Almost a year to the day after pulling it out of a barn in central New York, the first print came off the Vandercook #4 today. The press is still not pretty, but it prints.
In lieu of a longer more prosaic post, I’ll simply post a few images and captions. The first print, here on July 2, is a quotation from Walt Whitman, as transcribed by Horace Traubel and published in his With Walt Whitman in Camden. Reacting against tariffs, Whitman erupts with “The spirit of the tariff is malevolent: it flies in the face of all American ideals: I hate it root and branch: it helps a few rich men to get rich, it helps the great mass of poor men to get poorer: what else does it do? Nothing that I can see.”
But more than income inequality, Whitman goes on to connect the idea of a tariff in the abstract with the founding ideals of the nation, immediately following the above with “If America is not for freedom I do not see what it is for. We ought to invite the world through an open door—all men—yes, even the criminals—giving to everyone a chance—a new outlook. My God! are men always to go on clawing each other—always to go on taxing, stealing, warring, having a class to exclude and a class excluded—always to go on having favorite races, favorite castes—a few people with money here and there—all the rest without anything everywhere?”
I set up this print as a demonstration for my July Experience class; on July 4th we’ll print the first sentence of Whitman’s response–“If America is not for Freedom I do not see what it is for.” It seems apt not only as a first print on a restored press, not only as an occasional print for the July 4 holiday, but also at this particular time, when the spirit of the tariff that Whitman excoriates seems again to be ascendant, exacerbating economic inequalities and issues at the nation’s borders.