Extra, extra! Read all about it! Today, we have a piece of news that is not so hot off the presses. To be exact this story is over 50 years old: The printing pressed used by the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board from the 1960s until 1990s is a replica! The Board’s shop built the replica press in 1966 for their living-history museum San Agustin Antíguo.
Starting in 1968, the press began operating in a “board and batten” building. The structure represented an 18th century print shop owned by William Wells. Wells was an English printer and publisher from Charleston, South Carolina – who resided in St. Augustine between 1782 and 1783. Here, he and his brother John Wells printed the city’s as well as Florida’s first newspaper the East Florida Gazette. They also published two books: Nature and Principles of Public Credit by Samuel Gale and Case of the Inhabitants of East Florida by John Wells. After the Revolutionary War, the two left Florida for the nearby British port of Nassau, where they established the Bahama Gazette.
While the original location remains unknown, the Board reconstructed the print shop at 27 Cuna Street. The press served not only for demonstration purposes. It also helped make reproductions of antique maps, leaflets, and even grocery bags used at the Benet Store. Their shop’s furnishings included the printing press, a bookbinding press, an accountant’s desk, and a number of old books. The press ran alongside other colonial crafts, such as blacksmithing, silversmithing, weaving, and candle-dipping to only name a few.
Today, the Wells Print Shop is now a gift shop. However, you can still see the printing press at its latest home in the Colonial Quarter on St. George Street.