KanColl: The Kansas 
Historical Quarterlies

Notes on Imprints From Highland
The Second Point of Printing in Kansas

by Lela Barnes

May, 1939 (Vol. 8, No. 2), pages 140 to 142
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas State Historical Society.

     TWO decades before the organization of Kansas territory the history of printing within the borders of what is now the state of Kansas had already begun. In February, 1834, the Baptist missionary-printer, Jotham Meeker, set up at the Shawnee Baptist mission a Smith press on which was printed on March 8 of the same year a Shawnee hymn, first item in Kansas imprints. [1]

     Nine years later a second press was brought to the territory for the use of missionaries at the Iowa, Sac and Fox mission in present Doniphan county. This mission was established by the Presbyterian church in 1835. [2] Samuel M. Irvin and William Hamilton came to the station as missionaries in 1837, and in 1842 [3] requested the missionary board to supply a press for printing school books and religious works in the Iowa language. The board acceded to the request and a press was received at the mission in April, 1843.

     The first printing by Irvin and Hamilton was An Elementary Book of the Ioway Language. [4] This book, as well as Original Hymns in the Ioway Language, [5] bears the date 1843, and it has been quite reasonably assumed that both works appeared in that year. [6] But a recent examination of the diary of Samuel M. Irvin [7] establishes the fact that the Elementary Book was not completed until February, 1844; and that the Original Hymns was still in press at that time. That the latter work and a "Prayer book" appeared before September 30, 1844, may be concluded from the report of that



date by the missionaries to Maj. W. P. Richardson, Indian subagent, Great Nemaha, Mo., in which they state:

We have printed ---
1 Elementary book, of 101 pages-225 copies. 1 Hymn book, 62 pages-125 copies.
1 Prayer book, 24 pages-100 copies.
1 Question book (in press), 30 pages-200 copies. [8]

     The diary also established the fact that the "Question book" listed above was still in press in January, 1845; [9] and that the first printing on the "Testament in Iowa" was done on February 14, 1845. [10] The diary furnishes no clue as to when either of these works was completed.

     Because of the importance of this early press in the history of printing in Kansas, and the rarity of the works printed on it," extracts from Irvin's diary relating to printing are here reproduced in order that the information may be added to the meager knowledge about the press.


     [It is unfortunate that the extant diary contains few entries for 1843, the year in which the press was sent to the mission. First mention of printing in the available records occurs in 1844. [11]


2     In the offise seting type &c.
3     Spent the day in the offise at type seting and study.
6     Finished seting up one form of pages for the primary Book.
9     In the printing offise all day. . . . Through the day and last evening I have been much affected with my comefortable Situation and that of my family. We have everything that we could ask, plenty to eat, a good bead, our family in health-and we know not what it is to Suffer for any thing. true our house is but a cabin and some would say in our Situation that they were poor, but we are wonderful well off. I have my little room and my family have theirs and I can read and study and print and no one to disturbe me. O how unworthy these privileges.
[12]      Struck off 160 sheets of 16 pages making 2560 in all.


13      Spent most of the day in the offise distributing type.
17      In the offise all day and verry tired standing up so much.
18      In the offise untill sent for by the agent.
19      . . . In the evening and through the day I was much affected with my situation. I could not wish it more comefortable and easy. I have nothing to do. . . . I mean manual work, but much of study and printing. May I improve all to the honour of him who giveth.
20      Most of the day in the offise.
[23]      Engaged in seting type most of the day except what time I was necessarily diverted from labour by the Indians.
[24]      In the offise.
[25]      Finished seting up a for[m] of 16 p. for the press.
[26]      Busily engaged in the offise and in the evening struck one side of a sheet.
27      Verry busy in the offise all day and late in the evening finished Striking off a sheet of the primary Book.
30      Continued to Set type most of the day.

3      There has been such a constant monotony in this week of work at the press and study without any things worth[y] of note that I have not wrote down anything here. On Wedensday we recd some Goods and Books from New York which was a welcome receipt.
10 . . . My time has been mostly engaged in the offise and I have this evening got off another sheet of the Elementary Book.
17      With much pleasure was able to finish printing the last Sheet of our primary Book today. It is swelled to 101 pages. We commenced last June. We hope that it will be very useful to the School and we hope with the blessing of God, an aid in communicating useful instruction to the poor Indians. 21      Still engaged in printing. on Saturday I struck off the last sheet of our primary book and was not a little rejoiced at the end of the Book.
On Monday folded my sheets, and red up the offise. On monday evening got a letter from the Board but not much encouragement about the School. I am now engaged in a hymn Book & wish to get through as Soon as possible.

7      . . . Still engaged in the offise. . . . I am so busy that it seems I cannot get time to write here, and yet I Seem to get but little done.


10,11      Busily engaged in the printing offise printing a question Book and striking some forms for the agt.
16      Did not do much except assist Mr. Hamilton some in the offise in geting up some forms &c.

14      Spent near all the day in the printing offise printing off the first sheet of the Testament in Ioway. We struck off 240 sheets of half a ream and having taken some pains in putting type and balls in order we made quite a good impression.


     1. See Douglas C. McMurtrie, "Pioneer Printing of Kansas," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. I, p. 4 et seq.; Kirke Mechem, "The Mystery of the Meeker Press," ibid., v. IV, pp. 61-73.
2.      Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1844, Doc. No. 2, pp. 358, 359.
3.      Reports of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A., May, 1843 6.
4.      English title: /Elementary Book/of the /Ioway Language, /with an /English Translation. / By / Wm. Hamilton, / and / S. M. Irvin. / Under the direction of the B. F. Miss. of the/Presbyterian Church./ J. B. Roy, Interpreter./ Ioway and Sac Mission Press,/ Indian Territory./1843.-James Constantine Pilling, Bibliography of the Siouan Languages (Washington, 1887), p. 32.
5.      Ibid., pp. 32, 33. English title: Original / Hymns, / in the / Ioway Language. / By / the Missionaries, / to the Ioway & Sac Indians, / Under the direction of the / Board of Foreign Missions of the / Presbyterian Church./ [Two lines quotation.] / Iowa and Sac Mission Press,/ Indian Territory, / 1843.
6.      See statement by McMurtrie and Allen in their A Forgotten Pioneer Press of Kansas (Chicago, 1930), p. 16.
7.      The manuscript diary of Samuel M. Irvin for portions of the period 1841-1849 is in the possession of the Kansas State Historical Society.
8.      Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1844, Doc. No. 2, pp. 358, 359.
9.      McMurtrie and Allen have given this work the date 1844 and have listed it as No. 4 in their bibliography. They append the statement that its inclusion in the Report of 1844 indicates that it was printed in the fall of 1844.-Op. cit., p. 27. Pilling has dated the work 1850, but gives no reason for doing so.-Op. cit., p. 33.
10.      McMurtrie and Allen list as No. 5 in their bibliography a work containing six chapters of the gospel of St. Matthew. They have dated it 1846 or 1847.--Op. cit., pp. 27, 28. Pilling has dated the same work 1850.-Op. cit., p. 33. In their report of September 30, 1847, to the Indian Sub-Agent W. E. Rucker, Irvin and Hamilton state: Portions of the Scripture have been translated, and a part of Matthew's gospel printed."-Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1847, Doc. No. 1, pp. 935, 936.
11.      There is but one item from this press in the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society-An Ioway Grammar..., printed by Hamilton and Irvin, Ioway and Sac Mission Press, 1848.

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