Meet Barbara A.K.A. Babs
Meet my right hand lady.
Oh wait, the handle is on the left.
Meet my left hand lady.
She’s a 1949 Heidelberg Windmill named Barbara, a.k.a. Babs. She’s fierce, tough as nails (3,000lbs. worth) and takes no BS. But under all that iron she has quite a sweet history and a long adventure with a printer named Francis.
Francis was Barbara’s one and only previous owner. He was a San Francisco native who started his printing adventure in his teens. He was so obsessed with printmaking that even after he joined the army for WWII, he would leave base to print on the weekends.
When he returned from war he bought Barbara, one of the first batches of presses being made again, and started his own company, Larkin Street Press. He “retired” in his 70’s, closed Larkin Street Press, and brought his extensive type collection, equipment, and Barbara to his basement workshop off of 19th Avenue in the Richmond district.
When he was no longer able to print, he still kept taking care of Barbara, meticulously recording every time he oiled the press. He kept up with her care until he passed away in his 90’s.
Years later, the press still had a lockup with the last thing Francis had printed, “Thank you for being you.” Ugghhh, makes me tear up every time.
Francis’ daughters wanted their father’s collection to be given to fellow printers, so through the grapevine Joel from Dependable Letterpress and Annemarie from LadyBones Print Collective came to give her a new home.
Women taught me how to print and Annemarie showed me how to use this type of press. She passed Babs over to me when she moved to LA and that's how our adventure began. Annemarie continues to be my printing guru and I'm so incredibly thankful for her. Babs continues to be a teacher on the daily.
So that’s the story of Barbara. The press who has been a part of the Bay Area for a long time, who belonged to a printer who loved what he did for a long time. Adopted by people who are stewards to this old way of making. I can’t help but to think that there’s some Francis magic watching over us…especially on great print days.