Above: Advertisement in Lancaster City Directory for 1888, printed by the New Era Book and Job Print Shop.
Above: Portrait from 1883 History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, by Ellis and Evans.
Jacob Miller Willis Geist was a powerful kingpin of Victorian-era publishing here in Lancaster County. His New Era newspaper was the most-read and most-influential newspaper in the region.
...and his job-printing business had the best presses and the most customers of any shop around. J. M. W. Geist ruled the roost.
J. M. W. (he mostly used his initials, but I think of him as Willis) is an all-American success story of a young printer, from "humble birth," who catapaults himself into the highest strata of local power and influence.
Willis was born (1824) into a Pennsylvania-German / Scots-Irish family in Bart Township, Lancaster County, PA. By age 16 he became the teacher of the same school where he had recently been a pupil.
At age 18 he moved to Philadelphia where he learned the printer's trade. Two years later he returned to Lancaster, where his printing and publishing career skyrocketed.
In 1877 Willis created The Daily New Era Newspaper, with John B. Warfel. Their New Era Printing House was located on Penn Square ( 3 South Queen Street, at today's Watt and Shand store site.)
Within 6 years Willis paid off his New Era loans, and doubled the size of his print shop.
Above: Portrait from the 1903 Biographical Annals of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Willis had created the Lancaster Republican party, where his New Era newspaper held court. His greatest printing and political rival was the life-long Democrat Andrew Jackson Steinman, whose Intelligencer Printing Company published the Intelligencer Journal directly across the street from Willis, on Penn Square's opposite corner at 8 South Queen Street.
Steinman's sons eventually purchased Willis's New Era newspaper, in 1928. By that time, the New Era Company had moved into the New Era Building in the first block of North Queen Street. Then the New Era job-printing shop morphed into the Lancaster Press, on North Prince Street.
Finally, in 1929, both the New Era newspaper and the Intelligencer Journal moved into their current home on West King Street, where the Steinman family publishes those papers today.
Images are from the Lancaster City Directory for 1888, printed by the New Era Book and Job Print Shop.
Above: Andrew Hershey's Edgey, Cutting-Edge Typography
His enthusiastic taste for the most current, cutting-edge typography suggests he was a real fan of Arts-and-Crafts-era design. Andrew's design sensibility was influenced by that era's leading arbiters of fine-press style, including William Morris and Elbert Hubbard. Andrew's personal library included a set of Roycroft books signed by Elbert Hubbard.
Lancaster may have been somewhat provincial here, in the 1880s, but we were no backwater. Andrew Hersey's exuberant typography positioned the New Era print shop on the leading edge of graphic design.