Museum Strathroy-Caradoc Insider's Look

Washington Press

Washington Press

Washington Press, c. 1830

This printing press, circa 1830-40, is likely a Canadian version of the Washington model. According to the William Lyon Mackenzie Homestead Foundation, the press was once owned by William Lyon Mackenzie. It is certain that Mackenzie printed on a press of this kind when he published the “Colonial Advocate”, prior to instigating the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. Through speeches and this newspaper, he attacked the Family Compact, which was then the established government of Upper Canada, dominated by the Tory party. During one of Mackenzie’s violent disagreements with the Family Compact, some of the Compact members entered his printing office and dumped his type into the Toronto Harbour. There are two stories about what happened to the press - one version says that it was smashed, while the other says that it was thrown into the Toronto Bay, and later recovered. The historical record shows that Mackenzie successfully sued the protagonists, and with the money received from damages obtained a new press. As Mackenzie used several presses during his career, it is difficult to establish whether he actually printed on this specific press.

The press has a very strong connection to local history as well - it printed “The Age” newspaper when it was founded in 1861 by W.F. Luxton. A Strathroy native, George W. Ross (later Sir George), owned the paper until he entered politics in 1871. About 1878, the Evans brothers purchased “The Age”. They later acquired “The Dispatch”, another Strathroy publication. In 1922 “The Age” and “The Dispatch” amalgamated, and became known as “The Age Dispatch”, its present name. The Evans brothers sold the newspaper to Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Spence in 1936. Mrs. Spence operated the paper herself, while her husband served overseas during World War II. In 1960, the Spences sold the paper to Mr. Ken Campbell. Over the years, many people approached the newspaper to buy the press, however Ken Campbell decided to donate it to the museum in 1985, where he felt it belonged.