Note from Mike O'Connor, Official Editor: Besides being one of the first families of amateur journalism, it never was any secret that Sheldon C. and Helen Wesson had a great love for the letterpress printing process. Their many publications and other works produced by letterpress are proof positive of this affection--and they knew how to do it well!

It was only natural then that Helen Wesson put into motion a process to recognize either an organization or individual who, as Helen has stated, ``actively endeavors to preserve and/or project letterpress into the future.'' To perpetuate this award, Leland Hawes was appointed trustee and Harold Segal and Leslie Boyer serve on the committee.

This year, at the AAPA convention, Richard Hopkins received the award. The award itself consisted of the 2x4 Baltimore press Helen carried with her during the earlier, travel-packed ajay years. Josette, the name of the press, now resides with Rich. There was also a monetary sum accompanying the award. Below are the remarks by Leland Hawes in presenting this award to Rich at the convention.

Rich Hopkins: First Receipient of Wesson Letterpress Award

by Leland M. Hawes, Jr.

Richard L. Hopkins is our first recipient of the Sheldon C. and Helen Wesson Award for the Preservation of Letterpress. And when you read his background, you'll understand why.

Back when he was 12 years old, Rich clutched a handful of lead type for the first time. Fascinated, he brought it home and wanted to print something. He soon learned the basics, and the school printing instructor gave him some more used type.

At the time, the only thing available was a drill press in his parents' basement, and he used that! Like a lot of us, he published a weekly newspaper with neighborhood news and gossip. Eventually he was able to acquire a 7x11 Pearl--and he still owns it, but with a LOT of additional tonnage, he says.

Rich was born in Charleston, West Virginia in November 1939. On the personal side, he married Lynda in 1962, and they have two daughters and seven grandchildren. He obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from West Virginia University, and he taught there for seven. Along the way he joined AAPA about 1962 and attended the Chicago convention that year. He also joined the Amalgamated about that time and served as APA president for two years in the mid-1960s.

In the sixties he served in the U.S. Army, first at the Army Pictorial Center in New York, then in Vietnam. He came out a captain with a Bronze Star. Rich saw his first Monotype in the high school printing shop in 1955, and even though it was not running, he was fascinated by it. He bought his first Monotype in 1971 and learned how to use it and the keyboard by reading manuals. Today he has six operational casters in his basement--along with about a thousand fonts of composition matrices and 1,300 fonts of display Monotype matrices. In addition he has acquired foundry matrices from American Type Founders and the Kelsey Company.

In 1978 he decided to try to organize fellow typecasters, and they got together at Terra Alta. The group is now known as the American Typecasting Fellowship, although it's international in scope.

Rich publishes the ATF Newsletter, often by letterpress/Monotype, and it has 350 subscribers. He says only 20 per cent actually have or use typecasting or linecasting equipment, and the rest are ``supporters'' or ``enthusiasts.''

About six years ago, Rich concluded that the typecasting technology was frozen in time, and there was no way to recruit newcomers to the processes of typecasting and letterpress printing. So he came up with the idea of holding sessions at his home in 1995 and 1997 and thus ``Monotype University'' was born. So far there have been 9 graduates, and he says all 9 are actively involved in letterpress printing. He knows of six who now own and operate typecasting equipment.

The University is concentrated into a week. There's only about an hour of lecture activity. But the rest of the time is spent in intense hands-on learning. Rich says the students seem to react positively, and they've done a great job of spreading the word. He has four prospective students for next summer, and they're all under 40.

Paul Hayden Duensing and Roy Rice have assisted Rich in the instruction. Professionally, when Rich left the University of West Virginia he became co- owner and co-publisher of a weekly newspaper from 1971 to 1976. In 1973 the Pioneer Press of West Virginia, Inc., was established. In 1976 he and his partner split operations, with the partner taking the weekly paper and Rich the Pioneer Press.

Today the Pioneer Press has 15 employees and does about a million dollars worth of business every year. It's a state of the art commercial offset operation, doing everything from casebound books to business cards. So, although Rich Hopkins has been a major force in preserving letterpress in a practical way, he has stayed on the so-called ``cutting edge'' of the printing industry as well.

He's supremely deserving of the First Sheldon C. and Helen Wesson Award.


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