by John Howells and Marion Dearman
(Discovery Press, copyright 1996)

About the Authors

      John Howells                       Dr. Marion Dearman

More than a half-century ago,  John and Marion began their work experiences learning the printing trade in "country weekly" print shops. John in suburban St. Louis, and Marion in rural Oklahoma. Both started with typical apprentice or "printers devil" chores, progressing toward journeyman status by learning everything from  melting linotype metal into pigs, to feeding Chandler Price snappers, hand-pegging type, composing ads, making up pages, learning the Linotype, to designing "job work."  Both joined the Typographical Union at their first opportunity and enjoyed working throughout the United States on numerous newspapers, commercial printing plants, and typesetting houses. From coast to coast and border to border, each worked for scores of daily newspapers and commercial printing offices.

Privileged to witness the dramatic revolution in the printing technology, John and Marion adapted their skills, changing from ancient hot metal traditions to teletype tape, to pasteup, to photosetting, and finally to digital computerization -- the end of the ancient traditions.  The technology started by Johann Gutenberg six centuries ago, underwent a series of profound revolutions during John's and Marion's lifetimes. 

As journeyman typographers, tramp printers, and finally as graduate students in the social sciences, they felt compelled to record some of the traditions before they disappeared into the dustbin of history. The result was their book, "Tramp Printers."  Unfortunately, the book is out of print now, and  not likely to go into another edition (unless some unforseen demand arises). For this reason they are posting these pages for those who have an interest in this particular facet of printing history.

In several ways Howells' and Dearman's life styles were remarkably similar, which  accounts for their close friendship over the past 45 years. Each enjoyed living the romantic and carefree lives of tramp printers during significant periods of their lives. Both traveled for a time with their wives and children, pulling house trailers from town to town. Both were interested in formal education (while working at the trade as newspaper printers, both acquired  university educations and went on to graduate degrees).  Marion Dearman received a PhD in Sociology,  and John Howells an M.A. in Ethnic Studies. 

After college, their working careers diverged. Dr. Dearman reluctantly left the printing trade to become a professor of Sociology at California State University at Los Angeles (chairman of the Sociology department for several years).  John Howells continued working for the San Jose Mercury News, working with computers and new printing processes, while pursuing a career as a travel writer on the side. Eventually he was successful in becoming the author of a dozen non-fiction books on various topics ranging from retirement in the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica, to the breakup of the Soviet Union. (List of books authored by John Howells)


John Howells                                      Marion Dearman 
Working on a  Teletypesetter in 1972                  At ITU headquarters in Colorado Springs, 1971

Marion Dearman, 1999, in his home museum print shop.

Home page, history of Tramp Printers

Table of Contents

Pages by John Howells and Marion Dearman, authors of "Tramp Printers"

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