AJ History

First 100 Years


The first volume of The National Amateur

Excerpts from accounts 1879 convention

In 1891 at Philadelphia

NAPA's first permanent constitution

Pillow fight

Almost fatal doldrums

1926 marked the semi-centennial

Little remembered giant

The Torpedo

The Mailing Bureau

Library of Amateur Journalism

Ralph Babcock

Presidents' Field

Tryout Smith

Thrift & Edkins


Amateur Press Clubs

Philadelphia Connections

National Amateur Press Association
The First 100 Years: Flashbacks...

Amateur press clubs have always been a part of the hobby. They existed in urban centers before the formation of a national association. They have been instrumental in keeping participation and interest at high levels.

Before the 1930's they were mostly literary and social gatherings. The Blue Pencil Club thrived for years before moving from Brooklyn to the expanding metropolitan New York-New Jersey suburbs. San Francisco around 1900 was an active literary center; among its members was a promising young writer: Jack London.

Cleveland had a number of active clubs in its time, usually literary groups, but was also noted-as a publishing hub. Famous names: Anthony Moitoret, William Dowdell, Warren J. Brodie, Harry Martin, Irving "Mac" SinClair, Tim Thrift, Sam Loveman.

However, it took the Amateur Printers Club to stir enthusiasm after the NAPA doldrums of the late 1920's. Vincent Haggerty started the APC as a group to discuss amateur journalism and hobby printing. In 1933 this club initiated the idea of a convention daily with the appearance of the APC News. But it wasn't until Burton Crane became involved that the meetings became active group participation printing sessions. Weekend meetings, originally in the New York area, spread from Boston to Washington. At the great 1941 Cleveland convention the attending APC printers (Crane, Harold Segal and Sheldon Wesson) wrote, linotyped and printed The Moving Finger, possibly the most substantial convention paper ever undertaken.

In 1951, the first year of its second reincarnation, APC members produced 85 amateur journals.

With the passing of Haggerty and Crane, the torch was passed to Segal, the Wessons, the Victor Moitorets, William Haywoods and Alfred and Ralph Babcock, with Al Fick, George Trainer, Rolfe Castleman joining the active ranks and Edna Hyde McDonald, Albert Lee, Roy Lindberg, L. Verle Heljeson and Thomas B. Whitbread among those attracted to the spinning circle.

The decline of the APC in the 1970's is noticed. Some APC gatherings have been miniature NAPA conventions. Attendance, often in the twenties, has at times gone over thirty. Some key members have moved from the area, others do not have the space to accommodate a meeting. Recently gatherings have been held on New Year's eve at the home of Harold Segal and in the summer at the Haywoods.

New active groups have developed in the area of metropolitan Washington, D. C., where members meet twice yearly to print VAPA Trails. The Suncoast club in the Tampa-St. Petersburg section prints Only on Sunday during its periodic get-togethers. In Denver the group has literary sessions and selects an editor for each issue of the Columbine Amateur Press Club's Colorado Roundup. Denvaria is another journal that printer Columbines produce on occasion. Southern Californians gather socially, print segments of NAPA West at their own shops; and stirred up enthusiasm to sponsor a San Diego convention in 1974.

Recent innovations are journals produced when two or more amateurs are rubbed together. More a memento of the visit than a lasting piece of literature, some of the spark of the occasion often glimmers in the four pages. Prominent in this category, Victor and Rowena Moitoret's Trophee des Alpes and Entrada, Willametta and Martin Keffer's Visiting Firemen, the Segal-Fick Shampane and certain issues of Ralph Babcock's Weaker Moments. While none ever set new literary or typographic pinnacles, they encourage activity and renew lagging interest.

    Last updated: 01/16/2000