PCS Blog

Franklin and the Power o’ the Press

Posted by Kinsley Suer | 07 October 2009


Ben Franklin would have been very at home in our corner of the world.  Sure he was a  Founding Father of this country, but more importantly to Portland (aka Little Beirut), Franklin was one of the founding fathers of DIY entrepreneurship and activism.

Like countless of other young creatives, by the time he was 17 he’d moved to the big city and quickly opened his own print shop and started publishing. Off the bat, Franklin’s publications reflected his democratic spirit and had wide appeal, like his Poor Richard’s Almanac (which consisted of stories about the trials and tribulations of a fictional “Poor Richard”) which advised readers on politics, philosophy, and how to get ahead in the world.

Early on he discovered the value of humor as means to skewer the status quo and frequently used political cartoons (the first!) to illustrate news stories and to heighten reader appeal. Publisher, printer, zine godfather, visionary.

He was in many respects a one-man Independent Publishing Resource Center.

Which is why, in conjunction with Josh Kornbluth’s Ben Franklin: Unplugged, PCS is partnering with IPRCRed Bat Press, and others to present The Power of the Press.

The Power of the Press features a two month-long exhibition (coordinated by Rebecca Gilbert of Stumptown Printers of letterpress prints by 15-20 local print-artists inspired by the character and spirit of Franklin and the “Poor Richard’s Almanac.“  On view throughout November and December.

Additionally PCS will host a Power of the Press Fair (coordinated by Carye Bye of Red Bat Press) on Saturday, November 7 from 10 am to 1 pm, at the Gerding Theater at the Armory. The fair offers the public a chance to meet and mingle with local printers, book/zine artists, and other proponents of DIY print democracy, take part in educational print demos, and learn more about Portland’s love affair with the power of  the press.

Highlights of the fair to include Ben Franklin-themed interactive activities for families and children; a preview of The C.C. Stern Type Foundry –a working museum of metal type and casting equipment dedicated to preserving the heritage of America’s typecasting industry; educating visitors of all ages in the history of metal type and typography; and a free screening of  Farewell Etaoin Shrdlu, a 28-minute documentary from 1980 by the late David Loeb Weiss (a retired proofreader at theNew York Times) chronicling “the last, clangorous night that the paper was put out using hot-metal type.”

This is a great opportunity for us to realize as Ben once said that, “democracy is an invitation to struggle” that begins with the right to print, publish and proclaim as we see fit.

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