The First Printing Press West Of The Rockies

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The very first printing press in the Pacific Northwest was the Mission Press sent by the American Board of Foreign Missions to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, in 1821. The object of use of this initial press was for religious and educational printing purposes. By the year 1825, this particular press had been used to print 16,000 copies of a spelling book, 4,000 copies of a small scripture text, 4,000 copies of a catechism, and 2,000 copies of a hymn book of 60 pages. About this time another printing press was shipped to Honolulu. By 1830 the combined plants had issued 22 distinct authored books averaging 37 small pages each and amounting to 387,000 copies. Without a doubt, these first presses had been well employed to accomplish their designed purpose.

Dr. Marcus Whitman and Reverend Henry Spalding were in great need for a printing press for their respective Missions. Since the work they (the missionaries) were performing in the Hawaiian Islands was combined, these missionaries needed only one printing press. And so it was arranged to have the other printing press shipped to Whitman and Spalding in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington. Accordingly on April 10, 1839, the press with type, fixtures, paper, and binding apparatus, all valued at $500 and accompanied by Edwin O. Hall, an experienced printer, all safely arrived at Fort Vancouver on the north bank of the Columbia River just a few miles above the confluence of the Willamette River with the Columbia. From Fort Vancouver, all the personnel and equipment was forwarded by boat up the Columbia River to Wallula by the Hudson’s Bay Company in their canoes. At this point, Mr. Hall and his wife were met by Reverend Henry Spalding and his family and all were taken by canoe to the Lapwai Mission site, arriving on May 13, 1839. A packer named Ermatinger was employed to pack the equipment which had been disassembled so as to facilitate transportation on the backs of pack animals (horses and mules) during their overland crossing from Wallula to Lapwai. Upon arrival of the press at the Lapwai Mission, it was immediately reassembled and set up for use. This first printing press remained at this initial point of production for many years, faithfully serving the Spalding, the Whitman, and the Walker and Eels Missions.

Many passages of scripture and many hymns were translated and printed in the language of the Flathead, Spokane, Cayuse, and Nez Perce Indians and used by the missionaries in their Sunday School and other Church work. A very few copies of these booklets are still in existence, those that are, are most difficult to find.

In 1846 the little press was packed back to The Dalles, Oregon,and two years later Reverend J. S. Griffin secured it and took it to the Tualatin Plains, near present day Hillsboro, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. There the press was primarily used in the printing of a 16 page magazine, called “The Oregon, American, and Evangelical Unionist.”

Even the most remote of areas throughout our illustrious past have been well served by the modern inventions of man. In this remote, dangerous, and desolate mountainous area of central Idaho,…the printed word was able to go out to those who were hungering and thirsting after it.
“All Things Are Possible To Him Who Believes.”

Peace and Love to All of You……………………Poppa Bear

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