Photos by Arlan Heiser
John Casto was the head printer at Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in Akron. He spent his time at Firestone, creating and printing the companies flyers, letter head paper, handouts and any other materials the company needed, using Chandler & Price letterpress presses. These great old machines were the best and latest technology in printing from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s.
When the newer style offset presses were scheduled to come into use at Firestone, John took his retirement and asked if he could take the soon to be obsolete letterpress equipment with him. The company happily complied and John had himself nearly half ton of type and cabinets, the 1500 lb. C & P press, hundreds of pounds of paper, ink and slug cutting saw, hundreds of pounds of lead slugs and an 800 lb. paper cutter.
He moved everything into the then unfinished basement of his home south of Akron, set up shop and enjoyed many years of “second carreer” printing. He created all sorts of special order greeting cards, business cards and flyers, and any other small local print jobs that came his way. His most favorite “spare” time printing amusement was the printing of joke business cards for handing out to passers bye or for sticking under wind shield wipers. These included some that were quite graffic suggestions for what someone could do with themselves if they carelessly parked in two parking spaces instead of the usual one. (If you would like to inspect Mr. Casto’s rather large collection of these fun cards, stop by the museum.)
Some years after John passed, his family posted an inquiry asking if any museums were interested in what is becoming quite rare equipment. They received replies from across the country, but happily decided to donate his equipment to the Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment. Their kindness has been a great addition to the museum, but it also proved to be a bit of a task to complete.
In the years following the placement of all the very heavy equipment in the Casto basement, John renovated the house. This included the finishing of the basement steps and walls. All the large, somewhat inky & oily cast iron and steel machines, wood cabinets, other tools and equipment and lead and boxes of paper, had to be hand carried up the carpeted, paster boarded, white paint, narrow stairsteps, without touching or marking anything. No chain falls, hoists, lifts, pulleys or come alongs, trolleys or dollies could be used. Just plain backs and hands.
It was several days of pick up and carry, …across the basement, up the steps, through two doors, through the glass sided breezeway, down the front steps and across the drive to the truck. This was all a matter of lots of trips, and a small amount of colorful exclamations (and sore backs).
The museum print shop now includes a table top hand press and type donated by Louis Romestant, a proof press received from the Summit Co. Historical Society, a number of very early mimeograph machines, three more C&P presses, a 1500 lb. paper cutter cutter and cabinets retrieved from a dirt floor basement in a house in an “interesting” part of Cleveland (where we saw various individuals plying their trades just across the street), a wonderful proof press from Chagrin, and a number of very early typing machines.