprisingly enough, was actually written and popularized by Harold Berliner, a former district attorney and internationally known printer, who died April 26 in Nevada City, CA, at the age of 86.
While attending a special meeting of California district attorneys held in response to a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miranda vs. Arizona that now mandated all law enforcement officials to inform suspects of their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, Berliner and a fellow district attorney were tasked to craft a simple statement that officers could say aloud during arrests. Within a couple of hours, they penned the wording for the Miranda warning, with the iconic first seven words, "You have the right to remain silent," coined by Harold himself.
But, that wasn't the end of the Miranda warning saga for the entrepreneurial Berliner; he also popularized its usage by police departments. As a lifelong printer—who turned to law so he could afford to support his wife and eight children—Berliner still owned a Chandler & Price and Heidelberg Windmill letterpresses from a printing business he had sold that printed Catholic greeting cards, holy cards, posters and ephemera. Harold sold plastic Miranda warning cards with police department names imprinted on them all over the country, in addition to selling tags, collection bags and other printed products used by police to organize and gather evidence during crime scene investigations.
Despite a successful legal career, Berliner's passion for the graphic arts continued. He went on to found Harold Berliner, Printer, which specialized in letterpress printing of limited-edition books with fine mould or hand-made papers and Smyth sewn bindings. His last, and crowning, achievement was "Genesis," a book showcasing the first book of the bible. Harold's interest in hot metal also led him to start collecting Monotype casting machines and matrix cases. A close friend of renowned typeface designer Herman Zapf, he also created his own fonts at Harold Berliner's Typefoundry, then one of the world's largest privately owned hot metal casting foundries. Berliner eventually sold his hot metal type foundry, but remained active with collector groups of Monotype and letterpress machines, as well as hot metal memorabilia.
"Some people's fathers collected baseball cards, but mine collected Monotype casting machines and the matrixes that went with them," notes daughter Judith Berliner, the only of his eight children to pursue a career in printing. "He lived large in several different circles, which didn't necessarily cross paths, but printing remained dad's first love and his true life passion." Helping out at her father's print shop running a handfed Chandler & Price press at 14, she would go on to work several years as the only female in the offset pressroom at the former Graphic Center in Sacramento, CA. But, the desire to run her own print shop, like her father, eventually led Judith to return home to launch Full Circle Press in 1991. Still operating her father's vintage equipment, the commercial letterpress shop specializes in wedding invitations, event announcements and stationery.
"Letterpress is still a process that yields beautiful print," she points out. "We now use polymer plates (not hot lead) to obtain the deep impression that gives definition to a project. I've witnessed tremendous change and crossed many technology bridges during my printing career. It may be a different industry from when I started, but there is still nothing like the hum of a Windmill turning impressions ever so smoothly." If her father were still alive, he'd proudly share that same sentiment, and with a twinkle in his eye.