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William M. Cheney 

Interviewed by Richard F. Docter 

Completed under the auspices 

of the 

Oral History Program 

University of California 

Los Angeles 

Copyright © 1982 
The Regents of the University of California 

This manuscript is hereby made available for research 
purposes only- All literary rights in the manuscript, 
including the right to publication, are reserved to the 
University Library of the University of California at 
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted 
for publication without the written permission of the 
University Librarian of the University of California 
at Los Angeles. 


Introduction vi 

Interview History, . . x 

TAPE NUMBER: One, Side One (January 15, 1975) 1 

Family genealogy — Boyhood in California — 
Elementary school — Los Angeles High--2 1/2 years 
at USC--Marriage--Job at Dawson's Bookshop — 
Ernest, Glen, and Muir Dawson — Thomas Perry 
Strieker and A. Gaylord Beaman — The Town Pump — 
Ups and downs of the Cheney fortune in the 
Depression — Second marriage — Strieker moves in 
with Cheneys. 

TAPE NUMBER: One, Side Two (January 15, 1975) 34 

Leaves Strieker — Partnership with William Kirby 
Etter — Jake Zeitlin — Brief stay in White Salmon, 
Washington--Return to Los Angeles — Douglas Aircraft, 
Santa Monica plant--Sells press on Pearl Harbor 
Day--Job with Artesia News — Muir and Watts — Clark 
Library--Miniature books — Working for Saul Marks 
and Grant Dahlstom-- Pig Latin Grammar, Greek in 
a Nutshell . 

TAPE NUMBER: Two, Side One (January 30, 1975) 64 

Paul Jordan-Smith- - Fortnightly Intruders — A Voyage 
to Trolland — Zamorano Club membership list--Dabbles 
in cartooning--William Pettus and A. G. Beaman-- 
Art of Reviling -- Rabelaisian Phancies - - Essays and 
Footnotes - -Rounce and Coffin Club letter — Penchant 
for whimsical expression. 

TAPE NUMBER: Two, Side Two (January 31, 1975) 74 

Cartooning — Glen Dawson and miniature books-- 
Rounce and Coffin Club: from carousing club to 
serious business--Lawrence Clark Powell and 
Richard Archer — Grant Dahlstrom — Ed Carpenter 
— Sells proof press--Saul and Lillian Marks. 

TAPE NUMBER: Three, Side One (February 11, 1975) 121 

Lillian and Saul Marks — Byron and Fred Marks — 
Styles of other L. A. printers — Printing 


peculiarities--Grant Dahlstrom--Joseph Simon-- 
Ward Ritchie--Gordon Holmquist and the Cole- 
Holmquist Press--Bruce McCallister and Fred 
Lang--Richard Hoffman — Cheney's own style. 

TAPE NUMBER: Three, Side Two (February 11, 1975) 147 

Printing miniatures for Glen Dawson--Glen and Muir 
Dawson--Handpresses , platen presses, proof presses 
--Reasons for leaving Clark Library--Plans for 
future . 

ERRATUM: There is no page 12. Read directly from page 
11 to page 13. 

Photograph of William Cheney by Muir Dawson. 


Will Cheney's output has decreased markedly since 
he closed the Press in the Gatehouse in 1974, but interest 
in him has not. As this preface was being written Mary 
Lutz Jones's bibliography of Cheney imprints was pub- 
lished, an exhibit was mounted at the Clark Library, 
and Glen Dawson is trying to persuade Will to write 
and print a miniature autobiography. Mrs. H. Richard 
Archer has placed in the Clark Library Cheney's letters 
to her late husband. These are so full of good material 
that it is to be hoped that someone will distill another 
voliome of Cheney letters similar to the one existing.^ 

And of course, this oral history text is being 
readied for the shelf. It does not by itself give a 
picture of the whole man, especially his Puckish side, 
but it is an important addition to the comparatively 
few treatments of Will Cheney available. The inter- 
viewer, Richard Docter, drew from the printer among other 
things considerable information on a period very little 

1. Mary Lutz Jones, A Los Angeles Typesticker: William 

M. Cheney, a Bib liography of His Printed Work . Los Angeles, 


2 . A Natural History of the Typestickers of Los Angeles , 
compiled from the Letters of Wm. M. Cheney by Edwin H. 
Carpenter . Los Angeles: Rounce & Coffin Club, 1960, 

3. See the bibliography in Jones, A Los Angeles Type - 
sticker , pp. 93-95. 


treated: Cheney's family background, his birth in 
Los Angeles, and the homes, neighborhoods, and schools 
of his growing up there. (Since neither Dr. Docter 
nor Mrs. Jones gives all the names and dates, this might 
be the place to add, for the record, the specifics 
of Cheney's marriages. The first, October 2, 1929, 
was to Elizabeth Schuler. They separated in 1935 and 
were divorced in 1936. The second was on May 3, 1941, 
to Elnora McClellan. She was living when this account 
was taped but died on September 23, 1979.) 

There is a temptation in writing a preface to this 
work to sign it "Will Cheney" or "Lawrence Clark Powell" 
or with the name of some other real or invented person 
connected with the Cheney saga. Both these temp- 
tations will be resisted. As far as extensive quotations 
go, I hope that anyone who reads this work will do so 
in conjunction with other titles by or about this fas- 
cinating person and so find the choice comments for himself, 

Cheney is said to be shy and hard to know. It is 
true that he is not the gregarious, back-slapping kind 
and is apt to be withdrawn when in a lively social 
gathering; but on a one-to-one (or -two) basis he is 
readily communicative and a delightful companion. For 
many years I have been a dedicated collector of Cheney 
imprints and personal contacts. Not being typographically 
educated, I do not feel competent to try to evaluate 


his standing and influence in the local printing scene. 
Indeed, I suppose he has not exerted much influence-- 
not that he would consciously try to do so. When not 
employed by others he has had a one-man shop, so has had 
no apprentices or younger people working for him. Except 
that many people are now producing miniature books, no 
one seems to have tried to imitate Will's typographic style. 

But Will Cheney is far from insignificant in the 
history of Southern California fine printing. As this 
book shows, he has had extensive contact with many of 
the key figures, who--even if they found that they could 
not work with him readily--enjoyed his company and his 
letters and his writings about language and typography. 
These have been similarly enjoyed by a host of others, 
including many librarians, booksellers, educators, and 
so on. Cheney's relations with and opinions of other 
printers are already pretty well documented. The present 
text covers a relationship not otherwise well known, that 
with Glen and Muir Dawson of Dawson's Book Shop. Since 
World War II Glen has been, no doubt, the principal 
patron in commissioning work by Cheney, especially 
miniatures. Herein one will find data covering the first 
contacts between the two on through the conditions under 
which recent works have been handled by them. This 

4. That it is not "inimitable" is shown by the invitation 
to the Clark Library exhibit of December, 1981, printed by 
Vance Gerry and Patrick Reagh . Cheney points out that this 
piece also shows the influence of Saul Marks. 


adds flesh to the story of the book shop as well as to 
that of the printer. 

Anyone at all familiar with the corpus of Cheney 
writings will know of him as an artist, of his whimsical 
drawings. This is an aspect of him hardly touched on 
elsewhere; in these interviews one will find comment by 
him on his drawing, especially his unsuccessful attempt 
at producing a comic strip. 

In school--as narrated in this text--Will invented 
a language, geography, and culture for a nation of trolls: 
he eventually printed an essay about them. No doubt he 
felt at home in Trolland, because he seems to be a troll 
or pixie himself. His interviewer once in conversation 
referred to him as "that six-foot leprechaun." This facet 
of Cheney is certainly one of the reasons why so many 
people enjoy him and his writings. Whether or not it 
comes from being a citizen of Trolland, Cheney certainly 
marches to his own drumbeat. As Lawrence Clark Powell 
says, "in a lockstep society which worships size. Will 
Cheney is gloriously out of step." Forget your own pace 
and enjoy a walk with Will Cheney in the pages that follow. 

— Edwin H. Carpenter, January 1982 

5. Lawrence Clark Powell, Southwest Broadsides (Los 
Angeles, 1958), p. 1. 



INTERVIEWER: Richard F. Docter, freelance consultant 
to the Oral History Program, UCLA. B.A., UCSB; 
Ph.D., psychology, Stanford. Professor of psy- 
chology, California State University, Northridge; 
hobby printer and member of the Rounce and Coffin 


Place: Cheney's West Los Angeles apartment. 

Dates : January 15, 30, 31, February 11, 1975. 

Time of day, length of sessions, and total number 
of recording hours : Each of three midafternoon 
sessions lasted about two hours. Four hours of 
conversation were recorded. 

Persons present during interview : Docter, Cheney, 
and Mrs. Cheney. 


Docter writes: 

I have known Will Cheney as a fellow hobby printer 
since 1959, when I joined the Rounce and Coffin 
Club. I knew of his work through examples shown 
to me by Muir Dawson, who is also a hobby printer 
and a longtime friend of Cheney. I visited Cheney's 
shop when it was located near Jake Zeitlin's book- 
store in West Hollywood, and I also called upon 
him many times when he had his shop at the Clark 
library, out in the carriage house. 

When Cheney moved his printing activities from 
the Clark Library to his small apartment, it 
was necessary for him to sell some of his type, 
his ten-by-fifteen Chandler and Price press, his 
paper cutter, and various type cabinets. I 
bought all of this from him and moved it to my 
garage/print shop in Northridge. 

Will Cheney is an extremely shy and withdrawn 
person, who is ill at ease in social situations. 
I may have had an unusual advantage in conducting 
this interview, because I knew him moderately 

well and he seemed to enjoy talking with me 
over the years. I attempted to set a conversa- 
tional tone for the interview sessions and to 
encourage Cheney to roam about wherever his 
thoughts might take him. From time to time 
I returned to a rough chronological outline 
just to help get as much coverage within the 
history as possible, but I tried not to force 
him to stick with my agenda. 

I knew Cheney had been born in Los Angeles and 
that he had come from a prominent family, so 
I asked many questions that might throw a bit 
of light on what it was like to grow up here 
around the turn of the century. 

This oral history surely contains what many would 
consider a great deal of trivial and irrelevant 
detail; Cheney would love to be remembered just 
that way, for he is not only a uniquely talented 
and highly regarded hobby printer but also a 
master of trivia and irrelevant detail. 

William Cheney is best known for his miniature 
books and for his patience in hand-setting 
extensive text in 4-point type. 


Editing was done by Deborah Young, assistant 
editor. Oral History Program. She checked the 
verbatim transcript of the interview against 
the original tape recordings and edited for 
punctuation, paragraphing, correct spelling, 
and verification of proper nouns. The final 
manuscript remains in the same order as the 
original taped material. Words and phrases 
inserted by the editor have been bracketed. 

Cheney reviewed the edited transcript and 
answered the editor's queries. 

Edwin H. Carpenter, bibliographer and author 
of A Natural History of the Typestickers of 
Los Angeles, Compiled from the Letters of Wm . 
H. Cheney by Edwin H. Carpenter , wrote the 
introduction. (He also spotted some typo- 
graphical and factual errors in the finished 
manuscript, which were subsequently corrected.) 

Other front matter and the index were prepared 
by Oral History Program staff. 


JANUARY 15, 1975 

DOCTER: Maybe we could begin by asking just a couple of 
very general things. Maybe you could tell us some obvious 
facts, like your birth date, and where you were born, and 
perhaps whether you have any brothers and sisters or not, 
or — just a little bit of official family background pertain- 
ing to yourself. 

CHENEY: I was born in Los Angeles in November 1907. Had 
a brother, but he died when I was still a little child. 


I see. What date was it in November? Do you mind? 

Twenty-eighth . 

Twenty-eighth of November. 

Yes. I'm a Sagittarius. 

Nineteen. . . ? 

. . . seven. 

. . . seven. I see. And would you have been born 

at home, as many people were at that time? 


DOCTER: And where did you live? 

CHENEY: At 1532 Rockwood Street. 

DOCTER: Rockwood. 

CHENEY: Yes, it's one block north of Beverly Boulevard and 

parallel to it, runs from Glendale Boulevard to Union Avenue. 

DOCTER: And did you live there for very long? Was this your 

childhood residence? 

CHENEY: For eight years. 

DOCTER: What kind of a house was it? 

CHENEY: Redwood, two-story, frame redwood house built 

with those square nails, hammered nails. It was built back 

in the 1870s, thereabouts. 

DOCTER: And could you tell us, perhaps, as you mentioned 

when we talked once before, just a little about how the 

Cheneys happened to come to California? 

CHENEY: Oh, Lord, let's see. Well, first, my grandfather 

was a Methodist missionary. He came around the Horn to 

Austin, Nevada, back in '69; and then he went back to 

Massachusetts and was a minister for a year or two back 

there, married. And my father was born in Boston. And they 

came out to California again--my father was about a year old — 

settled in Plumas County, where ray grandfather went into 

the law and became a judge, the county judge at Plumas 


DOCTER: And then later, I think you said, he came down . . . 

CHENEY: He was state senator from Plumas County in Sacramento 

and then came to Los Angeles in '83. 


In 1883? 


Was there any particular event that brought him 

here, that you would know of? 

CHENEY: I don't know. Probably it looked like more 

opportunity down here. 

DOCTER: Well, that was the time of the land boom, wasn't 

it, in Los Angeles? 

CHENEY: In the eighties, yes. 

DOCTER: And then he remained here, did he, the rest of 

his life? 


DOCTER: Let's see. And where was — I think you said where 

your father was born, but would you say it again, for me? 

CHENEY: Oh, he was born in Boston. 

DOCTER: Boston. And then. . . ? 

CHENEY: And didn't live there more than a year or two. 

DOCTER: Right, right, right. So he really grew up here 

in California. 


DOCTER: For all practical purposes. What school did you 

attend as an elementary school child? 

CHENEY: Union Avenue School. It was at Union and Beverly, 

or First Street, as it was at that time. Union Avenue — 

went through the eighth grade, as we used to do in those 

days — and to L.A. High. 

DOCTER: Now, which L.A. High was that? Was that the one. . 

CHENEY: It was the Los Angeles High School. Oh, the one on 

Rimpau — Olympic and Rimpau, now — but it's the only L.A. High. 

DOCTER: Was it in the location of the present L.A. High? 

CHENEY: Yes. I think that was built there about 1919 or 

something like that. 

DOCTER: The one they've just torn down, last year, or a 

year or two ago. But you didn't attend — did you attend 

that school? The one. . . ? 

CHENEY: Yes, that one, not the one down on Fort Moore Hill. 

DOCTER: Right. The Fort Moore Hill location, I guess, 

would have been the first L.A. High location, is that correct? 

And then they moved up to Olympic? 

CHENEY: Yes, down in there. It wasn't that — it wasn't 

the building that was down there at that time; the old 

wooden building was the first one. I think 1873, somewhere 

along in there, it was built. And the high school was on 

one floor, and the grade school on the other floor of the 

old wooden building, which was down there until, oh, twelve 

or fifteen years ago, when they tore it down. 

DOCTER: Yes, yes. 

CHENEY: That was the original high school. 

DOCTER: Now, when you think about your elementary school 

experience, what was that school like? I suppose it's long 

been torn down. 


DOCTER: What would that school have looked like? 

CHENEY: It was a wooden building, and it wasn't torn down; 

it burned down, in the mid-forties. It was one of the last 

old frame school buildings left in the city. 

DOCTER: I see. Any idea when it would have been constructed, 


CHENEY: No. Sometime before the turn of the century. 

DOCTER: I see, I see. And what would the environment in 

the school be like? What were the rooms like? Do you 


CHENEY: Just large square rooms, as I recall. Hold about 

thirty or thirty-five pupils, I guess. 

DOCTER: Would those pupils all have been Caucasians, or 

would there have been any Mexican-American youngsters, or. . . 

CHENEY: There were a few Mexican-Americans, and there 

were a number of blacks in that district. It was a mixed 

district, but it wasn't a ghetto district. There were some 

very well-to-do people in that area and some very poor 


DOCTER: That was near Beverly and Union. 

CHENEY: Yes, it's Beverly now; it was First Street in 

those days. 

DOCTER: Well, that is very much downtown, isn't it? That's 

just a . . . 

CHENEY: It is now. It was way out west in those days. 

DOCTER: Was it? A residential area? 


DOCTER: Because, I think, well. Union would only be perhaps 

about a mile or so from Figueroa. Am I right? 

CHENEY: It's about that, yes. You know where Alvarado is, 

where the St. Vincent's Hospital is. It's, oh, it would be 

four or five blocks east of that. 

DOCTER: Right. At that time, was Westlake Park a city 


CHENEY: Yes, it was. 

DOCTER: I guess they changed the name. 

CHENEY: They changed it, oh, I guess, in 1950 or thereabouts, 

DOCTER: After the war. 

CHENEY: But it was always, to the old-timers, it's still 

Westlake Park. 


CHENEY: And a time when my father was a boy and they lived 

on Bunker Hill, which was about as far west as the town 

went, he used to ride on horseback out to West Pond. 

DOCTER: West Pond? 

CHENEY: Yes. In the spring and early summer there was a 

pond there . 

DOCTER: I see, I see. Now, you mentioned living on Bunker 


CHENEY: I didn't. 

DOCTER: Oh, your dad did. 


DOCTER: I see, I see. Well, let's track through where 

you moved, then. After you were eight, where did your 

residence change to? 

CHENEY: Well, let's see, when my grandmother died, why, 

we went to live with my grandfather, and that was on 1913 

Ocean View Avenue (which is now Third Street — Third and 

Bonnie Brae) . 

DOCTER: I see, I see. And did you remain there several 


CHENEY: Yes. Up through high school. 

DOCTER: I see. And were there any important v/ays in 

which that neighborhood was different from your earlier 

one? Did they also have, for example, a few blacks, a 

few Mexican-American youngsters? 

CHENEY: Not right down in there, no. It was getting closer 

to — it was rather Westlake at that time. Westlake Avenue, 

between Sixth and Ocean View, was a very elegant street with 

large houses, and it was close to that. It was more of a 

fashionable district, I was going to say. 

DOCTER: Was the area around Adams — down there around Adams 

and Figueroa--had that been developed into the mansions at 

that time? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes, that was the West Adams district at that 

time. Well, even where Clark lived — I think that building 

dates back to about 1900 or so. 

DOCTER: Oh, is that right? 

CHENEY: And of course the older part down by Chester 

Place, where the Dohenys lived, that was older still. 

DOCTER: I see. Now, in terms of the wealthiest districts, 

that was surely one of the early ones, I guess, after 

Bunker Hill. 

CHENEY: Oh, yes. Yes, Bunker Hill — oh, after the turn of 

the century — had begun to decline, although some old 

families still lived there. 

DOCTER: That early? 

CHENEY: Well, it was no longer a fashionable district to 

move into. But, still, some of the older families lived on, 

I suppose, up till World War I or thereabouts. 

DOCTER: I see. But in your childhood, was it still a 

district that was well kept up and attractive? 

CHENEY: Yes, there were some fine houses up there. 

DOCTER: In terms of the movement of the city, what areas 

seemed to develop in terms of being homes of the upper 

class and the wealthiest citizens, after the West Adams 


CHENEY: Well, I don't know. Of course this district, 

along Fourth and Fifth Street, coming out to Muirfield, 

and Plymouth and Windsor and along in there, was quite a 

fashionable district and still is. And then there were 

these, oh, private sort of parklike areas like Fremont 

Place (between Olympic and Wilshire at Rossmore) , and-- 

out near Adams was Berkeley Square and Chester Place; this 

Fremont Place was off Olympic. Such places were considered 

elegant districts. 

DOCTOR: I see, I see. When you were growing up, what 

kinds of things would the kids be doing just for fun? What 

did they like to do? Was it different from today? 

CHENEY: Well, almost every corner had an empty lot on it, 

and we played sort of freestyle football or work-up baseball 

in the empty lots . And then you could play out in the 

street. There 'd be a car about once every half -hour or so 

would come along. That's the earlier times, up until 

World War I. Cars became a little more common after that. 

And we'd play in the streets. Informal games. 

DOCTOR: I see. I think the idea of work -up baseball is 

to work up to be at bat, isn't it? 

CHENEY: Yes, and then when you're out, why, you're out in 


DOCTOR: I see. You have to work your way in. I see. 

CHENEY: Well, that's the commonest game when I was a kid. 

Formal baseball — some of it went on in the playgrounds, but 

not very much. 

DOCTOR: I see, I see. When you left high school, did 

you go to work directly, or did you go on to any further 


CHENEY: I went to SC [University of Southern California] for 

about two and one-half years. 

DOCTER: Were you concerned with any particular area of 


CHENEY: No, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Study. 

I was mainly interested in languages. Oh, I thought I 

was going to major in English, but I hadn't anything 

definite in mind. And after about two and one-half years, 

I decided I wasn't getting anywhere, so I quit and got 

married. Got a job in Dawson's Book Shop. 

DOCTER: Oh, is that right? Was that your first full-time 



DOCTER: And did you know Mr. Dawson from the years before? 

CHENEY: No, I saw an ad in the paper to apply in your own 

handwriting for a job in the bookstore, so that's what I 

did. I got a phone call, and they asked me to come down to 

interview me. And he gave me a job as a shipping clerk. 

DOCTER: What kind of pay did he offer you to start with? 

CHENEY: Well, it was good enough for then. When was that, 

1929? Twenty-five a week. It wasn't bad in those days. 

DOCTER: That was 1929? 

CHENEY: Yes, the fall of '29. 

DOCTER: I see. Now, I guess Glen would have been a boy. 

Was he working in the store by then? 

CHENEY: No, he was a boy. He was in high school. And 


Muir was a little — Muir and Fern, June, were just little 


DOCTER: Too young to be in the store much. Well, what 
was Mr. Dawson like? What was his name? 
CHENEY: Ernest. 
DOCTER: Ernest, yes. 

CHENEY: He looked more like Muir than Glen, looked a 
good deal like Muir. Glen takes more after his mother, I 

DOCTER: Well, what was he like personally? 
CHENEY: Oh, he was a very pleasant person. He was a very 
good businessman. 

DOCTER: In what way? Do you mean just in terms of making 
money, or in other ways? 

CHENEY: Well, it was making money, and handling his customers, 
and so forth. He was an agreeable person. 

DOCTER: Good personality for a retail business. I didn't 
realize that you had worked there. How long was it until 
you took on more responsibilities in selling? 
CHENEY: Well, that wasn't a very formal arrangement. When- 
ever it was needed up front, I would be up front, or when 
they needed window decorating, I'd do that, and handle the 

DOCTER: Well, where was the store at the time that you went 
to work? 


CHENEY: It was on Grand Avenue, and Wilshire didn't come 
through at that time. Let's see, this was in '29, so it 
was along about '31 or '32 that Wilshire was brought through 
to Grand . 
DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: And then they put that painting on the side of 
the building. 
DOCTER: With the books. 

DOCTER: Yes. It's a famous painting now. Well, Mr. 
Dawson had been one of the prime movers, I think, in the 
early days of the Sierra Club. Do you remember? Wasn't 
he quite avidly interested in mountaineering and the environ- 

CHENEY: Yes. Two or three times a year he'd be off on a 
Sierra Club hike. He'd go for several days or a week or 
two . 

DOCTER: Then I suppose Glen's great interest and Muir's 
interest in mountaineering came from some of these early 
experiences, perhaps. 
CHENEY: I suppose so. 

DOCTER: In the time that you knew Glen, had he been doing 
any mountain climbing at that time? 

CHENEY: Well, I suppose he'd been along on Sierra Club 
trips; I don't know. I just saw him every now and then. 
He'd come in after school, or on a Saturday. 


DOCTER: He wasn't a regular worker. 

CHENEY: Oh, no. He was still in high school at the time 
I was there. I was there till the fall of '32, and he was 
still in high school. Of course, Muir was still just a boy, 
a small boy. 

DOCTER: Is it true that Ernest Dawson's own political 
beliefs were quite different from his sons'? Possibly? 
CHENEY: Well, I think they changed. He was a very strong 
conservative at the time I was there. At the time of the 
'32 election, he said if the Republicans didn't get in, 
why, there 'd be no more business; we (we, meaning respectable 
people in general) might as well just give up. And then 
after that, after I left there, why, he changed. He seems to 
have swung to the left. I haven't followed his career very 
well. But he was a very staunch conservative at the time 
that I was there. 

DOCTER: Was he regarded that early as one of the leading 
booksellers in Southern California? Or were there more 
prominent bookstores? 

CHENEY: No, I think he was considered the dean of Los 
Angeles booksellers. Well, they're the oldest one. One 
of the most respected was Parker — C.C. Parker. And I 
think he dated back the earliest of any existing at that 
time. But I think Dawson was the most prominent when I 
started first, that is, in that "kind of rare books and 


antiquarian books . 

DOCTER: Can you recall any particular incidents or anec- 
dotes or stories about Ernest Dawson that particularly 
stand out in your mind? 

CHENEY: No, I don't think — I wouldn't be able to think of 
anything that stands out. 

DOCTER: Well, let me ask what happened in terms of your 
own career, then, after you left SC and went to work for 
Ernest Dawson. In '32--I guess a little before that--you 
had gotten married, or was it about that time? 
CHENEY: Well, I was married within about a month after I 
started work at Dawson's. 

Oh, I see. 

Along in the fall of '29. 

I see. 

October 29. 

I see. Do you mind if I ask where you met Mrs. 







CHENEY: Well, this was a different Mrs. Cheney. The first 

one I met in high school. She was in Miss Gunning's 

English class. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Many old-time Angelenos remember Miss Gunning. 

For instance, Mrs. Davis out at the Clark will remember 

Miss Gunning. 


DOCTER: Is that right? Edna Davis. 

CHENEY: Anyone that went to L.A. High School [will remember] 

Miss Gunning and Miss Johnson. Anyway, I met her in high 

school . 

DOCTER: I see. I see. Well, then, in '32, did you go into 

a different job or back to school or what? 

CHENEY: No, I didn't go anywhere. I ran into Strieker and 

helped him set type. In fact, I was introduced to him by 

Gay Beaman. A.G. Beaman. I'm sure you've heard of him. 

DOCTER: Yes, I have. But let's identify Strieker. What 

was his full name? 

CHENEY: Thomas Perry Strieker. 

DOCTER: Yes. And maybe you could say just a word or two 

about who he was, for the record, here. 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know who he was. He lived on 

Carondelet Street, and had a Poco proof press, or, no, it 

was a Vandercook proof press that he used to print on. And 

he came from Minneapolis or somewhere up in there. But, 

otherwise, I don't know just who he was. He was an eccentric 

and a very fine printer. 

DOCTER: Was he doing commercial work? Was he making money 


CHENEY: Well, he made some money. He was rather erratic. 

He wasn't a good businessman. He made some money printing. 

He printed things for himself, and by the time I started 


with him, he was printing The Town Pump , which was written 
by Charley Grapewin, the actor. And he was paid something 
for that, I don't know whether he sold any copies or not, 
but Grapewin reimbursed him. I got six dollars out of it — 
for my work in throwing type and doing the title page — and 
the use of Strieker's type and press to print a thing of 
my own. 

DOCTER: I see. Was that your first experience with print- 

CHENEY: Yes, except for when I was a kid, I had a little 
bit of a handpress. 

DOCTER: Well, we'll come back to the handpress matters 
just a little bit later, but let me continue on this 
family background just so we can do a pretty thorough job 
here. Were there any other friends that you had in child- 
hood or in college or at Dawson's? Any other close friends 
who are particularly memorable at all? 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know whether they're memorable, but 
in L.A. High at that time, there were people who have since 
become more or less prominent, classmates of mine, and so 
forth, like — oh, who was Nixon's press secretary? his cam- 
paign manager? Murray Chotiner. 
DOCTER: Murray Chotiner. 

CHENEY: He was a classmate of mine. The Chotiners owned 
the theater chain along Vermont. The "Chotiners Ravenna" 


and the "Chotiners Parisian" and . . . 

DOCTER: Is that so? 

CHENEY: And one or two other theaters. 

DOCTER: Motion picture? 

CHENEY: Yes. There were movie houses, as we called them — 

in every district there was a movie house in those days. 

DOCTER: I see. Well, what was Chotiner like? 

CHENEY: He was just a boy, a high school boy. Let's see. 

Harold Grayson, that became the bandleader later, I 

believe — he was a classmate of mine. And let's see, Leslie 

Goddard. I knew him better than those others. He was 

connected with the superior court. I don't know whether 

he was a judge or not. He was a court commissioner. And 

Marvin Freeman, is, I think, a prominent lawyer in town; 

he was a classmate. Norman Tyer . His people have turned 

out to be of various political persuasions. But they were 

all just schoolboys in those days. 

DOCTER: Right. Right. 

CHENEY: Those are the only ones I can think of, offhand. 

And my friend Kirby Etter, who later became the editor of 

the Fortnightly Intruder , which he and I published. And 

during the war he went into government service in the 

Pakistani embassy. Died over there back in, oh, 1953 or so, 

DOCTER: Were the economic ups and downs that Los Angeles 

suffered, say, from 1900 on — did these affect your family 


much? Was your family influenced by these swings in 

the economy? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes. My father took to the law because his 

father had been a lawyer and a judge; but he wasn't a 

person who could meet anyone, and he just sat in his law 

office and read Plato. I don't follow him in that — I'd 

rather read Aristotle. But, anyway, he never made any 

money in the law, and my grandfather left him, oh, quite a 

bit of money in government bonds when he died, and told 

him, "Just keep those bonds, and you'll always be able to 

live." My father, of course (government bonds were only 

paying 2 percent, or 3 percent, or something) sold these 

and bought building bonds, office buildings in Los Angeles 

and San Francisco. And, of course, in the Depression those 

went bankrupt. 

DOCTER: They did? 

CHENEY: Yes. These office buildings were standing empty. 

And those paid 5 or 6 percent, which was a very good return 

in those days. So, he sold all his government bonds and 

put his fortune into building bonds and, of course, lost it 

all in the Depression. 

DOCTER: Outright? Just lost the whole thing? 

CHENEY: Well, they just defaulted. So that was — the family 

fortune went then . 

DOCTER: My goodness. He was not really a practicing 


attorney. He didn't go out and seek . . . 


DOCTER: Oh, he was? 

CHENEY: Well, he had an office with his partner, in an 

office, and he was listed as an attorney. But he avoided 

jobs as much as possible. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: He didn't like to appear in court or take anything 

like divorce cases, anything like that. It was all too 

unpleasant for him. 

DOCTER: Well, was he quite a literary figure? I mean, was 

he interested in books and history and literature most? 

CHENEY: Yes, he liked to read. He'd written — had to, as a 

youth. He tried to write somewhat and then gave that up. 

But he liked to read. 

DOCTER: Could you say just a word or two about your mother? 

CHENEY: Well, she came from Nebraska — a farm between 

Hastings and Trumbull, Nebraska. Their family settled in 

around Tustin, and she went out to work and was a secretary 

— I suppose you'd call them secretaries — in my grandfather's 

office. That's where my father met her. 

DOCTER: Was she as interested in literature as your father, 

or . . . 

CHENEY: Oh, she was interested in it. She didn't have the 

same background; she came from a farm. But when she was a 


farm girl, she had got hold of a copy of Tennyson's 
Idylls of the King . She used to read that. She says she 
climbed in an apple tree, she used to tell me, and read 
that until her parents would find her, make her come down 
and go out and milk the cows. She apparently had an 
interest in literature. 

DOCTER: Were your parents active in encouraging you to 
take an interest in books and literature and languages? 
Or is this something that you just found on your own? 
CHENEY: Well, they more or less let me alone. I think my 
grandfather was more interested. At L.A. High at that time 
they had four years of Latin, three years of Greek, and he 
insisted that I take Greek, because he himself had been a 
Greek scholar. My parents weren't particularly enthusiastic 
about that, but my grandfather dominated the family. 
DOCTER: He did? 

DOCTER: Was. he personally a forceful man? What was he 
like as a person? 

CHENEY: Well, he was very different from my father. He 
was more extroverted, and he liked to give speeches — 
Fourth of July orations, and that sort of thing — back in 
the nineties and thereabouts, and he was always called on 
to give speeches. He liked to do that. He liked to meet 
people. But his fortune, mainly, was just an accident. 


For a legal fee of $300, which old Nate Brooks couldn't 

pay, who owned most of the land — he just claimed and 

squatted on most the land around Laguna Beach — for a legal 

fee of $300 Nate Brooks gave my grandfather nine oceanfront 

lots down at Laguna, the first point south of town there. 

The Yoch Hotel, and that was known as Cheney Point, My 

grandfather built the first house out on the coast along 

there . 

DOCTER; In lieu of a $300 legal fee. 

CHENEY: Yes. It was just land; the Brooks family picked 

up all the land from about where Aliso Creek is, on north of 

nearly Balboa at that time. They had a sort of tenuous 

ownership of it. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: And the place down on Eleventh and Hill — he got that 

for a legal debt, a legal fee of $4,000 in 1890, and sold it 

in 1913 for $90,000. That was the source of his . . . 

DOCTER: Well, now. Eleventh and Hill. Let's see, Figueroa 

and Hill, it was farther downtown. 

CHENEY: Well, I think that's where the Mayan Theatre is. 

DOCTER: Oh, yes. 

CHENEY: At any rate, it was the same piece of land that 

the Mayan Theatre is on. I think that's Eleventh and Hill. 

DOCTER: I see. I see. Now, just for reference points here: 

someone owed him roughly $4,000 and made a deal to 


give him title to the property . . . 
CHENEY: Yes, that was in 1890. 

DOCTOR: ... in lieu of the fee. And then he was able to 
sell it for $90,000. 

CHENEY: Yes, well, by 1913, it was worth a bit more. 
DOCTOR: He held it for twenty-three years. 
CHENEY: Yes, well, they lived there. 
DOCTOR: Oh, they had a house there. 

CHENEY: Yes, they had a house there. I have some pictures 
of those things if you want to see it later. Can't record 
pictures very well. 

DOCTOR: Right. In 1913, that certainly would have been a for- 
tune, wouldn't it? Ninety-thousand dollars would have been 
regarded as a huge sum, because I suppose the average person was 
making only two or three thousand, at the most, in wages, perhaps 
less, at that time. And I guess that there would not — am I 
correct?--have been the same taxation at that time? 
CHENEY: Probably not. It was capital gains; I suppose it 
wasn't taxed at all. I don't know, but I would assume that 
it was not taxed at all. And, of course, then he bought this 
property in 1913--Ocean View Avenue — and spent some of it 
on that. 

DOCTOR: Ocean View? 

CHENEY: Yes. Now, that's Third Street now. There is an 
Ocean View Avenue that runs off at an angle from west of 


Alvarado, but at that time Ocean View Avenue was all that 

part of Third Street along Bonnie Brae to Alvarado. 

DOCTER: Still, what we would think of as quite a ways 

downtown now. 

CHENEY: It was out west in those days. Furthermore, you 

could see the ocean from there in those days. 

DOCTER: At Santa Monica, or the other way? No, no, you'd 

have to see . . . 

CHENEY: You could look west, I suppose a little south or 

east of Santa Monica. 

DOCTER: You could see the ocean? Almost every day? 

CHENEY: No, but on clear days. Before we had smog we used 

to have haze, but on clear days we . . . 

DOCTER: Ocean View Avenue really meant it. They had enough 

elevation and so on to see the ocean. Those were the old 


CHENEY: Along about Alvarado and Ocean View, that's right 

where St. Vincent's Hospital is now, that was on a point of 

land there, sloped down in every direction from there, and 

you could look off and to see the ocean on a clear day. 

DOCTER: Did he simply buy lots along Ocean View Avenue, or 

did he develop them? 

CHENEY: No, there was already a house there. 

DOCTER: Oh, I see. But he just bought a residence. It 

wasn't his intention to be a real estate investor. 


CHENEY: Oh, no. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: No, he just wanted a place to live. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Just fixed it up himself and built onto it and 

bought a pipe organ. He built on an annex, two-story annex 

to build on, so that the pipe organ could stand up in it. 

DOCTER: Is that right? 

CHENEY: And built a balcony out from the bedroom with a 

floor above, so ' s you could stand there and look down on 

the pipe organ. 

DOCTER: Is that so? Did he play it? 

CHENEY: Yes, he used to play it. He was self-taught, but 

he was able to play pretty well. 

DOCTER: Do you have any idea whatever became of that organ? 

CHENEY: Yes. I sold it back to the Este Organ Company. 

The same man who'd installed it, in 1913 or '14, dismantled 

it in 1939, and he sold it to someone in Alhambra . I don't 

know just who it was, but it was someone lived in Alhambra, 

he told me. I got $250 for it. 

DOCTER: It would be a real treasure today, wouldn't it? 

The pipe organ collectors would probably have a hard time 

finding one like it. 

CHENEY: It was a real pipe organ. Had the brass pipes-- 

at least they were brass-surfaced. I don't know — they may 


have been iron. 

DOCTER: Right. In what year, if you don't mind my asking, 

did you marry Mrs. Cheney, the Mrs. Cheney that I know? 

CHENEY: This one? 

DOCTER: Sure. 

CHENEY: In 1941. May 3, 1941, down in Yuma. 

DOCTER: And has Mrs. Cheney been interested at all in 

printing activities, or did she know about your work in — 

I imagine she knew that you were.... 

CHENEY: Well, she knew about it. She knew Strieker, too. 

Strieker was living in this — by that time, I had this plaee 

By the way, the Laguna property accounts for this plaee. I 

got this . . . 

DOCTER: ... bought this apartment building. 


DOCTER: I see. And Strieker was living nearby? 

CHENEY: Well, he was living here, there, and everywhere. 

He was living over in my district, over near Echo Park, at 

that time, and so we moved Strieker into this lower middle 

center apartment, and he was to manage the building. 

DOCTER: Oh, is that so? 

CHENEY: Yes. And he got his rent for managing the place, 

but it didn't work out very well. 

DOCTER: That was in 1941. 

CHENEY: In 194 0, thereabouts. 


DOCTER: In '40, Ml. 

CHENEY: Yes. I got this place in, oh, the end of '39, 

and Strieker was in here in the 1940s. 

DOCTER: Right. Now the address here is 942, is it? 

CHENEY: That's this particular unit. They're 934 to 944, 

is the ... 

DOCTER: Alandele. And were you the first owner of this 

particular building? 

CHENEY: Yes. I took it from the developer. The fellow 

that developed the whole street, a man named [Herman H.] 

Trott. And the way this street got it's pecular name, 

Alandele (which nobody can spell) — his nephew and niece 

were named Alan and Adele. 


Alan and . . . ? 

Adele . 

Adele. [laughter] 

So this street is called Alandele. 

I see . 

And I bought the property from him. He was the 


DOCTER: And at that time, just before World War II, was 

there lots of vacant property in this area? Or was it 

pretty well filled in by then? 

CHENEY: Well, this street wasn't very well filled in. 

There were several empty lots on this street. Some of the 


streets around here were built up, had been built up in 

the thirties. 

DOCTER: Now, could we turn to Strieker for just a minute 

and talk a little bit about him? As I understand, he was 

actually printing in his own home. He wasn't running a 

commercial print shop. 

CHENEY: No, he was printing in — his bedroom and pressroom 

were the same room, and he would take any job that he could 

handle. He printed for money; he was commercial in that 


DOCTER: Now, there were many, many, many print shops in 

different neighborhoods at that time in Los Angeles, weren't 

there? Just as there are many today, even though they've 

changed. Was it through his friends that he would get 

printing assignments, and how could he attract business? 

CHENEY: Oh, by word of mouth. Gay Beaman was, of course, 

quite a catalyst in finding work for him, and then for me, 

later, with his associations. But Strieker, at that time, 

had done work for [Jake] Zeitlin, I believe, and did work 

for Beaman; and they found customers for him. 

DOCTER: No, his work would have been things like, perhaps, 

covers of catalogs and fliers. They wouldn't be books, I 

don't imagine, would they? 

CHENEY: Well, yes, he had just done a book for himself. 

Laurence Sterne--oh, I forget the name of the thing. It's 


not Sterne' s Sermons , but it was something or other by 

Sterne. And just before that, he completed Nets Upon the 

Morning , by a Bunker Hill poet named Dee Verlaine (the 

pen name of Basil DeVaerlen) . He was a character around Los 

Angeles in those days. That was a book. And then, at the 

time I first met him, he was working on Grapewin's book, 

The Town Pump . 

DOCTER: I see. How much equipment did he have in his — was 

it a house or an apartment? 

CHENEY: He lived in one or two rooms of a dwelling house, 

and the owner lived in the rest of the house. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: He had this proof press and about two stands of 

type cases. 

DOCTER: Did he have a substantial quantity of some fonts? 

CHENEY: Yes, the font he had — the Garamond was his main 

face, and he also had Nicholas Cochin. He did this Nets 

Upon the Morning with Nicholas Cochin. And he had, oh, I 

suppose, a hundred-pound font or so of fourteen-point 

Garamond, which is what The Town Pump was done in. 

DOCTER: Yes. How had Strieker gotten started printing, 

do you know? 

CHENEY: I don't know. I think he'd started probably 

working in job shops or something, before he came West. I 

don't know whether it was in Minneapolis, or — it was somewhere 


back in there, around the [Great] Lakes, that he came 

DOCTER: You had had some introduction to printing before 
you ever met him, however. You mentioned a small hand- 
press . 

CHENEY: Yes, well, it was just as a child, I had that; I 
didn't really know anything. Set a little type, tried to 
print cards, and that sort of thing, when I was about, oh, 
eleven, twelve years old. 

DOCTER: [It was] something that had been given to you, but 
it wasn't because you had taken printing in school. 
CHENEY: Oh, no, it was — I think it was given to me by my 
parents, I believe. I had it set up out in the shed, printed 
on it for a while. 

DOCTER: How large a press was it? 
CHENEY: Oh, it was just a little tiny card press. Probably 

about four-by-six, or something like that. 

DOCTER: I see. And this did not lead to any serious 

printing efforts at that time, I take it. 

CHENEY: No, it didn't. I abandoned it, and when I told 

Strieker about it, that interested him. He said that I 

would make a good apprentice, because I knew just a little 

bit but not too much. I wouldn't have anything to unlearn. 

DOCTER: Did Strieker teach you how to set type? Your 

first actual composition, then, would have been with him. 


Well, how did he start you? What did he. . . ? 

CHENEY: Started me with throwing type. That's the 

way they usually start. 

DOCTER: Gave you a job. . . . 

CHENEY: Showed me how to pick up a line and spell off 

the word, you know, and distribute. And, after a while, 

he let me set some of it. 

DOCTER: Right. Now, this may sound like a stupid question, 

but did Strieker like to distribute type holding it inverted, 

as some do? Or did he have any favorite way of having type 

quickly thrown back into a case? 

CHENEY: Well, everybody--! think every old-time printer 

holds it inverted. You read from left to right. 

DOCTER: Sort of holding it between the thumb and the third 

finger . 

CHENEY: Yes, but he held it in a way that, I believe, 

DeVinne shows — holding it down in your hand. But I've 

never been able to do that. I used to hold it one line at 

a time, in those days, till I worked at the Artesia News, 

after the war, and the boss down there held it up on a 

bridge on this finger and between these two fingers; you 

can hold quite a stack that way. And I learned to hold it 

that way and do it that way. But as for this holding it in 

the palm of the hand, I've never been able. 

DOCTER: You hold several lines in the palm? 


CHENEY: Well, you can hold a whole paragraph in . . . 
DOCTER: In a palm? 

CHENEY: ... in a lift of type. That is, it's set right 
in here. I think there's probably an illustration in 
DeVinne showing how that's done, but I've never been able 
to do it. The type goes in, but it won't stay on its feet. 
The way that the editor of the Artesia News would hold it 
was on this finger, holding it between these two fingers. 
DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: And you can take lines up as long as thirty picas 
or so. If you get over that, then you have to hold it 
against your thumb, on these fingers, and you don't take 
more than one line or so at a time. But you can hold, if 
you have long fingers, up to about thirty picas; and the 
longer the lines, the fewer you take at a time. You won't 
take more than about five lines of twelve points at thirty 
picas. You get down to twenty picas, and you can take, oh, 
fifteen lines or so at a time. 

DOCTER: Now, let's say Strieker has a job to be done. 
Was his approach to get right to work and assign you 
certain tasks, seeing the job and getting it right on 
the press? Or was he casual and perhaps a little slow in 
approaching the work? 

CHENEY: His approach when he was confronted with a job 
was to go out and get a bottle of ale and think about it. 


DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: I didn't do any job work for him except to work 

on this book. 

DOCTER: I see. The Town Pump ? 

CHENEY: Yes. And then he allowed me to use his press and 

type when he wasn't using it. 


JANUARY 15, 1975 

DOCTER: I think you were saying that your first job 
was called A Voyage . . . 


. . . To Trolland, 

To Trolland, 

Yes, the Trolls. 

All right. And did you simply distribute this 
to your friends? 

CHENEY: Well, the idea was to make money on it. I printed 
all of 150, I believe, and bound them-- just paper covers. 
And I left some around in bookstores. I left about five 
of them with Jake Zeitlin, and about a month later he 
called up and asked me to come down and get them again. 
And he gave me back four of them. Guess he kept one. 
And for the rest of them, I sold them to friends or 
whoever could be made to buy them, and I probably sold a 
dozen altogether, and then gave away the rest that I'd 
bound and threw away the flats of those that I didn't get 
around to binding. 
DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: That was that scheme. And we were always having 
schemes that way to make money; write something and print 
it and sell it and make some money. I think we usually 
lost interest after — I never completely bound any edition. 


DOCTER: Now, what year would that have been? 

CHENEY: Well, it was '33, stmuner of '33, was when I 

did this Voyage to Trolland . 

DOCTER: Now, do you ever see this in catalogs today, as 

the first Cheney item? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes, I think it's in this Reynolds catalog — 

it's listed in there. 

DOCTER: Is it? 

CHENEY: And I think Dawson's has had it once or twice in 

their catalogs. 

DOCTER: What's Reynolds asking for it? 

CHENEY: I don't know, but those people get more out of one 

copy of things like that than I'd get out of a whole 

edition in my time. 


CHENEY: You want to talk about anything else while I'm 

trying to find it, here? [looks for Reynolds catalog] 

DOCTER: Well, we'll shut this off for just a second. 

[tape recorder turned off] All right, we're rolling the 

tape again, and Mr. Cheney is pointing out that in the 

catalog just published by Mr. J.E. Reynolds, Bookseller, 

16031 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, California, which is a 

catalog of materials from the personal library of Ward 

Ritchie, that Will Cheney's first book is offered here 

at thirty-five dollars. And I think you're probably very 


right that often some of these pieces — a single copy — 

are selling for more than perhaps you derived from the 

whole edition. 

CHENEY: Yes, that would be the case there. 

DOCTER: Doesn't that sometimes stir you up a little bit? 

Doesn't bother you? 


DOCTER: Because I guess the projects were, in many ways, a 

labor of love, regardless of the commerical success or failure. 

CHENEY: Yes, well, one started out with great hopes, and it 

was fun doing it; but usually by the time it came to binding, 

one had lost interest and was thinking up some other project. 

DOCTER: The printing was the thing. 


DOCTER: Did you always get a bang out of setting type? 

Was it always enjoyable? 

CHENEY: Yes. I just love type in my hands, putting words 

into metal. Setting type is much more fascinating to me 

than printing. 

DOCTER: I see. Isn't there a certain excitement to 

seeing what a form looks like for the first time? Do 

you get a charge out of that? 

CHENEY: Yes, it's usually a disappointment. It looks 

better in the type than it does when you print it. 

DOCTER: [laughter] Very good. Now, after you moved 


away from use of Strieker's facilities, did you go to 
work for another printer? Or how did you earn a living 
at that time, for example? This would have been in the 
early thirties, '33 or so. 

CHENEY: Yes. Oh, I was living, a little here and a 
little there. I used to do illustrations for neighborhood 
newspapers. Every district had its little advertising 
newspaper, and I did the illustrations and cartoons for 
them and made a little off that. But also this friend of 
mine I mentioned, Kirby Etter . . . 
DOCTER: Herbie. . . ? 

CHENEY: William Kirby Etter. He was always called Kirby 
to distinguish him from his father, who was the vice- 
president of the Santa Fe Railway, old "Rawhide" Etter, 
as he was known in the railroad yards. Anyway, he and I 
went into partnership and bought a Poco proof press, a 
very old Poco proof press, and some Caslon Oldstyle type. 
And the idea was to start a magazine. The magazine, for 
one reason or another, didn't get started till 1936. 

But the first job I had, I believe, was a Zamorano 
membership list, done for Gay Beaman. I think that's 
listed in here. And then I had a job from Paul Jordan- 
Smith (Fryar Yordanus, as he called himself) — Rabelaisian 
Phancies . That was quite a job. It was, oh, a hundred 
pages or so. And Strieker was supposed to bind it, but 


Strieker bound five or six copies and gave up on it. So 

it never was completed. 

DOCTER: Where was this shop located? 

CHENEY: That was where I was living at that time, which 

was over near where Dodger Stadium is now — Angeleno 

Heights, Douglas and Sunset, in that area. 

DOCTER: North of the city. 

CHENEY: Northern part, yes. 

DOCTER: Up above Chinatown? 

CHENEY: Well, near to it, but about halfway between Echo 

Park and Dodger Stadium, in that area. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Used to call it Angeleno Heights. 

DOCTER: Well, isn't that the exact area where there 

now is a street of historic Victorian homes? 

CHENEY: It may be. Is it Kellam Avenue or Edgeware? 

DOCTER: Yes, right along in there. 

CHENEY: Yes, well, that's Angeleno Heights. That's a very 

old district there. I lived up in there. I lived on 

Allison Avenue, which is on the northern slopes of Angeleno 


DOCTER: I see. All right. And at that time, you were 

earning some money from these printing activities, but 

not a great deal . 

CHENEY: No, not a great deal. 


DOCTER: But was it enough to sort of keep yourself 
going, so that you didn't need any other job? 
CHENEY: Yes, well, I did odds and ends, this and 
that, but you could live on very little in those days 
in '33 and '34, along in there. 

DOCTER; I see. I suppose you could travel around the 
city on the big Red Cars and the regular streetcars 
very inexpensively? 





be. . 





Oh, yes. I usually walked. 

Did you? 

Downtown was just a mile and one-half or so. 

And the bookstores and the booksellers would all 

They were all along Sixth Street. 

Right there. 


Was Zeitlin helpful to you personally? You 
mentioned that he was trying to sell a few copies of the 
books. Did you meet Zeitlin early in the. . . ? 
CHENEY: No, I just met him casually; I didn't meet him 
to know him very well until later, when he was out near 
Lafayette Park, oh, near the Otis Art Institute. He had 
his bookstore along in there somewhere iCarondelet Street] . 
And Strieker used to see him every few days, and I went over 
with Strieker. That's the first time I met him to talk to 



DOCTER: Would that have been in the early thirties, then? 

CHENEY: That was along toward the late thirties. 

DOCTER: Late thirties. We're referring to Jake Zeitlin, 

a well-known Los Angeles antiquarian bookseller. What was 

Zeitlin like? Was he a friendly guy? Was he distant, or 

easy to get to know, or. . . ? 

CHENEY: Oh, he was friendly. 

DOCTER: Did he have time to talk to you? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes. Well, he'd take time, because his 

interest was talking to people. 

DOCTER: What was he like personally? 

CHENEY: Well, I never knew him too well in those days. 

I never knew him very well until after he was at the red 

barn — 1950, thereafter. But he was pleasant enough to 

talk to, the few times I've met him. 

DOCTER: Did people think in those earlier years that he 

would become one of the distinguished booksellers? I 

think there's no doubt that he has. 

CHENEY: Well, I really don't know what they thought. 

DOCTER: It wasn't too obvious, perhaps. 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, I didn't get around among people 

enough to know what people were thinking, anyway. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: They may have thought this or that. 


DOCTER: I see. Well, just to carry the story forward, 

did you continue, then, operating a small shop at your 

home for several years? What was the next step? 

CHENEY: The next step was to ship the press and type up 

to White Salmon, Washington, and go up myself, with the 

idea of starting a printing plant up there. 

DOCTER: Is that so? 

CHENEY: That lasted for a month or two, and I came back 

again. Shipped it all back. Found out they didn't need a 

printer of my sort up there. White Salmon had a newspaper 

of its own. What little printing they needed it could handle. 

DOCTER: Where is that city? 

CHENEY: Well, it's right opposite Hood River, Oregon. 

DOCTER: I see. Along the Columbia River? 

CHENEY: Yes, the north bank of the Columbia. 

DOCTER: What was the attraction? What took you there? 

CHENEY: Well, somebody that I knew down here had gone up 

there and become a schoolteacher in White Salmon. And so 

I moved up and moved in on his house, set up the press there. 

DOCTER: Just to try it out. 


DOCTER: Then when you came back, what arrangements did 

you make? Where did you set up your printing equipment? 

CHENEY: I moved back to my parents' home on 1913 West 

Third Street. Set up the press in my bedroom there. 


DOCTER: And this would then have been toward the latter 

part of the 1930s? 

CHENEY: Yes, somewhere in the latter half. 

DOCTER: And you continued to operate pretty much in 

the same way, perhaps doing a little work for newspapers, 

artwork from time to time? And then what was the next 


CHENEY: Well, the Fortnightly Intruder came out in '36 

and '37. Let's see, then I took a course in mechanical 

drafting and got a job in the engineering department at 

Douglas Aircraft. 

DOCTER: Is that right? 

CHENEY: Started out as a trace and wound up as a layout 

man, with a title of engineer, although I never did learn 

what a rivet was or anything like that. But I was made a 

rivet expert. 

DOCTER: Now, was this during the war? 

CHENEY: Yes, from about 1941 to 1946. 

DOCTER: I see. And which Douglas Aircraft plant was 


CHENEY: Santa Monica. 

DOCTER: I see. Their home base over there, the original. 

These old buildings that are still there, I guess. And 

what kinds of drawings would you have worked on? Aircraft? 

CHENEY: Yes. I was in the structures department, and I 


was supposed to be a rivet expert. I designed the fittings 

for the integral gas tanks and also the vertical fitting 

on the wing of the C-74, right where it broke off on the 

test flight. 

DOCTER: Is that true? 

CHENEY: Yes. Yes, that was my joint, there, that vertical 

— they called it ninety vertical, or something like that. 

It was where the wing came out, and then the dihedral 

angle started from there; that wing broke off right at 

that joint where I designed the fittings. 

DOCTER: On the test flight? 

CHENEY: Yeah, I think it was the test flight. I know 

that that plane came down, anyway. Its wing broke off. 

DOCTER: Is that right? Now, that was a transport of some 


CHENEY: C-74, yes. 

DOCTER: C-74? Is that a transport that we would recognize 

at all? 

CHENEY: Well, it was a big thing, about the biggest plane 

at that time. Let's see, DC-7 was what they called it 

after — C-74 was the army name at that time. 

DOCTER: And it became the DC-7? 


DOCTER: Isn't that interesting? Well, then, I guess you 

were, in effect, being patriotic to go to work in a 


defense factory. 

CHENEY: Well, it was also a chance at a job that would 

pay something. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Or that I thought that it was something I could 

do — mechanical engineering or mechanical drawing. It's not 

simply the drafting. It's something I could do, so I 

took a brush-up course in mechanical drafting, applied for 

a job at Douglas; and they hired anything at that time, 

especially someone that was old enough that he was probably 

more or less stable, and also old enough that he probably 

wouldn't be drafted right away. I was thirty-three or so 

at that time, and married, so they thought they'd try me 

out — I'd probably be promising material. 

DOCTER: Were you active on any other airplane projects 

besides what became the DC-7? Were there any other 

major projects? 

CHENEY: Oh, there was one by X-something or other, secret 

project, the rear-propeller plane that we worked on for a 

while; I don't think anything came of that project. There 

are various things that we worked on. They were more or 

less secret projects, at that time. 

DOCTER: I see. Did you enjoy the industrial work? Was 

it enjoyable, or was it difficult to go to work then? 

CHENEY: It wasn't difficult. The only difficulty was 


getting up early when we had to get out there at seven 

o'clock, as we did some of the time, and work nine hours 

or twelve hours. That got a little tiresome, especially 

getting up early, because you never seemed to get enough 


DOCTER: Did that put an end to the printing for a while? 

Or were you still printing? 

CHENEY: Oh, for some reason, I sold my press and type 

and everything else on Pearl Harbor Day, before the news 

of Pearl Harbor came in. Put an ad in the paper, and 

someone came around and picked it up. Sold the whole 

thing: all that Caslon — eleven-point Caslon — which you 

can't get anymore, and so on. And you used to get it in 

weight fonts in those days. Instead of just buying job 

fonts, you'd get a twenty-five or fifty-pound weight 


DOCTER: Just lower case? 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, you could buy the caps, or you 

could buy just lower case. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: The whole thing, I sold. I was glad to get rid 

of it; I was tired of it at that time. 

DOCTER: What'd you get for it? 

CHENEY: Oh, about twenty-five, thirty dollars, something 

like that. 


DOCTER: Is that right? Including the cases? 

CHENEY: Yes. Oh, I just — this fellow didn't expect 

quite so much, probably. I just unloaded it, glad to 

get rid of it. That was Pearl Harbor Day. 

DOCTER: In 1941. 


DOCTER: And then shortly after that you went to work 

for Douglas? 

CHENEY: No, I went to work before that, oh, in the fall 

of '41. [I was] already at Douglas at that time. 

DOCTER: Then, after the war, was Douglas cutting back, 

or did you want to leave? 

CHENEY: Well, both. We were glad to get out of there, 

but they were laying off at that time. 

DOCTER; Probably couldn't begin to support the size 

of program that they had, I imagine. They probably had 

thousands of employees, didn't they? 

CHENEY: Yes. They had waves of layoffs, and I got 

into one of the waves along in the spring of '46, somewhere 

in there. 

DOCTER: Did you have any thought of continuing in that 

kind of industrial design work? 

CHENEY: No, it was all right. Drafting was more or less 

fun, but it wasn't anything that I wanted to stay in. 

DOCTER; Just a wartime assignment. 


CHENEY: It wasn't the satisfaction that printing is, 

and setting type. 

DOCTER: Right. Well, then, when did you begin to acquire 

another print shop, and where did you set it up? 

CHENEY: Well, first I got a job. I saw an ad for the 

Artesia News , and they wanted someone to do general work 

around a country newspaper office, so I went down there 

and got in on that. 

DOCTER: In Artesia? 


DOCTER: Well, wasn't it rather difficult to get back 

and forth? 

CHENEY: Yes. It took time. It wasn't difficult, it was 

time-consuming. I took the Wilshire bus down to downtown, 

or the Olympic bus, and then walked across to the Pacific 

Electric building and took the Red Car, Santa Ana car, and 

got off at Artesia. So I had to start out about five-thirty 

to six in the morning to make it down there. 

DOCTER: What would the fares have been at that time, say, 

on the bus? Was the bus fare a dime then? 

CHENEY: Yes, it was — I don't think it had gone up then — 

it was about a dime. It was a dime. 

DOCTER: That would get you downtown. Then you'd walk 

to the building at Sixth and Main. The old Pacific 

Electric building. Now they've changed that building 


tremendously inside. They're parking cars in there now. 
But in the old days, at Sixth and Main, do you recall 
what the interior of that building was like? The Terminal 

CHENEY: Well, it was a large room, with popcorn stands 
and peanut stands and candy stands and so forth, all 
around it. Magazine vendors — there seemed to be any 
number of vendors around there. And then the ticket 
windows toward the center. Then they went off out gates. 
One gate led out to the cars that came out onto Main 
Street, and another gate going out the back led to the cars 
that went out over the viaducts and over the L.A. Record 
building, where the Record newspaper was printed, down 
below. You looked down on that building as you went 
down to, oh, was it Maple Street? Whatever street it 
landed on. 

DOCTER: This was an elevated track out the back, wasn't 


DOCTER: I see. So do you recall what you would pay to 
take the Pacific Electric out to Artesia at that time? 
CHENEY: I don't remember what it was. I used to get a 
ticket book, bought a book of tickets, and I don't know 
what they cost. It wasn't much compared to fares nowa- 
days. It didn't amount to much. 


DOCTER: And then, when you'd get to work at the Artesia 
News , what would your job be? What did you do there? 
CHENEY: Oh, my official job was stereotyper. I melted 
up the forms, and cast pigs to hang on the linotype, and 
cast stereotypes, from customers' mats, for their ads. 
Also did some of their job work, the cards and so forth 
that they did, and made up the forms — helped make up the 
forms on the newspaper. They printed the weekly newspaper 
and also the high school newspaper, which was a weekly. 
DOCTER: I see. Was it printed from linotype? 
CHENEY: Yes. And the headings were hand-set. 
DOCTER: Well, in many ways, it would be typical of a 
small-town newspaper. What kind of a press would they 
have had to run, a cylinder press or something? 
CHENEY: Yes, a flatbed cylinder. 
DOCTER: Kelly, maybe? 

CHENEY: I think it was an old — I don't think it was a 
Kelly. I don't remember the name. It was a single- 
revolution flatbed. 

DOCTER: I see. Almost every county newspaper seemed to 
have one in the old days, didn't they? Similar kind of 
an operation. 

CHENEY: Yes. A f eeder--press fesder--was up on a scaffold, 
high up in the air, feeding down. 
DOCTER: Yes. A sheet at a time. 



DOCTER: Now, in terms of getting a job as a printer or 
a stereotyper, if you had wanted to work right in L.A., 
knowing the art of composition as you did, and without 
being part of the typographers' union, could you have 
gone into commercial shops and gotten a job setting type? 
Were jobs very tight at that time? 

CHENEY: Oh, if they needed somebody in a small shop, 
and I did after I left the Artesia News . I stayed there 
about a year. Then I quit because it took so long going 
and coming. 

CHENEY: It's one job I didn't get fired from; I quit of 
my own accord. And I got a job at Muir and Watts down 
on Union and Pico. Same shop that later Bela Blau was 
in for a while before he moved on farther east. He wasn't 
there at that time, but the same shop that Muir and Watts 
had, same building, later Bela Blau's bindery. And I 
worked there for about a year. 
DOCTER: Commercial print shop? 

DOCTER: And what were your main tasks there? 
CHENEY: Well, I was the comp. Of course, you did every- 
thing, but I was the compositor. Muir was the owner, but 
he didn't. ... By the way, it's the Leo Muir who, when 


Kennedy was out here, the time the Democratic convention 
was held here — I think Leo Muir gave an invocation. They 
wanted a Mormon, you know, to give an invocation. He 
was a very old man at that time. It was 1960, and he was 
already seventy-two, back in 1948 or '49, when I worked 
at Muir and Watts. Well, he was the owner of the shop, 
and Watts was the pressman. Watts was an old-time pressman 
and a Welshman who'd like to sing. He'd feed the press 
with one hand, and hold a glass of beer in his other hand, 
and sing the hymns in Welsh, and keep all this going at 
once. Anyway, he was no typesetter; he had no idea of 
type composition. He'd put brass and copper spaces at 
the ends of lines to fill out a line, to justify it, and 
whatnot. So the composition was turned over to me entirely. 
They fired the comp that they had before, and they needed 
a new one. They weren't paying him enough, and he quit. 
I don't know whether he was fired or quit, but anyway, they 
weren't paying him enough. But I would work for anything, 
so they took me on as a comp. 


This would have been about 1947. 

In '48. 

In '48. 

You see, in '46 and '47 I was at Artesia . In 
'48 I worked for Muir and Watts. Then I got my Pilot 
press along about the end of 1948. 


DOCTER: What kind of wages would Muir and Watts have 
paid in those years? Do you remember? For composition? 
CHENEY: Well, the idea was that I was a sort of share- 
holder in their business. 
DOCTER : Oh . 

CHENEY: Sometimes I'd get more and sometimes less. 
DOCTER: Depending upon the volume of business that they 
were doing, perhaps. 

CHENEY: Yes. I never made more than about twenty-five 
a week out of it. 

DOCTER: Yes. But if they had a very good season, they 
would pay a little more, and if they were doing poorly, 
they would cut back a little bit. 

DOCTER: Did they have much in the way of type? Was it 
a well-stocked. . . ? 

CHENEY: Well, it was all old worn-out stuff that belonged 
to the printer that had the place before them — old man 
Faulkner. I never saw him, but they always talked about 

DOCTER: Would there have been any faces that would be 
considered unusually interesting? 

CHENEY: No. It was mostly Goudy stuff, Goudy Bold. 
And they had a lot of old Cheltenham. 
DOCTER: But their printing was sort of just straight 


job printing? Whatever came in — letterhead's, business 
cards, and booklets — and not so much complete books, 
though . 

CHENEY: No. They did a Pico, West Pico, directory. 
That was about their biggest job during the year. And 
I think they did some Mormon printing, for some stake 
or other. But otherwise it was just local job work. 
DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: For little businesses around Pico. 
DOCTER: And what presses did they have? 
CHENEY: They had two job presses, a little eight-by- 
twelve and a twelve-by-eighteen with a feeder on. It 
wasn't a Kluge; it was a twelve-by-eighteen Chandler and 
Price with a feeder. 

DOCTER: Was it possibly a Miller feeder? 
CHENEY: No, it was a Kluge feeder. 
DOCTER: Oh, a Kluge. 
CHENEY: Chandler and Price. 

DOCTER: I see. I see. Actually, the old Chandler and 
Price platen presses were seen in almost every print shop 
thirty years ago, weren't they? Perhaps with a Kluge on 
the bigger ones. It seemed like it was the standard 
press for years and years. 

CHENEY: Yes, they usually had one, even though they'd 
have Miehles and cylinder presses, Kellys and Miehles 


and would also have at least an eight-by-ten, eight-by- 
twelve Chandler and Price to do card jobs. 
DOCTER: Right. It was a very practical press. 

DOCTER: Often, I think, they would have a ten-by-fifteen 
in many shops . 

CHENEY: Yes. They usually like to get eight-by-twelves, 
though. They were a little smaller, and more convenient, 
and easier for card jobs, and so forth. I know, when I 
was looking around for a press, it was easier to find ten- 
by-fifteens than it was to find eight-by-twelves, and 
they were cheaper, too. The little eight-by-twelves were 
quite desirable presses to have, at that time. 
DOCTER: Yes, they're a little easier to wash up, too. 
CHENEY: Yes, well, they don't take up as much room, 
and they're big enough for very small jobs, which is 
what they were used for. 

DOCTER: Card jobs and stationery. Right. Now, you got 
your Pilot press, then, along toward the end of the forties, 

DOCTER: And I guess we ought to say that the Pilot is a 
side-lever handpress. Where did you get that, and how 
much did you pay for it? 

CHENEY: I got it at Leach's Printer's Supply Company; 
used to be down on Wall Street. I don't know whether it 



still is or not. 

DOCTER: I think it's still there. 

CHENEY: Yes. And, let's see, it's a six-by-ten. And 

I think it was about $95 to $100, something like that, 

at that time. I suppose it's about $300, now. 

DOCTER: More. 

CHENEY: More than that? 

DOCTER: Yes, the new ones are well over that, now. I 

saw a catalog recently; I think they're something around 

$400. Well, you bought it from Leach's, but did you 

get all of your printing equipment there, or did you buy 

it from several wholesalers? 

CHENEY: Well, that's not a wholesaler, that's a retail 

place. It must have been type I originally bought from 

ATF, which had a — it was out on Third Street near Central, 

at that time. And at that time, they still sold fonts of 

type . 


CHENEY: I think it's now in the Steward Company; what 

type they do sell is handled by Steward. 

DOCTER: At that time, still in the late forties, I 

think ATF had factory offices in all the bigger cities 

that were all stocked with all kinds of fonts, weren't 


CHENEY: Pretty well stocked. Sometimes they had to 


send back to Elizabeth, New Jersey, for it. But they 

could only buy job fonts. It wasn't like the days in the 

thirties when you could order weight fonts, like the 

eleven-point Caslon I used to have. I got two job fonts 

of capitals and a hundred-pound weight font of lower case. 

It was enough to fill two news cases, lower-case news 

cases. Those days were gone by the late forties. 

DOCTER: Yes. Well, now, after you left Muir and Watts, 

did you go to a different shop, or set up. . . ? 

CHENEY: No, I set up my own, set up this Pilot press in 

the basement. 

DOCTER: Yes. Started printing on that. 


DOCTER: And were you printing commercially or just for 

fun or both? 

CHENEY: VJell, I was printing commercially, insofar as I 

had jobs. Printed booklets for Dawson's, printed some 

for Jake. Actually did better work on that than I did on 

the ten-by-fifteen. Books of the Los Angeles District by 

Gregg Layne . It was done on the Pilot. I think it was a 

better job than I ever did on the ten-by-fifteen. 

DOCTER: Do you think so? Well, what was the difference? 

CHENEY: Oh, maybe it was just better press work. It was 

a good little press. 

DOCTER: Now, that's the press that you sold to a lady 


over in the Huntington Library, is it? 

CHENEY: Yes, Carol Cockel. She printed something 

that was in the Western Books Exhibit, something about 

Sir Kenelm Digby. I suppose some recipes, or things, 

or something like that, she'd printed. 

DOCTER: I see. And then, was your next move to the shop 

adjoining Jake Zeitlin's bookshop out on La Cienega? 

CHENEY: Over on Pico — 1410 (or was it 1014?) — 1410 West 

Pico. It's near where the police station used to be, 

where the Sears, Roebuck is. I was there for about five 

years, had a shop in back of a building there, and then 

I moved up on La Cienega and was there from '55 to '62. 

DOCTER: That was the one next to Zeitlin's. 

CHENEY: Near him. 

DOCTER: From '55 to "62. And when did you add the ten-by- 

fifteen Chandler press? 

CHENEY: Well, I got that, oh, back in 1950, thereabouts. 

That's when I moved over to Pico, the shop on Pico. 

DOCTER: And that's the press that you sold to me. 

CHENEY: Yes. I got that at the Steward Company. It 

had been--at least their account of it was that it was 

part of a school. When I saw it first, it had this 

shield over the flywheel and over the gear. 


CHENEY: And a counter and a brake on it. So I bought 


it, and then when I went down to pick it up, why, the 

shields were gone. I didn't mind that, but the brake 

was gone, and they said it never had had a brake, and 

there wasn't any counter on it. I did manage to make 

them give me a counter, but that's the only thing I 

got out of it. The brake you saw, I stole from the 

press at the Clark, the school press that they had for 

a while there. 

DOCTER: I see. It's a very useful thing to have. 

CHENEY: Yes, but up till that time, for fifteen years 

or so, I used the press without a brake. Just let it 

run down, hold your hand next to the flywheel, below 


DOCTER; I see. Now, when you moved up to the shop 

adjoining Jake Zeitlin's bookstore on La Cienega, why 

did you move? 

CHENEY: Well, I was tired of being over on Pico, and it 

was too small, the quarters over there, and this seemed 

like a better place. 


I see. Did Jake Zeitlin suggest it? 


Yes. He found the place there. 

I see. 

You see, he knew that there was this vacancy 

there . 
DOCTER: But it actually had nothing to do with his 


store; it was separate entirely. 

CHENEY: No, it's three or four doors away from his 


DOCTER: Oh, was it? 

CHENEY: Yes. You know where Munn Picture Frames is? 

It was in the back of that building. 

DOCTER: I see. I remember being there. 

CHENEY: Yes, you were doing a book on Yosemite when you 

came in there one time, and . . . 

DOCTER: Yes. Now, in 1962, was that the year you moved 

to the Clark Library? 


DOCTER: How did that come about? Who suggested it? 

CHENEY: Well, I think Glen Dawson suggested it. I don't 

know whether he talked to Powell about it, or whether it 

was an idea that just occurred to him. He wanted to know 

why I didn't move over to Clark. They had this space 

over there, and it might be a good place for me to do 

work for the university and do my own work, too. 

DOCTER: Well, in negotiating it and working out the 

deal, did you make any arrangement to do a certain 

amount of work for the Clark or for the University of 


CHENEY: Yes, the idea was that I could do — well, no 

specific amount, but I was to do work for them, and no 


money would change hands one way or another. Well, 
they couldn't have had any money changing hands; they 
would have got in trouble with the unions or whatnot. 
DOCTER: But the idea was to help them out when they 
needed special . . . 

CHENEY: Yes. I'd do what they wanted, and they didn't 
charge me any rent. 

DOCTER: I see. Well, did they ask for a great amount 
of work or just a job a month or once a year? How much 
did they really expect you to do? 

CHENEY: Well, they didn't expect too much, unless some 
professor or somebody like Max Novak, who didn't 
understand what was involved, would expect one to get 
something out within a day, and it would take a week, or 
something of that sort. But it came in bunches. Some- 
times there 'd be a month with almost nothing to do, and 
other times there 'd be six or eight things in a week to 
do. It was sporadic. 

DOCTER: You would, of course, continue to do the same 
kinds of commercial work that you had always done, that 
would pay something, in addition. When did you get 
started with the miniatures? 

CHENEY: Well, I think, on my own accord, I did a 
miniature type-specimen book when I was in the basement 
here with the Pilot press. 


DOCTER: Was that at this same address? 


DOCTER: There's a basement here? 

CHENEY: Yes. Down there where the furnaces are, and I 

had cleaning solvent over next to the furnace. [laughter] 

And that appealed to Glen Dawson, so it occurred to him to 

have a Gettysburg Address done in miniature. I did that 

for him, and, off and on over the years, I did other 

miniatures. And I think it's only in the last five or 

six years that miniatures have become a mania, now, and 

a specialty of the Dawsons . I've done about, oh, two a 

year for them. 

DOCTER: That they have commissioned. 


DOCTER: If this is too personal, let's just not answer 

it, but in dealing with publishers, like the Dawsons or 

anyone else, do they ordinarily guarantee a certain 

price for putting out a book? Or do they ask you to do 

it on speculation? 

CHENEY: Well, I've done it as a job. Charge and set 

my price on what I do the printing for. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: And, of course, if one does the binding, one 

charges for that. Bela Blau has done the binding on 

the things I've done for Dawson's. 


DOCTER: Right. 

CHENEY: But I did it simply as a job. 

DOCTER: Now, it occurs to me that, somewhere along the 

line, you mentioned in one of your letters that have 

been published that you worked for a short time with 

Saul Marks . 

CHENEY: Yes. Six weeks. 

DOCTER: Six weeks 1 [laughter] Could you tell me about 

that? When was it? » 

CHENEY: Oh, that was in 1950, around in the spring of 

1950. Let's see, he was doing Aldrich's journal at that 

time. And I worked on that, and then odds and ends 

of work that he had. He did some commercial work, too. 

And there it was a — not a Colt. What's that other 

press? Laureate. He had 3,000 cards to print. I 

remember working for two days on that Laureate, printing 

3,000 cards. It was a slow thing. Well, you know how 

a Colt is. I think the Laureate's even slower. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: He wanted a pressman; he didn't want a typesetter, 

DOCTER: Oh, you were feeding the press? 


DOCTER: Did he have any other employees? 

CHENEY: Not right at that time. Nobody else. He's had 


various employees, sometimes two or three at a time, 

sometimes none, as it happens. But Lillian was working 

with him; she operated the puncher, the ... 

DOCTER: . . . monotype? 

CHENEY: The tape puncher, the monotype. And I think 

he operated the caster. 

DOCTER: Did you have any desire to stay working there? 

Or was it just a temporary deal? 

CHENEY: Well, it was temporary, yes. I wanted to work 

just to learn what I could, working for Saul Marks. 

Before that, I worked for Dahlstrom for about a month 

or so. 



JANUARY 30, 1975 - 

CHENEY: This is the thing I did for Paul Jordan-Smith. 
DOCTER: A book. 

CHENEY: I showed you that before. 
DOCTER: Oh, yes. 

CHENEY: And then this is the collection of Fortnightly 
Intruders . 

DOCTER: Oh, yes, those are interesting. 

CHENEY: Those were done in '36 and '37. This, I think, 
was in '34. 

DOCTER: Did you bind this? 

CHENEY: Yes, but that's just throwing them together, and 
we just made a binding over it. 

DOCTER: I see. Did you teach yourself the art of book- 

CHENEY: No. I didn't. I never did much binding. That's 
just to hold that together. Just took what I could find 
around and sewed it together and put that on there. 
DOCTER: Well, you never did much binding, but this is 
bound , I mean . . . 

CHENEY: Yes. The other one that I gave to Etter was the 
second one I made, and I got it tighter in the back and 
got a better binding on it. That's the first one I did. 
I did two--'One for myself and one for him. 


DOCTER: Well, with these early things, here, you started 

with a lot of Caslon. When you were over there in Angeleno 

Heights, how did you decide on Caslon? What influenced 


CHENEY: Well, I liked it. Well, I'd worked with Garamond 

with Strieker, and we suggested — I suggested that; and it 

was really the editor who liked the Caslon better. He 

said he thought it looked better. And I agreed, finally — 

thought about it — because it can be turned to any purpose, 

used for anything, you know. 

DOCTER: Well, was Etter a printer? 

CHENEY: No, he was a banker. That is, he was working in 

a bank, at that time. 

DOCTER: But he knew something about type. 

CHENEY: Well, just an outsider's view of it. He had a 

taste and could see what type looked like. He had no 

experience in printing and typesetting. 

DOCTER: Did you get that Caslon, then, from ATF? 

CHENEY: Yes, it was down there on Los Angeles Street, 

down near Second and Los Angeles . 

DOCTER: That was the factory office? 

CHENEY: Yes. You could just walk in and buy fonts of 

type, including weight fonts. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: We got two job fonts of capitals and a fifty- 


pound weight font of lower case in twelve-point and then 

in eleven-point, which is the main typeface; and then 

we got a hundred-pound weight font of lower case. You 

could just walk in and buy it in those days. 

DOCTER: Caslon was really the first face that you had. 

The other type was Strieker's. 

CHENEY: Well, the Garamond that I used in that Voyage 

to Trolland , I set that in Strieker's place and printed 

it on his press, just before I got a press myself, and 


DOCTER: V7ell, then, what would be the very first piece 

that you did of your own? 

CHENEY: That's the first thing I did myself. I did all 

that myself. 

DOCTER: A Voyage to Trolland . 

CHENEY: Yes. But it wasn't with iny type, and I think, 

probably, that the first thing that was really a job, a 

serious job, that I did, after I got my press and some 

Caslon type, was the Zamorano membership list of 1933. 

DOCTER: On your proof press. 


DOCTER: In 1933. Well, were you a member? 

CHENEY: No, I wasn't. I was just getting a job. 

What's that cat into, out there? 

DOCTER: Better catch him. 


CHENEY: Well, I guess there isn't anything she can get 

into. She's just scraping around. 

DOCTER: Just scratching around, huh? 

CHENEY; In that box out there. 

DOCTER: Well, now, this Voyage to Trolland , this is 

copyright 1933 also, so, along with the printing of the 

Zamorano membership list, these would have been the 

very first items. 

CHENEY: Yes. This was done in the spring and summer of 

"33, and Strieker had a place in a barn down on, oh, 

south of Washington and Toberman Street. And I used to 

walk down there, walk down and back, from up there on 

Angeleno Heights at Sunset. 

DOCTER: Quite a walk. 

CHENEY: Yes, but I didn't mind. 

DOCTER: No streetcar? 

CHENEY: Well, there was, but I didn't mind the walk. 

It took me about an hour each way . 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: But I got the press, oh, around the fall of '33. 

October, along in there somewhere. And then I was rather 

shy about telling Strieker about it, thinking he'd 

probably be envious or resent it that I'd gone out and 

bought a press for myself. But he took it all right. 

DOCTER: Was he that kind of guy? Would he be envious? 


CHENEY: No, I don't think so. He didn't mind, but I 

just felt, since I'd been working for him and with him, 

and I went out suddenly and got a press, I thought that 

he might resent it. But he didn't. Actually, Etter and 

I went into partnership. We bought it together, planning 

to start a little magazine or something, but the magazine 

didn't get started till about three years later, in '36. 

DOCTER: What was Etter 's full name? 

CHENEY: William Kirby Etter. 

DOCTER: And do I recall that that's the fellow who was 

the son of a railroad executive? 


DOCTER: So, he had some resources to help get a little 

printing . . . 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, he was employed. He was working 

for Farmer's and Merchants Bank at that time. He was in 

the trust department of Farmer's and Merchants. And the 

Santa Fe did its banking there, and I think that's how 

he happened to get in there. 

DOCTER: I see. Did that bank become Manufacturer's 


CHENEY: No, it was absorbed by the Security [First 

National Bank, now Security-Pacific] . 

DOCTER: Security, I see. 

CHENEY: It was the Farmer's and Merchants branch of the 


Security, now. It's over on Fourth and Main. 

DOCTER: Yeah. I know the building. Very old building, 

now, grayish. What became of Etter? 

CHENEY: Oh, he was in the navy during the war and then 

stayed in the diplomatic service. And he died in '53 in 

an airplane trip between East and West Pakistan. He was 

assigned to Pakistan at that time. Had a heart attack 

on the plane, coming back from East Pakistan (which is 

now Bangladesh) to Pakistan. 

DOCTER: This was a State Department job? Diplomatic 


CHENEY: Yes. I don't know just what his position was, 

but he was in the diplomatic service. 

DOCTER: I see. Did he ever do any printing or designing? 

CHENEY: No. He wrote the editorials for this Intruder , 

but he wasn't himself interested in setting type. 

DOCTER: I see. Was he much of a bookman? 

CHENEY: Yes. You mean interested in writing and literature? 


CHENEY: Yes, he was interested in it. But he wasn't a 

professional. He was interested in it. 

DOCTER: Well, now, when you began this Voyage to Trolland , 

this is entirely a Will Cheney fabrication — tale. Am I 


CHENEY : Yes . 


DOCTER: For the fun of it. 

CHENEY: Yes. Actually, it was Strieker's idea that I 

should do that. I'd been working on a Trollish language, 

I hadn't — hadn't written an account of TroLland, and it 

was his idea that I write one, and I changed it a little 

from the historical Trolland of my languages, set a long 

time ago. It was different from this point; it was 

comic. Trolland. But the idea here was to popularize 

it and sell the thing and make a lot of money. I think 

I printed 150 copies and maybe bound about twenty-five 

of them, and then I was through with that. 

DOCTER: What about this Trollish language? 

CHENEY: Well, are we on the air now? 


CHENEY: It'd take a little while. I could dig out an 

old grammar of Trollish. [laughter] 

DOCTER: Is it a language that you could actually speak? 

CHENEY: Oh, you could if. . . . [tape recorder turned 

off; brings out maps and grammar book] There are maps 

of Trollish land, and the ice-folks land, and so forth, 

and this is the language. 

DOCTER : Ah . My . 

CHENEY: It goes on. It has examples of the poetry and 

how it's metered. 

DOCTER: When did you create this language? 


CHENEY: Well, off and on. It started when I was in 
high school . - 

DOCTER: Well, this says, "A brief, compact, and com- 
pendious grammar of the Trollish language, together with 
conversations in Trollish and English. Readings from the 
better authors and miscellaneous matter." But it's undated, 
What date should be on that title page? 

CilENEY: I don't know; that's probably some time in the 
thirties that I did that last edition of it, but it began 
back in the twenties. When I was stiil in tenth grade or 
so in high school, I began devising a Trollish language, 
but it went through many changes. As I went on, got a 
year or two older, I'd rehash the language and change it. 
Tried to get the Germanic element out and more of a Celtic 
element into it. 

DOCTER: What we're looking at here, just for the record, 
is a salmon-colored notebook, similar to the kind that 
would be used in high school or college. Roughly, its 
outside dimensions are perhaps 5 1/2 wide x 8 inches tall. 
It says on the cover, printed there, "University School 
Series Composition Book," and then a little number, I 
guess sort of an order number or something, "R-580." And 
I would judge that this is the only copy of this in your 
own handwriting, isn't it? 
CHENEY: Oh, yeah. 


DOCTER: So, in a way, this is the beginning of Trollish. 
It's all there is of Trollish. But when you think of an 
entire language being created here, with the alphabet and 
the consonants and the vowels and the diphthongs- and a 
grammar — that's a tremendous achievement to do that. 
CHENEY: Yes. I think that's been done. I didn't know 
about it before, but — oh, this — who was it that wrote the 
Ring of the . . . . [Tolkien: Lord of the Rings ] 
DOCTER: Oh, yes, for the three volumes? 

CHENEY: Yes, I can't think of the name of it now, but I 
think they have a language. And some other peoples have 
made languages, imaginary languages. Not like Esperanto, 
and languages of that sort, but just imaginary languages 
that elves and gnomes would speak. 

DOCTER: But this you have never printed, this language? 
CHENEY: No. Except for the specimens that get in that 
Voyage to Trolland . 

DOCTER: Yes. Well, I don't want to put you on the spot 
here, not too much, but is there any possibility that you 
could think seriously about arranging for something this 
valuable and this unique to find its way into the 
University [Library Department of] Special Collections 
so that people could see the kind of thing you've created? 
CHENEY: Well, I might think about it sometime, but . . . 
DOCTER: You certainly don't need to decide, but I think 
it . . . 


CHENEY: Yes. It would be thrown away otherwise, I 

don't have anyone to leave it to. ^ 

DOCTER: I wish you'd think about it, because this is 

such a unique and highly original piece of work.- And 

I'm sure that at the time it was done, you had no real 

model to go by, I don't think, had you? Other than 

knowing English. 

CHENEY: Well, the influence is English. It's based on 

English, and it's imaginary, but, of course, there's 

influences of German and Latin and English. 

DOCTER: The calligraphy in here is very attractive, and 

I think it's well known that you have a fine calligraphic 

hand. Where did you learn this calligraphic style? 

CHENEY: I didn't know it was calligraphic. I thought 

it was just scribbled. 

DOCTER: Well. . . . 

CHENEY: Well, it's hand printed, there. 

DOCTER: But there's some very nice initials in here. I 

guess it's the kind of a script that might have been 

taught in handwriting at the time that you were in school. 

CHENEY: No, I think it's just playing around with the pen. 

DOCTER: It's a most amazing piece of work. And then, the 

Voyage to Trolland was, in a way, an extension of that 




DOCTER: And what is the story, basically? What does 
the story reveal? .-» 

CHENEY: Well, somebody — I don't know that it means 
anything — somebody heard about Trolland, and, I think, 
heard about it on that radio there or something, and set 
out to find it. And then when he comes there, why, he 
travels around and describes the different parts of 
Trolland and Trollish customs, and so on. It was really 
Strieker's idea that I write it in some form like that, 
that can popularize it, instead of being satisfied with 
the grammar of the language, which was all that I'd thought 
of before. And it had some history, like these maps, and 
I think there are pictures of rulers of Trolland, and so 
forth; but I never tried to have anyone go there and 
actually see them. Really, the Voyage to Trolland is really 
a different thing; it wasn't the way I'd conceived at first. 
DOCTER: It's very reminiscent of the maps and language in 
the book with the author that we can't think of, the 
Englishman, who had a very popular . . . 
CHENEY: Tolkien. 

DOCTER: Yes. Yes. The Tolkien trilogy. Yes. 
CHENEY: But I hadn't heard of him. I don't know whether 
he was writing at that time. 

DOCTER: I don't think so. When you first began to design 
the book A Voyage to Trolland, did you lay it out page by 


page or set a page to see what it would look like or — 
what was your style for planning this? 
CHENEY: First conceived of about the page size I 
wanted, and then I designed it, the page, the same way 
I still do. I figured how many lines I could get on the 
page, considering the margins and the size of type. I 
set eight pages, and he had enough of that f ourteen-point 
Garamond that I could set eight pages. 
DOCTER: This is all f ourteen-point Garamond, huh? 
CHENEY: Yes. Smoky, get away from there. 
DOCTER: Oh, she won't hurt that old coat. 
CHENEY; Well, she can chew a hole in it. [laughter] 
DOCTER: Really? 

CHENEY: That's why we have to keep her out of the bed- 
room, because she gets in there and burrows down in the 
bed and chews holes in the blankets. 
DOCTER: Oh, for goodness sake. 

With reference to this Voyage to Trolland , this is 
especially interesting, since it's certainly the first 
book that you produced, isn't it? 

DOCTER: It has the appearance of a very classical layout 
with reference to the relationship between the margins 
and the center space, and the line spacing. Is this based 
on any instruction or guidance or counseling that you 
ever. . . ? 


CHENEY: Yes, I had some counseling from Strieker. He'd 
had experience with printed books himself, and he gave me 
some advice on laying it out. Well, he more or less over- 
saw it. I didn't know at that time just the proportions 
of lower margin to upper, and so on, and he gave me some 
advice on that. 

DOCTER: I see. Well, Strieker must have had a fairly 
classical style himself. This is a very attractive page; 
uncrowded, and yet put together nicely; and sort of 
generous margins at the bottom, but not wasteful. Had he 
been, in any sense, a commercial book designer? 
CHENEY: Well, he was commercial in that he worked to 
sell his books. 

DOCTER: But he wouldn't have been with a publishing 

CHENEY: Well, no, he was a private printer. But he'd 
had several years' experience at the time that I knew him, 
DOCTER: I see. Now, this is an interesting notation in 
your own writing here at the beginning. I'm almost over- 
whelmed. It says, "Please return, eventually, this 
being the only copy I know of." 

CHENEY; It's the only one I had, anyway. Apparently, 
there 're some others around and about. There's one in 
that Reynolds catalog, I know. 
DOCTER: Is there? 


CHENEY: Yes, he has it listed there. 

DOCTER: Oh, that's right. You mentioned that last 

week . 

CHENEY: Well, I'd lent it to someone and wrote that in 

there, because, you know, when you lend books, you don't 

get them back; but whoever — I don't remember who it was 

but whoever I lent it to must have returned it. 

DOCTER: Is there a copy of this at the Clark? 

CHENEY: I don't know. I don't know whether there is or 


DOCTER: All of the linoleum blocks you cut. Just what 

procedures did you follow, there, in cutting them? 

CHENEY: Well, I drew it on the block. It has white paint 

on the surface, and I drew it on the block, and then they 

came out in reverse. You can draw them and then transfer 

from a sheet, you know, to the white surfacing and have 

it in obverse. But I didn't care which direction they 

faced, so I drew it right on the block, then cut it with 

tools, linoleum tools — knives and gougers . 

DOCTER: Now, have you given up on the linoleum blocks 

or do you still do them? 

CHENEY: No. I don't do them. There's no use doing them 

when you can get zinc cuts made to a drawing; but I don't 

do much drawing, anyway, anymore. I did at that time. 

DOCTER: Have you ever thought of being a free-lance 



CHENEY: Oh, yes. .•♦ 

DOCTER: Well, you worked at it some, of course, didn't 

you, for newspaper drawings? 

CHENEY: Yes. When I was out looking for some of these 

other things, I ran across a lot of pig strips, that I did 

a long time--and was going to do, you know, like the comic 



CHENEY: And I did about fifty or sixty of them, and I 

showed them to Gale, who used to be the staff cartoonist 

at the Times . And he said, "They're too whimsical. They 

won't do." So then I went to [George] Herriman, who drew 

Krazy Kat, and when he first looked at them, he said, 

"You're pretty good, aren't you?" And then as he looked 

them over, he said, "Oh, they won't sell, they're too 

whimsical." And he said, "Your line's too fussy and too 

self-conscious. You have to have a freer stroke." So I 

started over again then, with larger ones and heavily 

inking. And that wasn't my style. The spirit was gone 

out of them when I tried to make them bold. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Thin, fussy lines seems to be my style — or was, 

when I used to draw. I haven't drawn in thirty years, 

it's too much trouble. It's easier to set type than it 


is to draw. 

DOCTER: Now here's an interesting paragraph from A 

Voyage to Trolland . It says, "Having drunk the beer and 

found it good, he and his moxie set forth and traveled 

together," and so forth. Now, did you do any drinking 

with Strieker? 

CHENEY: Oh, that was about the time that Prohibition 

went out. Yes, we occasionally had something to drink. 

We couldn't afford very — ouch! This cat! 

DOCTER: That cat's pretty funny. [laughter] She get 


CHENEY: Yes, I got scratched. 

DOCTER: Oh. [laughter] I think that cat runs the place, 

CHENEY: Now stop that. 

DOCTER: He's having a lot of fun there, isn't he? 

CHENEY: Here, you stop it. Stop it. 

Well, we used to have a bottle of ale together or 
something like that. We didn't drink much. 
DOCTER: Well, did Strieker have anything of a drinking 

CHENEY: Well, yes, he did, later. I think he had an 
alcoholic tendency. 

DOCTER: Did it interfere with his career? 
CHENEY: I think maybe it did. You know, he died com- 
paratively young, back in 1945, back in New York. I 


don't know that — well, I don't want to repeat it, because 
I'm not sure. Jake told me something about it. -I think 
he had been out on a binge, but I don't know for sure that 
that's the reason he got pneumonia, which is an ailment of 
alcoholics, you know. They don't eat enough. 

I think I'll wash this — you want to shut that thing 
off? I'm going to wash my hand off. The cat scratched it. 
DOCTER: Yeah, we'll turn it off for a minute here. [tape 
recorder turned off J Did you ever get Mrs. Cheney involved 
in any of this printing stuff? 
CHENEY: No, she's not much interested in it. 
DOCTER: No? She never set any type? 

CHENEY: No, I don't think that she wants to. She just 
doesn't take to it. Doesn't have the graphic arts tempera- 
ment. She's interested in the results, but as for doing 
it, I don't think it would interest her. 

DOCTER: Well, most printers' wives don't do much printing. 
Just a few. 

CHENEY: Yes. I don't know whether it's an advantage or 
not. It's an advantage to have them sympathetic, but if 
they get into it, they may surpass one, and that wouldn't 
be . . 

DOCTER: A little uncomfortable. [laughter] Very true. 
This other piece. Art of Reviling . 

CHENEY: She'll chew your shoelaces if she gets started 


DOCTER: Oh. Let's see, the Art of Reviling . Here it 

is, here. This Art of Reviling was also one of the very 

earliest, am I right? In '36. 

CHENEY: Yes. That's translated from the Chinese. 

DOCTER: Right. And I guess you were still living over at 

the Angeleno Heights area. 

CHENEY: Yes, I think I was over there at that time. 

DOCTER: And William Pettus, was he a local sponsor of 

fine printing, or. . . ? 

CHENEY: Well, he was a member--he was interested in it — 

of the Zamorano club. He was a friend of Gay Beaman, 

that's how I came to do this. Gay Beaman had it done for 


DOCTER: Now, who was Beaman? 

CHENEY: Well, A. Gaylord Beaman. He was a mei-nber of 

the Zamorano club, and he was an insurance broker and a 

sort of patron of printers. That's how I came to know 

Strieker, was through Beaman. And I met Beaman when I 

was employed at Dawson's; he was a regular customer there. 

And he saw my Trollish grammar. I had it down there, and 

that interested him. That's how I came to know him. Well, 

I think that's why he introduced me to Strieker, to see if 

something could be done about the Trollish grammar. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: And he was a bit disappointed that it wasn't like 


that grammar, that it didn't concentrate on the language 

and the history of Trolland instead of this account of a 

voyage to Trolland, which was a different sort of thing. 

But this was Strieker's idea--that you could get somebody 

to read this, and you couldn't get them to read that 


DOCTER: Well, Strieker had good judgment, in that sense, 

didn't he? The grammar would have been a keepsake, but 

the Voyage is a story. Well, what became of Beaman? 

CHENEY: He died. He was an older man, that is, older 

than we were at that time. I was in my twenties, and 

Strieker was in his thirties, and Beaman was forty-five 

to fifty at that time. 

DOCTER: Well, he and William B. Pettus were behind this 

Art of Reviling . You notice any important differences 

between your printing in 1933 and this 1936 piece? Were 

there any big changes in equipment or your own approach 

or technique? 

CHENEY: I had the same press I was on, until I sold it 

in 1941. It was a Poco proof press. I inked it by hand 

and laid the paper on the type and then the bed slid 

under the cylinder. Picked the paper up and set it 

aside and inked the type again. 

DOCTER: How did you get registration? 

CHENEY: Well, I made a back to set the paper against. 


It was a five-line piece of furniture, planed off on 

the fore edge and leaving a little shoulder at the 

back, and I laid the paper up against that. I locked 

that up in the chase and laid the paper against it. Had 

a space, oh, a fourteen-point space, pasted down at one 

end, so that I could lock the paper against that. 

DOCTER: I see. What's the story of this Rabelaisian 

Phancies ? 

CHENEY: Well, it was written by Paul Jordan-Smith, 

and I think it tells in the introduction there. The 

first part of it he'd printed, oh, ten years before that. 

He had some job printer do it. And then he wrote a 

supplement to it, which appears first in here. 

DOCTER: And how did you get involved in the project? 

CHENEY: Oh, I think he wanted Strieker to do it, and 

Strieker didn't want to do it; and so I got the job. 

DOCTER: This is a seventy-six page book. Was this done 

on the proof press? 


DOCTER: Tremendous amount of work. 

CHENEY: Yes, but it wasn't a large edition. I don't 

know just how many copies, whether it was 200 copies or 


DOCTER: Is this one of the longest books you've ever done? 

CHENEY: Oh, I think probably the Essays and Footnotes is 


the longest. Of course, you take all those Intruder s 
together, that makes it about the greatest bulk. - 
DOCTER: What kind of time was involved in doing this 

CHENEY: Well, it went on over two or three months, I 

DOCTER: Would you get up each morning and start hand- 
setting type and try to get out a couple of pages? 
CHENEY: No, I worked at it off and on. I'd set steadily 
all day sometimes, and other days I wouldn't work on 
that. It doesn't take so long when it's body type and 
you're setting text — all one type. You get going, and you 
can set page after page. 

DOCTER: Are there any important mistakes in this book? 
CHENEY: Well, in that book they wouldn't matter; you 
wouldn't know whether they were mistakes or not. Spelling 
is whatever it's supposed to be in the style of sixteenth- 
or seventeenth-century English printing, in which the 
typesetters varied the spelling to justify the line any- 
way. You wouldn't know whether it was a mistake. I 
suppose you mean typographical errors. They wouldn't 
matter in that book. 

DOCTER: This book offers both — well, it has the two 
title pages. And would you say again, the purpose of 
publishing both title pages? 


CHENEY: Well, I suppose it's an imaginary - Antwerp 
edition, or something. One title page there, at_least, 
was some Antwerp edition in sixteen-something. Something 
like that. Just an imaginary title page for a supposed 

DOCTER: Well, now, you're responsible for several imaginary 
things, aren't you? I recall a letter, not too many years 
ago, that you actually wrote after a Rounce and Coffin 
meeting. I think Robert Trogman had put on quite a 
performance complaining about the food. And I think you 
wrote a letter, didn't you, as if it was from Trogman? 
Or how did that work out? 

CHENEY: Well, supposed to be from Grant Dahlstrom, des- 
cribing the meeting. 

DOCTER: Yes. Remind me of that. How did that come up? 
What were the circumstances? 

CHENEY: Well, the circumstance were the scene at that 
meeting when Trogman had to have chicken whether he wanted 
it or not, and he tried to send it back, and they wouldn't 
take it back because it had been ordered for the whole 
club, you know. And if he did take it back and get some- 
thing else, he'd still have to pay for it and buy the 
other item separately. And he was going to storm out of 
there, but his wife and Cornett Wood talked him out of it. 
DOCTER: He was pretty upset. 


CHENEY: Well, he was upset that you have to eat chicken 

whether you wanted to or not, and he didn't believe in 

chicken. And he said that they should have beef because 

that's the one thing that everybody likes, and so on. 

But he had quite a time about that. 

DOCTER: And then you wrote this imaginary piece describing 

it and embellishing it a little, I think, as if it was from 



DOCTER: Dahlstrom must have gotten quite a laugh out of 


CHENEY: Yes, well, Dahlstrom printed the piece, you know. 

DOCTER: Did he? 

CHENEY: Yes, he printed it and added some marginal notes. 

And he turned it--of course these whimsies get involved-- 

he printed it as if I'd written it, which I had; but he 

was supposed to have written it. But he printed it as if 

I^d written it, and he wrote the--no, he printed it as if 

he'd written it, but that I'd written the marginalia. But, 

actually, he added the marginalia. It was kind of an 

involved thing. 

DOCTER: Well, it's an example of a kind of an in- joke, 

isn't it? 


DOCTER: The people who were there would particularly 


appreciate the humor of it. And I recall getting a big 

bang out of it myself. 

CHENEY: Yeah, I think Trogman himself enjoyed it. He 

gave me a call afterwards and talked about how much he 

enjoyed it. 

DOCTER: Where did you get the inspiration for writing 

that? Did you think of it later, or did you think of it 

that night? 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know, I think it was the next few 

days, I just wrote this account — it was just an account — 

of the meeting as I saw it. 

DOCTER: But don't several of your books, your little 

pieces — particularly the Pig Latin and the Footnotes , 

and so on — don't they often have some in- joke in them that 

only a few people would be aware of? 

CHENEY: Yes, probably. 

DOCTER: I remember your pointing out to me the way that 

the character of certain italic letters in the book that 

used Greek developed certain forms, parts of the anatomy, 

even, that were kind of funny and unusual. 

CHENEY: Yeah, that was Civilite . I think that was 

Civilite . The £ and the y. — the tails of the £ and the y_ 

joined together? 


CHENEY: And if you write the word — if you set the word 


Callipygian, why, you get a Callipygian design from the 

tails of the £ and the y^. 

DOCTER: Right. When you start to do a job like a book, 

or even one of the miniatures, do you make a careful 

layout first? 

CHENEY: Well, I make a layout. I don't know how careful 

it is, but I design the page and margins, figure how many 

lines, and figure my margins. 

DOCTER: So you had a pretty good idea of just what it's 

going to shape up to in the length? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes, if you know how many words there are in 

the manuscript, why. . . . When it's my own material, I 

usually don't know, because the manuscript's written on 

the backs of envelopes and tag ends of paper, and so on. 

I have to make a guess how long it'll be, but usually I 

guess pretty well. 

DOCTER: Can you recall any particular goofs in jobs like 

that? Where your plans didn't work out? 

CHENEY: Plans usually work out. The goofs are usually 

just carelessness — getting pages in the wrong order, or 

something of that sort. 

DOCTER: Even in something that's bound? 

CHENEY: Yes, sometimes it . , . 

DOCTER: Or printing them in the wrong order? Perhaps 

that's what you meant. 


CHENEY: Well, yes, that's happened. Sometimes they're 
printed in the wrong order. When you're doing it your- 
self and setting the type and blocking it up and printing 
it, and nobody proofreads but the one person, why, there 
are errors that get through. You can't see your own 
errors till after they're done. 

DOCTER: On this little program, for the Wilshire Ebell 
Theatre, February 19th, 1936, this dance concert program, 
notice the lettering of Florence Gordon at the top? 

DOCTER: Saul Marks always objected to letter spacing of 
that kind. 

CHENEY: Letter spacing lower case. But I wanted it to 
go clear across. I think there's — after all, that's Caslon 
Oldstyle. It depends on what you're using. If he's using 
some modern style or some German face where you don't do 
that, it's different. But I think there's a seventeenth- 
and eighteenth-century English precedent for letter spacing 
lower case if you want to fill a line. 

DOCTER: Is that right? I didn't know that. Well, I know 
he always felt strongly about it. I recall once, when he 
was giving a course up at USC, he was showing some students 
a piece; and in it there was one page that had a very short 
line of Bembo Narrow Italic. And everyone immediately 
noticed that it was spaced, that there was spacing in it — 


just a little bit, but it was noticeable. So everyone 

asked him, "How come you did this, especially with 

italic?" And he laughed and said that the guy that had 

asked him to do the printing requested that one change. 

And what he said was, "I agreed to it, and I did it, and 

the world didn't come to an end after all." I always 

got a bang out of that. 

CHENEY: Well, with Bembo it would be noticeable because 

that's a very closely fit type; but Caslon Oldstyle is 

rather spotty anyway. Irregular fit. 

DOCTER: If you were going to buy a type today, assuming 

any of the alphabets were available — if you were going to 

go out and buy type today, assuming you had nothing now, 

what would you choose for book work? 

CHENEY: Well, with me, text is the roost important, and 

I'd stick with Baskerville, I think, because I think it's 

the most generally usable type. 

DOCTER: The capitals are beautiful, aren't they? 


DOCTER: They're bold, and yet they have a delicacy and a 

contrast. Do you find the capitals particularly attractive? 

CHENEY: Yes, I think Baskerville hit it about right; the 

right contrast of thick and thin. And his capital R is the 

best that's ever been achieved. 

DOCTER: Kind of straight, isn't it? 


CHENEY: Yes, it is straight, but you compare that 

with a Bodoni R, with its curved tail, and you'll see 

that the Baskerville is much better. It has to be just 

right. The tail of the R has to come at just the right 

angle, and fit just at the right point on the bowl. 

And he hit it off right. 

DOCTER: Well, then, perhaps you would not like the 

capital R in Bembo, because it has such a long, curving 

tail on it. Do you recall that Bembo capital R? 

CHENEY: Well, doesn't it curve down? 


CHENEY: More of a concave curve. That isn't so bad as 

the Bodoni curved R. It comes . . . 

DOCTER: Yes. Both ways. I see what you mean. 

CHENEY: I think I'll put this cat outside. You want to 

shut that off? 

DOCTER: Okay. Well, we can get up and stretch our legs 

here for a minute. [tape recorder turned off] 

CHENEY: When they [the cartoons] start they're kind of 

self-conscious and stiff, but as they get on, why, they 

become — the action becomes a little . . . 

DOCTER: Now, would this have been, say, 1933? These 


CHENEY: No, 1930, around there. 

DOCTER: Around '30? So this was intended to become a 


comic strip, a commercial comic strip. 

CHENEY: See, as it gets on, the spirit gets freer. I 
draw them more ... 

DOCTER: Goodness, that's a tremendous amount of artwork. 
CHENEY: Well, I put in my evenings at this while I was 
working at Dawson's. They're trying to launch a raft 
here. They crawl underneath the raft. The raft springs 
a leak. 

DOCTER: Did you ever offer these to a publisher? 
CHENEY: No, I was going to. I didn't know just what to 
do. I was going to try to get the Times to take them. 
That's why I saw — their staff cartoonist was Gale at that 
time, like Conrad. Gale was very matter-of-fact. Well, 
anyway, that's the idea about that. 
DOCTER: But he looked at them? 

CHENEY: Well, he said they were too whimsical; they'd 
never sell. 

DOCTER: Too whimsical? Well, what did he mean by whim- 
sical? Too fantastic? 

CHENEY: I suppose so. That was in 1930, and nowadays 
they probably wouldn't be too whimsical, but they were 

DOCTER: Just a little too far from a real creature. 
CHENEY: Yes. Of course, later pigs came in. Disney had 
a pig strip. That was later; that was in the 1940s, I 



DOCTER: But there were no pigs at this time? 

CHENEY: I don't think so. 

DOCTER: In a way, it was ahead of its time. 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, at least that's what Herriman 

suggested — that people just wouldn't go for pigs. Herriman 

was the one that drew Krazy Kat, you know. He wasn't too 



JANUARY 31, 197 5 

DOCTER: We just got out some comic strip drawings 
going back to the early thirties. Introducing Pot Pig, 
just out of school and ready to make a big success of 
life. Now, this is a remarkable pig who had various 
adventures, and Mr. Cheney was mentioning, as the tape 
was running out, that upon presenting these for consider- 
ation by a newspaper — he took them around to various 
publishers, as I understand it, and they thought that 
they maybe were a little too whimsical, a little too far 
from the real life. 

So, then you tried making them a little differently, 
but it still didn't come off in a way that was satisfactory. 
And I guess, eventually — was this the end of the cartooning 
effort, then? 

CHENEY: Well, of that sort of thing--of doing the comic 
strip. By the time I did about sixty of those — and then I 
started them over, doing them with a heavier line--the 
spirit had gone out of them by then. I lost interest in 
the comic strip by that time. 

DOCTER: Well, Will, just so you'll know that there's a 
serious interest, if you ever have an inclination to allow 
the Special Collections people to acquire some of these 
things, I think they're the kinds of things that, in 


years to come, people interested in you and in the 
history of printing in Southern California will be 
interested in this kind of early work. But I just men- 
tion it, because I'm sure someone would like to ask you 
more formally someday if you'd think further about letting 
them take care of them permanently. So I'll just plant 
the seed. 

On these different print jobs, would something like 
this Christmas greeting, which was from the year. . . . 
I'm not sure of the year. 

CHENEY: I think at the bottom of it, that thing, it's 
about '35, I think, or thereabouts. 

DOCTER: I see. It begins to have a little feeling of 
the miniature books, because it's set — what would that be, 

CHENEY: I think that's ten-point Caslon. 

CHENEY: Yes, that was ten-point — it was ten-point Caslon 
Oldstyle. It was pretty small face. 
DOCTER: It sure fooled me. 

CHENEY: Well, that's why I got the eleven-point, because 
there's such a jiimp between ten-point and twelve-point 

DOCTER: I see. I see. But, in any case, the makeup of 
the page begins to have the feeling of a miniature book. 


How did your first miniature come about? 

CHENEY: Oh, I don't know, but it just happened.. 

DOCTER: What was the first one? 

CHENEY: Type specimens, when I had the Pilot press in 

the basement here. 

DOCTER: Right. And then that led to a whole series of 

miniature books. 

CHENEY: Well, Glen Dawson then wanted a Gettysburg 

Address in miniature edition. Type specimen, type 

specimen. [searches for specimen] I don't know; it's 

somewhere in here. Anyway it was — no, that's the 

Gettysburg Address. That was done for Glen Dawson. 

Now here's the type specimen. No, that's another 

Gettysburg Address. 

DOCTER: And what year was this Gettysburg Address? 

CHENEY: Oh, back about '51, I think; or no, '49 or '50. 

Here's the first miniature that I made. 

DOCTER: Oh, my. I haven't seen that one. I thought 

you were referring to a different book. I hadn't seen 


CHENEY: Yes. Well, that was my first type specimen 

book, and that took Glen Dawson's eye; and then he wanted 

a Gettysburg Address in miniature like that. 

DOCTER: This is March '49. What gave you the idea for 



CHENEY: I don't know. It just happened. One experiments 

with this and that, and that developed. 

DOCTER: Was Muir Dawson doing any printing at this time? 

CHENEY: Yes. He got his Pilot press about a year before 

I did, and he got it along about '47, I think. Got mine 

in '48. 

DOCTER: I got my Pilot press in 1953. It surely is one 

of the most practical presses, isn't it? 

CHENEY: Yes, it is a good press. It's better than this 

press I have now. It's solider. For its size, you can 

get a very good impression on the Pilot. 

DOCTER: In all, how many of these miniatures did you do? 

CHENEY: How many miniature books? Oh, Lord, I suppose 

twenty-five or so, over the years. 

DOCTER: Most of them for Dawson's. 

CHENEY: Yes. A few of them just on my own, but mostly as 

jobs for Dawson. 

DOCTER: Were they mostly Glen's idea? 

CHENEY: Yes, Glen was the one that was interested, mainly, 

I've done two for Peggy Christian. 

DOCTER: Was one of those the one that was the letter that 

had to do with the school board? 

CHENEY: Yes, that's in this collection here. 

DOCTER: What's the story of that letter? I've wondered 

because of my brother [Robert Docter] being on the school 


board . 

CHENEY: Peggy Christian just came into possession of it, 
somehow. She didn't know anything about Earl. Tried to 
get her to write a preface to it and give him some back- 
ground. And she didn't know anything about him, except 
she just had the letter. And at that time — what's his 
name, Lummis? 

DOCTER: Yes. Charles Lummis. 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, he was on the — oh, what was he, was 
it the city council, or. . . ? 
DOCTER: He was a librarian. 

CHENEY: He was a librarian, but he had some connection 
with city government at that time. And he had the letter, 
and it was his handwriting on the outside of the letter 
that he was returning it to [C.N.] Earl again. The contents 
were noted, and he was returning it to Earl. 
DOCTER: A most interesting piece. Now, who was this Peggy 

CHENEY: Oh, she's a bookseller on La Cienega, about two 
doors south of Jake. 

DOCTER: What became of the original? 

CHENEY: Well, I guess she still has it, unless she sold 
it. The original is a pencil-written letter to the 
school board. 
DOCTER: And it had to do with a man who was responding as 


to why he didn't wish to run. Wasn't that it? 
CHENEY: Yes, he didn't want to pay $100 to run for a 
job that didn't pay anything. 
DOCTER: Yes. [laughter] 

CHENEY: It was a matter of conscience with him. He'd 
be handling money, and he said you couldn't trust people 
who'd buy their way into a nonpaying job. [laughter] 
DOCTER: That's a funny letter. 
CHENEY: That's it. 

DOCTER: Yes. I'd better hand these back to you before 
I lose them. It's easy to lose these little ones, isn't 

CHENEY: Yes, it is. You remember that letter from Gordon 
Williams? It's the smallest thing I did, and Grant lost 
the one that I gave him. Had to find another one for him. 
DOCTER: Now, Gordon Williams was a former UCLA library 
man who went back to Chicago and who owned a handpress. 
CHENEY: Yeah, he wrote a letter distinguishing between 
ravens and crows, and I printed that edition of it as a 
keepsake for the Rounce and Coffin. And those are easily 
lost, notwithstanding that Glen Dawson got hold of it. 
He charged about twenty-five dollars for one of those, some- 
thing like that, because there were very few that got out 
into the public. It was printed for members of the R and 
C. Anyway, Grant promptly lost his, and I had to find 


another one for him. I had one or two extras. 

DOCTER: It's very interesting that this was distributed 

in 1966, and that was the year that I was not here in 

Los Angeles, because I don't think I've ever seen this. 

This is only about 1/2 inch x 3/4 inch. 


DOCTER: And bound. A beauty, really a beauty. 

CHENEY: Thirty-point, I think it's thirty-point measure. 

That is, the line lengths — two and one-half pica. 

DOCTER: Very exceptional piece of work. Must have been 

very difficult to bind. 

CHENEY: Yes. Held it together with a paper clip while I 

was sewing it and gluing it and getting it into its cover. 

DOCTER: Really an exception. Do you think the Rounce and 

Coffin Club will survive? 

CHENEY: I don't know. You mean survive the women that 

are in it? [laughter] I haven't been to a meeting in two 

or three years. I don't know what goes on there now. 

DOCTER: Well, of course, the old-timers, one by one, will 

become less active. [Lawrence Clark] Powell dropped out 

years ago, long before my time. I guess you would have 

been a member when he was still active in it. 

CHENEY: Yes, I became a member in, oh, about December '49. 

Powell still came to at least half the meetings through the 

fifties. And Grant Dahlstrom used to come to every meeting; 


I don't think he comes very often any more. Of course, 
Saul Marks is gone now. I guess Jake still attends 
meetings pretty well. [Ward] Ritchie seldom shows up. 
DOCTER: Well, that's bound to change an organization, 
isn't it, when the old-timers fall by the wayside? 
CHENEY: Yes. Well, it's changed its nature quite a 
bit, anyway. It's become a more or less serious club. It 
was sort of a carousing club when I first knew it. Members 
would just meet and then have a great time, and there was 
very seldom much discussion of the graphic arts. 
DOCTER: It was more of a get-together. 

CHENEY: Yes. But after the women began — but even before 
there were women members, they began to take over and 
decide where the meeting would be held, and so forth, and 
it lost its old character. Like that time that Beatrice 
Warde was a guest, and the club was going to hold the 
meeting at the Thistle Inn. And the women — wives of the 
members — wouldn't have that; it had to be out in Century 
City. A little more style. Since then, the club has 
never been the same . 
DOCTER: I remember that meeting. 

CHENEY: We used to meet — go down in the Good Fellows 
Grotto — that's where the twentieth anniversary was held — 
that was down on Main Street next to the Follies Theatre. 
It's been torn down since then. And then we went to that 


French restaurant that's down near the Union Depot. 

DOCTER: Taix's? 


DOCTER: Was that it? T-a-i-x? 

CHENEY: Yes, I think that's the name of it. I don't 

remember whether it was Taix's or Foix's, but it's the 

name of some French bread. 

DOCTER: Oh, there's a place called Pierre down there. 


DOCTER: But that's more of a sandwich place, I think. I 

think you may mean Taix's. They serve coffee in a glass. 


DOCTER: And you eat family style. That place. 

CHENEY: Yes. They had more than sandwiches. I know we 

had pea soup. 

DOCTER: What was Powell like? Was he a friendly guy? 

CHENEY: He was friendly when he was on social occasions; 

I don't know what he was like in business, in his work. 

But socially, he was friendly. 

DOCTER: I've only had contact with him at sort of big 

meetings. Like he was at--remember when they had the big 

dinner to honor Ritchie, ten or fifteen years ago? 


Yes, that was the Trogman episode. 

That's right. 

That's how they persuaded Trogman to stay there — 

because it was a dinner honoring Ritchie, and, apparently. 


this particular chicken dish was a favorite of Ritchie's, 
or else it was something he'd thought up, so Trogman was 
persuaded to stay. I never did understand that, though — 
how one leg had brown meat, and the other leg had white 
meat on it. [laughter] I think one of the women explained 
that they weren't legs, really, that they wrapped the meat 
around the ends of these long — they were long bones, like 
that. It must have been like the leg of a crane. And each 
one had two; and one of them was all white meat, and the 
other was all brown meat. 
DOCTER: Strange. 

CHENEY: Finally got Trograan to eat a little of it by 
pouring salt on it. I told him that you could eat anything 
if you poured enough salt on it and kill it. 
DOCTER: You know, Trogman has made a lot of money with 
these phototypositor machines. Did you know that? He got 
off into importing these machines that use a negative on 
35-millimeter film, and then they expose the 
sensitive paper with each letter. You can enlarge it to 
whatever size you want from the negative for a headliner. 
Did you know that he was in that business? 
CHENEY: No, I knew that he was in something like that, 
but ... 

DOCTER: I think he's done pretty well at it. He puts out 
the machines as well as the negatives for different type- 


At one of the earlier meetings, say in the forties, 
of the Rounce and Coffin Club — what would it have been like? 
Did people just get together for social purposes, or would 
somebody give a little talk, or. . . ? 

CHENEY: Yes, there were talks at those meetings sometimes. 
They had guests, but they were much more free and easy in 
those days. But there were different schools: those that 
wanted more seriousness and more purpose, and those that 
didn't. Even back in the forties there were disagreements 
among the members. Some of them would get dissatisfied and 
quit because it didn't seem to have enough purpose. 
DOCTER: Social purposes weren't enough. 
CHENEY: But, of course, there was the Western Books 
exhibit, that we sponsored, and, oh, I think that began 
back in the thirties. 

DOCTER: Now, was [H. Richard] Archer the club secretary 
at that time? 

CHENEY: He was both the secretary and treasurer. He was 
the only person we could get with enough devotion to it 
to do both jobs. And after he left, why, they had 
difficulty. It fell on [William F.] Eshelman — did you know 
Bill Eshelman? 

CHENEY: And he couldn't handle it alone, so he and [Carey] 
Bliss handled it. One of them was secretary and the other 


treasurer. And since then, they've had the two offices, 
because it's too much work for one man. Archer used to 
manage it by himself and he didn't seem to mind it. 
DOCTER: He was the director of the Clark Library, wasn't 

CHENEY: Yes, let's see, what did they — supervising biblio- 
grapher, I think they'd call it. Powell was the director 
at that time. 
DOCTER: Oh, he was? 

CHENEY: Yes. That's a different title. For instance, 
Conway's not the director now. He's the chief librarian. 
They used to call him supervising bibliographer, and they 
gave that name up and call him librarian now at the Clark. 
But Vosper is still the director. 

DOCTER: But it doesn't seem fair because the director 
isn't really there directing anything. 

CHENEY: No, but he has authority. Decisions have to be 
referred to him. 
DOCTER: Is that right? 

DOCTER: I only met Archer once, so I don't know him at 
all. In fact, I met him at that Beatrice Warde meeting. 
I think he was out for a visit. Well, why did Archer leave 
the staff of the Clark Library? 
CHENEY: Well, he and Powell had a few differences. He 


wasn't getting ahead fast enough, and he didn't have his 
doctorate, and Powell wanted someone with a doctorate; 
and so Archer was moved out to UCLA. He was taken out of 
the Clark. I think that was Powell's working, arid Archer 
didn't like that much. So he quit, and he went back to 
[R.H.] Donnelly [& Co.] in Chicago. He got a job as head 
librarian for Donnelly. And meanwhile, he went to school 
and got his doctorate while he was there, and then he 
became librarian of the — is it Chapping or Chapin Library 
at the Williams College? 

DOCTER: Well, it must have been an awful hard decision for 
a person to give up his work out here in Southern California, 
friends within the Rounce and Coffin Club, and all this stuff, 
Was it quite a . . . ? 

CHENEY: Well, I suppose he did have difficulty in that 
decision, but I think he was determined. And I think that 
Margot was more upset about it than he was. He was fed up 
with things. I think there was some politics going on that 
he didn't like, and he saw some of his associates being 
advanced beyond him, and so on. 

DOCTER: Well, didn't it sometimes seem peculiar to have 
Powell sort of in an administrative authority and, at the 
same time, have these different social things that involved 
some of the members of the Rounce and Coffin Club that were 
part of Powell's own staff? I mean, did this create any 


CHENEY: Well, I suppose there was some that went on 
among them. I don't know; it didn't show up in club 
meetings. I don't know. But I think that was one reason 
why Archer undertook to be both secretary and treasurer. 
He got credits for that--handling the Rounce and Coffin 
and handling the Western Books exhibit, and so on. 
DOCTER: Did he handle all that? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes, he handled all the business of the 
club at this time. 

DOCTER: Tremendous responsibility. Well, did you ever 
know Powell very personally? 

CHENEY: Well, I knew him. I met him at the club meetings, 
and then he'd drop in at my shop. And then, after I was 
over at the Clark, he used to stop by at my place every 
time he'd come over to the Clark. Talked to him a niamber 
of times. Never knew each other intimately. 
DOCTER: He seems to be a brilliant writer. Have you seen 
the articles he's done for Westways recently, in the last 
two, three years? 

CHENEY: Let's see, he wrote the one on Zeitlin, didn't 
he, that came out last year? 
CHENEY: I read that one. 

DOCTER: And then he's had a series that's been very success- 
ful on California authors, western authors — southwest 


authors, I guess it is . It's just been a delight to read. 
He has such a talent for setting things down. Well, I 
guess when you get into administrative work, as he was in, 
it's inevitable — somewhere along the line, people get 
transferred, or somebody gets promoted before someone 
else, and it's hard to keep everybody happy. In general, 
has Powell been a person that the working librarians were 
happy with? Did they think of him as an SOB, or what? 
CHENEY: Well, I imagine that they liked him. But I don't 
know from the inside. I haven't any connections with the 
library. I wouldn't know. 

DOCTER: Well, he certainly achieved a great deal, didn't 
he? Serving, as he did, as the director of the library 
school, and so forth. And I guess Archer's had a pretty 
distinguished career also. And he's still printing, isn't 

CHENEY: Yes. He printed me some stationery that he sent 
me last Christmas. 
DOCTER: He did? 

CHENEY: Yes. He designs, well, for festivals, plays, and 
so forth, that they do in Williamstown. I think he did 
programs and announcements and so forth for one of those 
plays, a Chekhov play, that was on public television. It 
was shown last night. I don't know whether you saw it or 
not. I forget the name of the play. It was filmed in 


Williamstown, and the players first gave it there. He 

does programs for plays and various festivals and so forth 

that they have. 

DOCTER: Let me come back to a couple of these printed 

pieces that you've kindly gotten out here. You mentioned 

that you probably would stick with Caslon if you were going 

to go out and buy a . . . 

CHENEY: No, I think Baskerville. 

DOCTER: I'm sorry, Baskerville, excuse me. When it comes 

to headlines and display faces, what do you think of in 

the selection of display faces? What strikes you, interests 


CHENEY: Oh, I think the larger sizes of the text type 

that one uses, generally speaking. 

DOCTER: And stick with it consistently. 

CHENEY: Yes, I like that best. Use Baskerville capitals. 

DOCTER: Are there any important differences between the 

Baskerville letters in the foundry type, which I think you 

still have — don't you? — and the monotype Baskerville? Are 

they identical? 

CHENEY: No, I think the monotype is much closer to the 

original Baskerville. The foundry is actually a Fry face; 

Fry's Georgian, or some such name, but the foundry simply 

called it Baskerville. 

DOCTER: I see. 


CHENEY: It's derived from Baskerville, but there's some 

DOCTER: I see. " 

CHENEY: There's more contrast of thick and thin.' 
DOCTER: With the foundry. 

CHENEY: Yes. It's a little weaker in the text sizes, a 
little bit spidery effect. But in the large capitals, it's 
more distinctive, and you get up to thirty-six and forty- 
eight point, it's a very rich face. 
DOCTER: A more beautiful capital. 
CHENEY: Yes. The foundry— both Stevenson-Blake and ATF 

have the same. 

DOCTER: I think in the larger caps the thick and thins 

are a little more contrasty, aren't they? 

CHENEY: Yes, but they're very rich. You get dovm to 

smaller sizes, and it's a little bit weak. You get down 

under fourteen-point and the foundry is weaker than the 


DOCTER: Over the years, probably Glen Dawson has brought 

you as much work to do as anyone, hasn't he? 


DOCTER: These different books. 

CHENEY: For that kind of work. Of course, I've done quite 

a bit of commercial work; especially when I was up on La 

Cienega, I did quite a bit. 


DOCTER: What kind of commercial work? I think a lot 
of people don't realize that you've done that. 
CHENEY: Just jobs as they come along--invoices and letter- 
heads and business cards. 

DOCTER: The same kind of thing that I print. 
CHENEY: Yes. And typesetting proofs for off setters, 
for two or three off setters up in that area. They got their 
typesetting from me. 

DOCTER: It's curious that a lot of people — or perhaps I 
shouldn't say a lot of people, but often people that are 
interested in books forget that most printers do commercial 
printing. They're not just printing fine books. I think 
Dahlstrom still does a lot of straight commercial printing, 
doesn't he? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes, that's where he makes his money. He 
doesn't make it off the books he does. 

DOCTER: Would it be fair to say that Dahlstrom is one of 
the godfathers of fine printing in Southern California? 
CHENEY: Well, yes, I think so. It depends on what period. 
For his time--oh, who was the printer that he apprenticed 
himself to? I can't think of the name, but. . . . 
DOCTER: Dahlstrom? 

CHENEY: [Bruce] McCallister was supposed to be the Los 
Angeles printer back in the twenties. 
DOCTER: And Dahlstrom worked for McCallister, did he? 


CHENEY: Yes. That's where he did his first work. 

DOCTER: Is Dahlstrom from Southern California? 

CHENEY: I think he came from Utah. Either Utah or Idaho, 

some Mormon clan. 

DOCTER: Is he a Mormon? 

CHENEY: No, but he was born a Mormon, and his was a 

Mormon family. 


CHENEY: Something like my wife. Mormonism's died out, 

but he came from Mormon stock. 

DOCTER: I see. When you began your work in the early 

thirties, were you aware of Dahlstrom? 

CHENEY: No, I didn't know him. Probably Strieker mentioned 

him. I know Strieker used to talk about Saul Marks a good 

deal, and he probably mentioned Dahlstrom, but I don't 

recall it. 

DOCTER: Did you know Saul at that time? 

CHENEY: No, I didn't. I didn't know any of these printers. 

Well, I'd met Ritchie once or twice during the thirties, 

but Strieker was really my only substantial contact with 

printing in the thirties. 

DOCTER: And during the war years you weren't doing so 

much printing; you were out there working at Douglas. 

CHENEY: I didn't do any then. I sold my press in 1941. 

DOCTER: That's right. 


CHENEY: Didn't get back into printing until '46 or '47. 
DOCTER: So when did you first meet Dahlstrom? 
CHENEY: Well, through Archer. I don't recall just how I 
met Archer. I think — oh, yes, Powell asked me for any 
Strieker items I had for the Strieker collection, and so 
I wrote a letter listing the things I had and asking what 
he wanted of those, and Powell just says to use all of 
them. I'd supposed that they'd want some of them and I 
could keep some collection. I sent them most of my 
Strieker items and kept out a very few. Anyway, when 
I wrote to Powell again, why. Archer answered me, and so 
I wrote an answer to Archer, and Reuben Pearson answered 
me. It went down the chain. I'd get a step down each time 
in my answer. Reuben Pearson was with the Clark Library at 
that time. He later went up to Pebble Beach — yes. Pebble 
Beach — and became a schoolteacher. Well, anyway, I went 
out to see Archer later, and he showed me around the 
library. So, I came to know him and met Dahlstrom through 
him. I gave them one of these announcements of the old 
Auk Press and glued it together so they couldn't see the 
insides, so they'd just see the outside there. Dahlstrom 
took it home and soaked it apart so that he could read the 
inside. I was just kind of embarrassed by the copy on 
the inside. I wouldn't be now, but I was at that time. 
DOCTER: In what way were you embarrassed? 


CHENEY: Oh, I don't know, I just thought it was foolish- 
ness, their talking about all these fine Q s , and ligature 
Qu's and whatnot, that I had, and a ligature 2^, and I 
couldn't find any word except apology to use it in; so it 
just didn't seem like a businesslike announcement for job 
shops starting up. 

DOCTER: Well, it's very typically Cheney. 

CHENEY: Well, maybe that's what I wanted to hide. [laughter] 
Anyway, I glued the thing together. I thought that they could 
have that cover. So Dahlstrom took it home and soaked it, 
and opened it up. 

DOCTER: I'll bet he was surprised. 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know. I don't know whether it sur- 
prised him or not, but he was satisfied, anyway, to have it, 
so he could open it. 

DOCTER: Is Dahlstrom a very good collector? Would he have 
hung onto that and cataloged it somehow? 

CHENEY: I don't know whether he catalogs things, but he 
hangs onto things, except for the little Ravens and Crows 
that he lost. 

DOCTER: Well, you could lose that on the way home. How 
about [Ed] Carpenter? Carpenter have a copy of this? 
CHENEY: I don't know what Carpenter has. He has things 
you'd think he never would have, that he finds somewhere 
or other. You throw things away, and somehow they wind 


up in Carpenter's hands. He either comes and hunts 
under tables and on the floor and in wastebaskets , or 
other people do it for him. But, anyway, he possesses 
many things that one had thought would have been dis- 
posed of. 

DOCTER: He must have one of the finest private collec- 
tions of ephemera. 

CHENEY: He has things that no one else would collect — 
spoiled sheets that are dropped on the floor and been 
stepped on. They have a shoe mark on them. Somehow they 
were left there and Carpenter finds them. 
DOCTER: I told you about that tympan paper I gave him. 
DOCTER: He liked that. 

CHENEY: Well, those things, taken singly, they're just 
trash, but I suppose if you have a collection of them they 
have a value. 

DOCTER: Yes. Come to think of it, I've never heard of 
anyone collecting tympan paper. It's a good idea, good 
idea. What did you do with the linoleum block for this? 
CHENEY: Oh, it disappeared somewhere or other. 
DOCTER: Really. 

CHENEY: Probably threw it in, I was so eager to get rid 
of everything connected with that press when I sold it 
in 1941. I think I just threw in the blocks and cuts 


that I had, along with all the types and initials and 

Cleland ornaments and everything else. 

DOCTER: Well, why did you want to get rid of it? 

CHENEY: Oh, I was tired of it and didn't want to think 

about it. I didn't think I'd ever go back to printing 


DOCTER: You sold it for just a few dollars. 


DOCTER: Twenty-five dollars? 

CHENEY: Twenty-five or thirty-five, I forget which it 

was. It included the press, and type stand, and the cases, 

and all the type. I just threw away all the cuts, and so 

on. The fellow that bought it wouldn't have cared for those 

things, anyway. He was rather disappointed anyway; he said, 

"Don't you have any of this type and of that type?" Thinking 

of certain job faces that were popular at the time. He got 

all this Caslon Oldstyle, including that eleven-point Caslon 

and all the pothook £'s that it had with it. French and 

German accents. It was just useless to him. He just wanted 

a press where he could do cards and so on. But at that 

time, I wasn't reasoning that way; I just wanted to get rid 

of it all, be done with it and not have to think about it. 

DOCTER: Ever hear of the guy again? 

CHENEY: No. At the time I started collecting type again, 

along in '48, I tried to think of his name. It seemed to 


me his name was Wright, probably, but there were so many 

Wrights, and I couldn't remember his first name, so it 

was no use trying to find him again. I thought perhaps 

I could get back my Cleland ornaments and a few things like 

that if he still had them. But I had no address for him, 

and I wasn't sure of his last name; I didn't know his first 

name, and there are about five pages of Wrights in the phone 

book. I gave up on that. 

DOCTER: When did you first come across Saul and Lillian's 


CHENEY: Oh, I suppose I was shown it by Archer when I was 

visiting out at the Clark. And then, after I became a 

member of the Rounce and Coffin, of course, I met Saul. I 

don't know just when I first examined his work. I worked 

for Saul in 1950 for about six weeks. 

DOCTER: Six weeks. 

CHENEY: Yes. Joe Simon told me that's about what most 

people lasted with Saul, is six weeks. 

DOCTER: How come? 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know. With the particular job that 

he was working on at that time, anyway — I finished my work 

on that. They were going away to Europe at that time. 

Anyway, they dispensed with me. I don't know whether they'd 

intended that I stay longer, or whether I intended to stay 

longer, or whatnot, but, anyway, he was working on, oh, one 


of the Southern California travel series for Dawson. I 
made up the page forms and printed some of them. They 
were set on monotype. Lillian did the monotype composi- 
tion . 

DOCTER: Well, did he actually come to you and say, "Will, 
we're going to have to let you go; we can't afford to 
keep you"? 

CHENEY: Well, in effect, yes. He called me up after I 
went home one night. We parted good friends and were 
discussing music. He was asking me whether I liked 
chamber music, and we discussed that for a while, and I 
went home. And then, later in the evening he called up 
and said that he thought probably my Pilot press was get- 
ting rusty, the press I had in the basement — I hadn't used 
it enough — and asked me if I didn't want to go back to 
working on my Pilot press. Well, I didn't expect it to 
last very long, anyway, there. It's just a little family 
business. They have to schedule their work according to 
what they have. 

DOCTER: But surely, most certainly, you would have been 
helpful to them. Knowing how to handle type, and. . . . 
CHENEY: I didn't do much handling type. I made up pages 
and locked them up and did press work, but there wasn't 
much type work to do. 
DOCTER: What was it like to work for Saul? What was he 


like when he was at work? 

CHENEY: Well, he was never in a hurry — fussy but 
DOCTER: Too fussy? 

CHENEY: No, not too fussy. Fussy isn't quite the word. 
He was particular. Very particular about impression and 
inking and just the color of the ink — sometimes the press 
would be washed up and reinked five or six times before 
you could start on a job. Quite particular about his 
work, and about make-ready. Studying the back of the 
sheet from all angles, and various lights to see if the 
impression was exact everywhere. He told me a story of 
when he and Grant were working on something years before. 
They were studying the back of the sheet, and Grant kept 
insisting it needed more impression right here, it needed 
just a little more attention here. And Saul said, no, it 
didn't. They argued and argued about it, and finally they 
turned it over to see how it was printing up on the other 
side, and it was a blank place. There wasn't supposed to 
be any type there. So that settled the argument about 
whether they should put more tissue on at that point. But 
Grant could see at a glance that it wasn't getting enough 
impression there, and Saul thought it was getting enough. 
DOCTER: Oh, that's funny. Must have been something to 
see the two of them work on a job together. 


CHENEY: Well, they had thi?ir difficulties. Ward Ritchie 
and Saul always had difficulty about who had lent what 
type to which and why they didn't get it back. Saul had 
acquired some type that Strieker had had, the Stationers 
script, or something such, and Ritchie wanted to use it. 
So Saul lent it to Ritchie, and according to Saul's 
account, that was the last anyone ever saw of it; it was 
several years before, and Saul never got it back. Then 
later, a year or so after I'd worked for Saul, Saul called 
up and wanted to know whether I had any fists. He said he 
never stocked those things, because he didn't like them. 
And so I sent him a selection of fists. 


FEBRUARY 11, 197 5 

DOCTER: When we were just concluding our discussion last 

time, I think you had mentioned that there was a time when 

Saul had loaned something to Ward Ritchie, some type, and 

then complained that Ward had never given it back. And 

you mentioned that you had been asked to loan some fists 

to Saul. Maybe you could explain the conclusion of that 


CHENEY: Well, there's not much story to it. It was a 

little collection of fists. I made up a pair of each 

size and of each style and mailed them over to him, and 

that's the last I ever saw or heard of them. They just 

disappeared. But that happens whenever you lend out 

type; you don't see it again. The most honest printers 

will mislay it and forget it; that's all there is to that 

story. That was the end of those fists. 

DOCTER: One of the things that I was thinking over after 

I left was, you mentioned that you had worked for Saul for 

about six weeks . 


DOCTER: And then that he called you in the evening and 

said he wasn't going to use you anymore. 


DOCTER: Now, it seems peculiar that he would call you. 


Why didn't he just chat with you about it, or something? 

CHENEY: Oh, I don't know that he'd made up his mind at 

the time that I was still there, or not. We were discussing 

• — just before I left, he asked me whether I liked chamber 

music, and I said, yes, I enjoyed it. And he said, "Well, 

we sometimes have little musicales here, and some night 

maybe you'd like to come over to one of them." And that 

was the last that was said. And then in the evening he 

called me up and asked me if my press was getting rusty. 

It was a little Pilot I had in the basement, and wasn't 

using it, now it must be getting rusty. And then he 

suggested he couldn't use me anymore there. 

DOCTER: Was Saul at times having difficulty making ends 


CHENEY: Well, I think almost always — it was a little 

operation, and he wasn't an efficient businessman; he was 

a craftsman rather than a businessman. I think probably 

Lillian had more hand in the business, had more business 

acumen, than he. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: But they were always running from week to week. 

And collections were slow, and they couldn't buy paper, 

and so on. 

DOCTER: Would collections often be a problem? 

CHENEY: Well, they always are. The little collections. 


with individuals, aren't so bad; but with businesses, he 
did a good deal of work for typographers, that is, ad 
agencies (he provided the typography) , and that was always 
slow pay. 

DOCTER: What work did he have you do while you were there? 
CHENEY: Well, press work, and odd jobs that he wanted done 
while he was working on, oh, one of the California travel 
series, somebody's journal. They went across the plains to 
San Diego. I've forgotten the exact title. He was working 
on that, and he had me doing job work and molding the pigs 
for the monotype and all sorts of odd things. 
DOCTER: Well, he probably really needed an extra person, 
didn't he? 

CHENEY: He did for a while. But they were cleaning up all 
their work and getting it out of the way. They were going 
to take a trip to Europe. They went to Paris. I think they 
stayed a month or so at that time. 

DOCTER: Oh, yes. This would have been in the fifties, 
was it? 

CHENEY: Spring of '50. I think they went about in May of 
'50, and I was there along in March — March and April, some- 
where in there. 

DOCTER: I once heard it said that Saul sold his press in 
order to make that trip. Do you know if that's a true 
story or not? 


CHENEY: He may have sold one after I left there. His 
main press at that time was a Laureate, which was like 
the Colt's Armory, only larger. And since then he's had 
several different presses. But I think that Laureate 
disappeared. And he had a German-model press of the 
same general sort later. 

DOCTER: You mentioned when we were talking last that 
frequently people would only work for Saul for maybe four, 
five, six weeks--something to that effect. 
CHENEY: I got that from Joe Simon. He asked me how long 
my job had lasted, and I said about six weeks. And he 
said, "Well, that's the usual. That's about the maximum." 
DOCTER: What did he mean? 

CHENEY: Well, for one reason or another, the jobs didn't 
last long. Either they weren't satisfactory to Saul or 
there was just so much work. For whatever reason, jobs 
just didn't last. Saul complimented me on the way I fed 
the Laureate; that whenever I threw it off (you know how 
those things throw off), as the platen is descending, I'd 
pull it off, and it didn't make a lot of clatter. He said 
the last pressman he had there would throw it off fast 
when it was going up, and clear down on the street below, 
which is about a quarter of a block away (if you've seen 
Saul's place, there, you go down all those stairs to the 
street) , you could hear it clear down on the street, as he 


fought with the press. [laughter] 

DOCTER: That's funny. He appreciated a little quiet 
technique. . . ? 

CHENEY: Yes, well, I never got impatient with the press. 
Some pressmen, you know, get impatient and slam the throw 
out and slam around. And I was never impatient, because 
I was never in a hurry. I didn't care how long a job took. 
Of course, that was — I don't know whether that was a 
recommendation to Lillian. She was rather efficient, and 
she doesn't like a job to take too long. 
DOCTER: I see. When I was getting some training from 
Saul in that course that he had on the art of the book 
over at USC, we spent quite a bit of time around this one 
Albion handpress that he'd gotten from England. And I got 
the impression that Saul was a poor mechanic. Did you 
have any opportunity to see his mechanical aptitude? 
CHENEY: Well, we never did repair work when I was there, 
but I would think that he wasn't much of a judge of a 
mechanic, because when he saw a few of the things I did-- 
locking up the form and so forth — he said, "You're a good 
mechanic." And I'm about the poorest mechanic I know of. 
I can do things where I've learned the routine, but I 
have no mechanical inventiveness; I can't figure out any- 
thing. Once I've learned the rote, I can do something. 
But he commended me on being a good mechanic, and if I 


looked like a good mechanic to him, why, then he's not 
much of a judge. 

DOCTKR: Was Saul a person to give many compliments? 
CHENEY: Oh, yes. He was very polite — courteous is 
perhaps a better word. He is a courteous man. Or was. 
DOCTER: What would a typical day have been like, then? 
This was, of course, before he built a little studio on 
the back of his house, which he later did. He had his 
handpress and so on out there. You would have been under- 
neath the house, on the first floor, in the front. 

DOCTER: What would it have been like in a typical day 
there? What time would you begin? What time did he begin? 
CHENEY: Theoretically, after breakfast, I suppose, but he 
was rather leisurely. I started when I got there. Left 
here and went on the streetcar and bus to Vermont and 
Santa Monica and then walked from there, about a mile or 
so from Vermont and Santa Monica. I think I got there 
about eight-thirty to nine, in between eight-thirty and — 
not a regular time, but around in there. And then we'd 
start, and sometimes there were long discussions before 
we'd start. Discussing things in general. 
DOCTER: No pressure. 

CHENEY: No, there was no atmosphere of pressure. And he 
had a swing chair out in his front yard, and he used to go 


out there and swing and read his mail during the day, 
at any time. Sometimes there was just nothing went on, 
and other times there was the pressure of work, but it 
never seemed to hurry him any. 

DOCTER: And Lillian? What was Lillian like in the shop? 
CHENEY: Well, she was a little more matter-of-fact than 
Saul, but she was pleasant enough. She wouldn't hurry you. 
DOCTER: Was there ever any unpleasantness? 
CHENEY: Not while I was there, except that the kids were 
both in. The boys [Byron and Fred] were both young at that 
time, and one of them was up in his room in the house and 
refused to come out, and the other one was in the front yard 
and threw mud clods up at the window and mud all over the 
house. Lillian went out and scolded him for it; she wasn't 
interested in which kid was right in the argument, but she 
didn't like throwing mud at the house. And Saul just very 
quietly stayed in the shop and went on with his work. That 
was the nearest to unpleasantness, and that was just a 
normal kid-parent relationship. 

DOCTER: Who would really run things, in terms of getting 
the job processed? Would Lillian sort of organize and 
push it, or would Saul be the pusher, or nobody? 
CHENEY: Well, Saul was a designer and planner. Lillian 
did the monotype typing, cutting the strip. Saul did the 
casting. And Lillian did the bookkeeping. 


DOCTER: Did Lillian ever set any type? 

CHENEY: Oh, yes, but generally their text was set mono- 
type, you know. The only hand-set type would be headings 
and titles and sorae job work. But she was a competent 
craftsman and typesetter. They'd worked together for 
years . 

DOCTER: How about getting a job locked up and onto a press? 
Could Lillian do that? 

CHENEY: Well, I suppose she could lock it up. Probably 
wouldn't have been allowed to put it on the press, because — 
I don't know, there's probably been a change in the law now 
— at that time, women weren't allowed to put a chase into a 
press . 

DOCTER: Being so heavy? 

CHENEY: Yes. Because usually they ran over twenty-five 
pounds. Especially this chase. And the Laureate would — 
the type in it would run at least fifty pounds. Anyway, 
they could operate a press but not put the chase in. 
DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: That was a rule, I remember, when I was at the 
Artesia News . They had a woman press-feeder there, and 
she couldn't even put a card job in the press because there 
was just a general rule that they couldn't lift a chase 
into the press. 
DOCTER: I see. 


CHENEY: Also, they couldn't operate a hand paper cutter. 

They could operate a power paper cutter, provided they'd 

get some schoolboy or something to put the paper down for 

them. They couldn't take a lift of paper and put it on the 

paper cutter, but they could operate a power cutter. 

DOCTER: Maybe Women's Lib has changed that. 

CHENEY: It probably has, you know. At least I've heard 

that in industry they no longer have to have two women, 

one on each end, if something weighs more than twenty-five 

pounds. I remember at Douglas seeing these big farm girls 

looking disgusted as they carried a strip of aluminum, one 

on each end. Either one of them could have carried it in 

one hand, but they weren't allowed to. 

DOCTER: I see. Did either Fred or Byron Marks work in 

the shop when you were there? 

CHENEY: Well, not at that time. Later they did. I know 

when I went back later to get some type for a job that I 

printed, and Saul set the type, the monotype, Byron was 

there handling things at that time. 

DOCTER: Byron was? 

CHENEY: Yes. That was several years later. He was just a 

high school boy at the time I was there. 

DOCTER: I see. Would you say that you were a friend of 

Saul's or just a passing acquaintance, or that it was more 

of a business relationship, or how close were you to Saul? 


CHENEY: Well, that's an indefinite sort of thing. I'd 
known him since — well, for twenty-five years or so. Met 
him in the Rounce and Coffin, along about '49, and then 
this work for him was in 1950, and then I met him at 
least two or three times a year since then, up till he 
died, so it's about twenty-five years or so. Never been 
an intimate associate, but more than an acquaintance, 
somewhere between an acquaintance and an intimate friend. 
DOCTER: Do you think of Saul as different from other 

CHENEY: Well, you mean as an individual, having an indi- 
vidual style? Yes, he's different; he's very different, 
for instance, from Grant. Saul is an ornamentalist , and 
Grant doesn't care so much for that. At least, in my 
time, when I thought about it more, why, Saul's impression 
— his impression's heavy, but his inking 's very light. He 
likes a gray page. And Grant is usually full color. (For 
the convenience of this mouthpiece here. Grant means Grant 
Dahlstrom, and the Castle Press.) Saul has his individual- 
ities. His work you recognize at once. Sometimes you 
wouldn't know whether Ritchie or [Gordon] Holmquist or 
Dahlstrom printed something unless you examined it care- 
fully and figured out. But you'd know right away any of 
Saul's work — you know that elaborate border, and the 
ornamented facs, hand-constructed initials, letters built 


up of small pieces, and so on. Yeah, he has an individual 


DOCTER: Do you think there were any important weaknesses 

in his design? 

CHENEY: Well, that's taste. You're asking me, who is 

not an ornamentalist. I would say it's a weakness; to me 

it's overdone. I don't care for those elaborate borders 

and borders around every page of the book, but that's not 

a weakness, that's a question of taste. But he's generally 

considered the best printer of the Los Angeles area, and 

some think that he's the best in the West, or disputes the 

title with Grabhorn. 

DOCTER: How would you compare [Edwin] Grabhorn and Marks? 

CHENEY: Oh, Lord, I shouldn't have brought that up. I 

don't know, they both like — Grabhorn, though, really chewed 

up the paper. He really gave it an impression. 

DOCTER: Probably used a real hard backing? 

CHENEY: Well, of course, he used moistened paper and then 

gave it a very firm impression, and that will impress, and 

it gives an effect of embossing, you know. But he really 

gave it a heavy impression. But, well, I don't know what 

to say. Grabhorn is not the ornamentalist that Saul is. 

DOCTER: Well, don't you sometimes print on wet paper? 

Dampen the paper? 

CHENEY: Well, I would if I wanted to go to that trouble. 


but I've never gone in for that. 

DOCTER: Never found it essential. 

CHENEY: No. It might have improved things if I had, but 

I usually used ordinary papers, pulp paper. I didn't 

use handmade all rags. It wouldn't be worthwhile to 

moisten the ordinary book papers. 

DOCTER: I once got into a big problem trying to moisten 

some Curtis rag. It didn't take the water evenly at all. 

I guess it must have had some kind of sizing on the surface 

of it. Caused me a terrible problem. 

CHENEY: Well, did you press the stack of paper? 

DOCTER: Yes. But it just didn't seem to absorb the 

water in an even surface across the paper. I haven't 

done too much of that since. 

CHENEY: I've kept paper in a humidor — made a little 

humidor out of an old breadbox and put a little table 

in it and kept a dish of water under that. Keep the box 

closed for a while, and the air's wet enough in there 

that it moistens the paper, and that makes it a little 

easier to print small type on rather hard paper. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Just have it moist. The same effect that you'd 

get in printing in rainy weather--you know, it's much 

easier to print in rainy weather than in dry weather. 

DOCTER: I didn't know that. 

CHENEY : Yes . 


DOCTER: That's an interesting idea. 

CHENEY: No, paper's soft in moist weather, and for one 

thing, it lies flat; you know, in dry weather your paper 

curls up on you, and it resists impression more when it's 

dry. But this humidor would give the same effect as moist 

weather. It wouldn't be dampening the paper but just 

moistening it slightly. 

DOCTER: How many sheets could you put in that little 


CHENEY: Well, for the small things that I did, the 

miniature books and so forth, you can put stacks in. You 

see, this was a box, maybe about a foot high; and the 

little table with the dish under it would stand maybe 

three to four inches high and, oh, about ten inches long, 

and six inches across this little table. For small sheets, 

such as I used on those miniature books, you could have 

several stacks of paper ahead for two or three runs. 

DOCTER: And the idea would be to leave it in there for 

several days at a time. 


DOCTER: Or maybe permanently. 

CHENEY: Well, while I was working, until I'd printed 

both sides. 

DOCTER: I see. That's a good trick to know. 

CHENEY: Well, one day doesn't do much of any good. Of 


course, if your humidor's already moist, it'll moisten 
up pretty fast, but it takes a certain amount of time and 
water to moisten the inside of the humidor. 
DOCTER: Right. When you mention that Grant, for example, 
is not an ornamentalist , and that he likes to get, as you 
say, full color, I guess you mean full inking. 
CHENEY: Yes. Yes, that's one thing Saul impressed on me. 
When you say color — of course, I knew that already, but I 
hadn't thought much about it--but Saul said when you say 
color, you mean what the inking is; a light color, or a 
dark color means light black or full black or heavy black. 
Of course, if you say colored inks, why, then you're 
referring to actual color; but when you speak of ink 
color, why, you mean the amount of ink that you're using. 
DOCTER: Well, in any case, would there be any important 
design differences, in addition to those that you've men- 
tioned, that would differentiate Dahlstrom and some others 
from Saul Marks? I think you've mentioned ornamentation and 
inking. What about impression? Would Grant use as strong 
an impression or any different kind of packing than Saul 

CHENEY: Well, of course, in my time, Grant didn't do his 
own printing. He had his pressmen do his work, but I'd 
say it was--he didn't bite in like Saul's. Saul's you 
could always feel on the other side of the page. Grant is 


more of a professional — competent, professional work. 

DOCTER: What kind of packing would Saul use on a typical 

job, do you remember, when you were doing some of that press 


CHENEY: Hard packing, as little as possible. That is, set 

the press in — the platen impression high. Use as little 

packing as possible. And he used acetate pressboard, 

because it's a very hard surface. I think I gave you some 

of that, transparent pressboard. Because that's a harder 

surface than this fiber pressboard. 

DOCTER: Yes, I think in the old days they used to use that 

red fiber pressboard a lot, didn't they? 

CHENEY: Yes. They still do. 

DOCTER: Oh, do they? 

CHENEY: Yes. That is, for letterpress. Anybody that 

prints — if there's anyone left that prints letterpress, why, 

they still use it. It's the customary pressboard. 

DOCTER: Well, let me ask this: In order to get a hard 

packing, would you put the acetate directly behind the 

tympan paper? 

CHENEY: You do when you're ready to go. First you have 

it underneath, and you have your tympan and your draw sheet 

(your draw sheet is the top sheet) , until you've got your 

impression and tissued up your make-ready sheet. Then you 

put that on the sheet below the draw sheet; after you're 

ready to go and have your pins set — because you want to set 


your pins and see that they're down tight before you put 

your pressboard under the top sheet; otherwise you dent 

it. But when you're all ready to go, then you move your 

tympan packing above the make-ready sheet, which was the 

pressboard on top, right under the . . . 

DOCTER: Right under the tympan? 

CHENEY: Right under the draw sheet, yeah. 

DOCTER : Hmm . 

CHENEY: That's supposed to give the firmest and clearest 

impression and also save your type, because it's a square, 

flat impression; whereas if there's any softness, why, the 

type sinks in and the edges of the type wear off. 

DOCTER: Um-hmm. 

CHENEY: Wear round. 


CHENEY: However, there is a soft tympan school. Strieker 

belonged to that. He'd start with a rubber blanket and 

build up. His idea was that you got a better impression by 

just sinking the type into a nice soft tympan. 


CHENEY: It seemed to work with him. He got a pretty good 


DOCTER: Yes. Those samples you showed me last week. 

CHENEY: But Saul belonged to the hard tympan school, and 

so I asked Dahlstrom for a comment on that. He said, hard 


tympan by all means. And there are those that say that 
they use a hard tympan for type, but for--what do you 
call these reproductions of photographs? 
DOCTER: Half-tones? 

CHENEY: Yes. Half-tones. For half-tones you use a soft 
tympan. Most of the commercial printers seem to believe 
that, but Dahlstrom doesn't. I asked him about half- 
tones, and he says it doesn't matter what you're printing; 
use a hard tympan. There are different views on these 
questions . 

DOCTER: Grant Dahlstrom seems to be something of a father 
figure. Everyone at some time seems to have been influenced 
somewhat by him. Was he important at all in helping you get 
started? Did you know him at all at the beginning? 
CHENEY: Well, Archer introduced me to him. I worked for a 
month or so for Dahlstrom, long before I worked for Saul. 
But I helped in producing his Sacramento book. I made up 
the forms on that, made up the pages. That was linotype-set, 
and oh, let's see, what was it, a 40-em measure, I 
believe; and two 20-em slugs had to be butted, and they had 
to be sawed to fit them together. And then the pages made 
up, and Grant was very fussy that there be no widow pages. 
It meant sometimes leading out and sometimes not leading, 
and so on, to make these lines fit and get the illustrations 


DOCTER: Now, the definition of a widow page would be a 
page that ends with a hyphen? 

CHENEY: No, it's a page that has a widowed line at the 
top. That is . . . 
DOCTER: . . . incomplete? 

CHENEY: ... an incomplete line at the top. Then some- 
times they'd speak of the last line of a paragraph any- 
where on a page was one three-letter word, or something 
like that, they considered a widowed line. But generally 
it means the short, first line at the top of a page. And 
those upset Dahlstrom. 

DOCTER: What was Grant like to work with? 
CHENEY: Well, I don't know, he was all right. He's 
businesslike in his work; he's very easygoing in social 
matters, but he's rather businesslike. You had to keep 
going. I think they had only a half -hour lunch. Didn't 
dawdle over their — with Saul Marks, it was dawdling all 
day long. He dawdled, and the people that worked for him 
dawdled, but there was none of that at Dahlstrom' s. Of 
course, it's a commercial press, the Castle Press. People 
were kept at work. And the compositors, in my time, didn't 
have any stools to sit on; they were expected to stand, 
which is the old practice — that you're supposed to stand at 
the case, at the working bank. I had a high stool and a 
low stool--a high stool to work up in the working bank 


and a low stool for working the cases, lower down the 

stand. And Grant said, "What do you want those for? 

Supposed to stand to work." Which you are. You can work 

faster if you stand, but you can enjoy it more if you sit 


DOCTER: Yes. I agree. 

CHENEY: But the thing was, there was nowhere to sit down 

anywhere in his shop, unless you went back and sat on the 

packing cases and the paper. That sort of thing. People 

had to hunt around for places when they ate their lunch. 

DOCTER: No extra chairs. 

CHENEY: No, there were no chairs in the shop. And you had 

to find a place to sit — sit up on a table or something of 

that sort. 

DOCTER: A little earlier you mentioned Joe Simon. He's 

the brother of Lillian Marks, isn't he? 


DOCTER: And he's now running Ward Ritchie's establishment, 

I think, isn't he? 

CHENEY: Well, I suppose he is, if Ward Ritchie's retired 

from it. I don't know what happened there, but he was a 

partner with Ritchie. 

DOCTER: Well, is it true that there was a falling-out 

between Joe Simon and Saul and Lillian in some way? 

CHENEY: I wouldn't know about that, except that I don't 


think that Saul and Simon liked each other much; I suppose 

just brother-in-law antagonism. I don't know. I really 

don't know much of the gossip about. ... 

DOCTER: Is Simon much of a printer? 

CHENEY: Well, he's the manager at Ritchie and Simon. I 

don't know how much he does himself, except that I've seen 

in books, "This bibliography is printed by Ward Ritchie 

Press and designed by Joseph Simon." But personally I 

don't know. I've never seen him at work. Don't know just 

how he works . : 

DOCTER: What about Ward Ritchie? Have you ever had the 

opportunity to do any work with Ward Ritchie, directly? 

CHENEY: No. Just talked to him. He's the first one of 

that group I knew. I met him back in the thirties. 


CHENEY: Well, mainly through Strieker, I suppose. At 

any rate. Ward Ritchie came over and saw my press when I 

was over there on Allison Avenue — that first press I had. 

Just looked at it and said it was a pretty good setup, 

he thought. And that's about all that happened during the 

thirties with Ward Ritchie. 

DOCTER: Does his printing seem clearly distinguishable 

in any ways from Saul Marks or Grant Dahlstrom or others? 

CHENEY: I suppose so. I couldn't say just how. I think 

I'd know the difference, but I can't pinpoint just how I 


would. You could tell how you would know Saul's printing 

from anyone else's, but, oh, I think Ritchie's is a little 

more open, light and open, than Dahlstrom's. But then 

they've done so many things, so many different kinds of 

things, in all the styles. After all, the Castle Press and 

Ward Ritchie Press are commercial presses, and they do work 

in almost any style. 

DOCTER: Right. 

CHENEY: And their subordinates have charge of much of the 

work. But I don't know that you could tell a Ritchie Press 

item, necessarily. 

DOCTER: After you've mentioned men like Saul Marks, Saul 

and Lillian Marks and Ward Ritchie and Grant Dahlstrom and 

Strieker, what other people do you think of as distinguished 

printers in Southern California? 

CHENEY: Well, of course, there was Holmquist. 

DOCTER: Gordon Holmquist. 

CHENEY: Yes. Gordon Holmquist. 

DOCTER: Who was he? 

CHENEY: He was a printer down there on Eleventh or Twelfth 

Street and Flower, somewhere down in there. it was the Cole- 

Holmquist Press; and I don't know who Cole was, but it was 

called the Cole-Holmquist Press. And he was a member of 

Rounce and Coffin. And he and [Richard] Hoffman [the College 

Press] represented the ultraconservative faction in the 


Rounce and Coffin Club. [laughter] 

DOCTER: What was that? [laughter] 

CHENEY: The time when most of the others seemed to be 

liberals, why, they upheld the conservative side. 

DOCTER: You mean on political topics? 

CHENEY: Well, yes. And I suppose that they were cultural 

conservatives, I didn't know. But anyway, they used to 

hang out together, against the rest of them. That's about 

all I know about Holmquist. But I used to meet him at the 

Rounce and Coffin meetings. He was more a businessman 

type, large and stout and cigar-smoking. It hasn't much to 

do with printing, but that was his type. And the Ward 

Ritchie type, and the Dahlstrom type, and the Saul Marks 

type--they ' re all distinct. 

DOCTER: Well, besides Holmquist, are there others? 

CHENEY: Are you speaking of commercial printers, or private 

printers, or. . . ? 

DOCTER: Well, just as many names as come to mind. So far 

we've talked about Marks a little, Dahlstrom, Ritchie, 


CHENEY: The time when I first knew Strieker, the names 

that Strieker would mention, that were known around Los 

Angeles, were McCallister — Bruce McCallister and Fred Lang 

were the prominent names of printers. 

DOCTER: I guess throughout the twenties and the early 


thirties. Were they in a partnership? 

CHENEY: No, I think they were separate. 

DOCTER: Especially McCallister, I think, had quite a 

reputation for fine printing. 

CHENEY: Yes, Grant served his apprenticeship with McCallister, 

DOCTER: Well, there's quite an interesting tradition there, 

isn't there? McCallister, Dahlstrom. Dahlstrom had a little 

influence on Saul Marks, I guess, in the early years. At 

least, judging by some of those remarks at his funeral. 

CHENEY: Yes, they worked together some of the time. 

DOCTER: What about Dick Hoffman? 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know much about him. He's been 

connected with UC, or whatever you call it — City College [and 

California State University, Los Angeles] — in the time that 

I've known him. And that's all I know about him. 

DOCTER: Do you have any comments about his style? 

CHENEY: I really don't know enough to — see, he seems to 

be one that they can fall back on to do Rounce and Coffin 

printing or printing for the Clark Library and so on. If 

they can't get anyone else, why, Hoffman '11 come through. 

But I don't know; I haven't examined his work enough to 

know about what his style is. You ask these questions about 

the style of this person and that person, and I'm really such 

a self-centered person that I don't think much about other 

people's style. 


DOCTER: What about your own style? 

CHENEY: Well, I led myself into that one, didn't I? 
What is my style? I don't know. If you tell me what it 
is, why, I'll tell you what about it. 

DOCTER: Well, I suppose you're the foremost designer and 
printer of miniature books in the world, aren't you? 
CHENEY: Well, no, there are others. I think that fellow 
back in New England somewhere [Worcester, Mass.] — what's 
his name? — Achille J. St. Onge, I think his name is. He 
publishes, oh, dozens a year. Of course he has them done; 
he farms them out. 
DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: Has them done by presses in Holland, and so on. 
I think he produces the most. 
DOCTER: He ' s a bookseller, is he? 
CHENEY: Yes, he sells them. 

DOCTER: But do you think it's fair to say that for actually 
doing the entire job of producing the book, that you would 
be number one in terms of productivity of miniature books? 
CHENEY: Well, I suppose, in my time, along about mid- 
sixties and in there, when I was doing three or four a 
year, why, I would probably be the most productive. And 
more have come in since then. More printers — like Pall 
Bohne is doing at least one, sometimes two a year. Audrey 
Arellanes does one or two a year. And then there are 


others coming in. Vance Gerry is producing miniatures 

now, and he seems to be very competent, from what I've 

seen of his work, does very good work. 

DOCTER: I think he uses a Miehle Vertical. Perhaps he 

has some other presses, too. 

CHENEY: Yes. I don't know what he uses, but I've just 

seen the sheets on one that he's doing, and it's very 

good work--composition, page design, and so on. 

DOCTER: When you were doing the miniatures for Glen Dawson 

in the mid-sixties, how much would he pay for a typical 


CHENEY: Well, he always paid what I asked for it, and I 

don't know whether my prices were standard or not. But 

sometimes he'd make it a little higher. If I'd ask eighty 

dollars, why, he'd say, "It's worth a hundred." But of 

course, if you do the binding yourself, I guess you charge 

more. With these cloth- and leather-bound books, why, he 

had them done by Bela Blau. I didn't bind anything, 

except if it's paper covers. 

DOCTER: Now, how long would it take you — how many days of 

work would it take to do the printing for a small book? 

Would you take, say, a month, typically, or two months or 

just a matter of a couple of weeks or . . . ? 

CHENEY: Well, I suppose a month to six weeks. I could 

have done it if I'd worked only on that. Depends on how 


many pages, and so on, but I probably could have done it 

in a week or two weeks if I worked intensively on it. But 

I had so many other things to do — job work, and work for 

the Clark Library, and so on. Of course, working on one 

press, it's a nuisance to get your form set up, and you 

remember just what impression, and so on, that you're 

using, and then you have to stop and do something else, 

and it's practically beginning all over again. Because 

the make-ready and the press work are different with 

different kinds of jobs. 

DOCTER: Right. That's what takes the time. 

CHENEY: If I'd had more than one press, that would have 

been easier. 

DOCTER: Would you usually print maybe 100 copies or 50 

or 200? How many copies would be a typical run, and who 

decided that? 

CHENEY: Well, usually the publisher decides how many he 

wants. Glen Dawson — he usually would want 200, sometimes 

250 or 300. 

DOCTER: I see. Did he leave you completely on your own 

to design them? 

CHENEY: Yes, generally speaking. 


FEBRUARY 11, 197 5 

DOCTER: At the time that the tape ran out, what were we 

talking about. Will? 

CHENEY: Something about miniatures, and how many Glen 

Dawson wanted, and ... 

DOCTER: Oh, sure. That's right. And how much influence 

he would have on the actual design. Or whether he would 

just leave you on your own. 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, I'd submit proofs. I'd design a 

title page and send it to him, and set up some pages and 

send him proofs on the first few pages to see how he liked 

them. And he was generally satisfied. If I'd send him 

two or three title pages, optional title pages, why, he'd 

usually select one of them he liked better. But otherwise, 

I was pretty much on my own. 

DOCTER: Glen and Muir [Dawson] seem to be very different 

kinds of people to me. Quite different personalities. 

How would you describe Glen? 

CHENEY: Oh, gosh, how would I describe him? I don't 

know, but he's the one who ' s--miniatures are his baby, and-- 

oh, hum. I don't know how to describe him. 

DOCTER: Is he like his father? 

CHENEY: No, Muir is like his father, looks like his father 



CHENEY: I think he's more like his father-'-in disposition. 

Also in deafness: they're both deaf, or hard of hearing, 

I guess is the word. They're not completely deaf, but 

they're both hard of hearing. 

DOCTER: I see. 

CHENEY: V'Jhereas, according to Ellen Shaffer, Glen can 

hear a pin drop from one end of the store to the other. 

So he's different in that respect. 

DOCTER: Is Glen a friendly person? 

CHENEY: Oh, he's always been friendly to me. Some people 

like Muir very much and don't care so much for Glen. I've 

heard some people say they don't like Glen, that he sort 

of grates on them, but I've never seen it that way; he's 

always seemed friendly to me. I think he's a little more 

aggressive than Muir. 

DOCTER: Is he? 

CHENEY: Yes. But then, aggressiveness in itself is not a 

bad thing. Depends on how it happens to rub you. 

DOCTER: Is he the businessman of the two? I mean, does 

he push the business end of it, more than Muir? 

CHENEY: I suppose so, but I think Muir's just apparently 

not so businesslike. I think he actually is probably a 

pretty sound businessman. Just as his father was. In 

fact, he probably is less likely to have, well, ideas to 

try out than Glen is. Glen is more apt to go off on some 


idea of a project, like these various things — the California 

travels, and the Baja California series, and the miniature 

books, and so forth — are. . . . 

DOCTER: The law series? 

CHENEY: Yes. Those are Glen's ideas, and they're not 

necessarily profitable; oh, I think they cover expenses, but 

I don't think they advance the business much. 

DOCTER: Really? They're more scholarly contributions, I 

guess you'd have to say. 

CHENEY: Well, indirectly they'd advance the business, 

because they'd become known--Dawson ' s would become known as 

a publisher of these projects. 


CHENEY: But that sort of thing is more in Glen's line, to 

think up some project of that sort. I think Muir would 

rather just stick to selling books. 

DOCTER: Of course, Muir does some printing himself, 

doesn't he? 

CHENEY: I don't know whether he's done any in late years. 

He used to. 

DOCTER: He used to at least get out a Christmas card now 

and then, but I haven't seen one for a while. 

CHENEY: I think he's sort of letting it lie there. He's 

keeping his press, just in case he should want to print 



DOCTER: He has a Pilot press, doesn't he? 

DOCTER: And a little handpress, too, I remember your 
telling me in 1960 that a handpress was just a beautiful 
thing, but it was nothing to print on. I had just gotten 
a handpress, an Albion handpress, and I was very enthusias- 
tic, at the time, about printing on a handpress. I thought 
that would just be the most wonderful experience there 
could be. I soon learned what you were driving at. It's 
just too difficult to print on. 

CHENEY: Yes. Well, I didn't mean you couldn't print on 
them. You can print on them, and I suppose there are those 
who enjoy them, but I didn't want to fool with it because 
you couldn't do any better work on one than you could on a 
job platen press. And just for appearance and amusement 
and atmosphere, one might have one, but if you're more 
interested in the content and what you're doing than you are 
in the process of printing, I think it's better to have a 
platen press. 
DOCTER: More practical. 

CHENEY: Because you can print fast enough on one of them. 
Of course, if you're actually going into commercial work, 
in the days when they did do letterpress, why, then you 
needed a cylinder press. But for the kind of work that 
some of us did, why, a platen press was sufficient. 


DOCTER: We've talked a little about your own life 
history, and a little about the beginnings of your 
experience in printing, and some things about impressions 
of other printers and their work. Now, in terms of your 
own work as a printer, I think you mentioned you had 
hopes of perhaps getting another Pilot press and maybe 
moving it all into the bedroom here. Anything definite 
about that so far? 

CHENEY: Well, I decided I could make out with this Kelsey. 
Muir called me a week or two ago, and said that he knew 
of a Pilot press I could have for $125. Someone, one of 
their customers, had an opportunity to buy it, but she 
wasn't sure whether she wanted it or not; and if anybody 
else that they knew wanted it, why, she wouldn't get it. 
I told Muir that if it's in good condition, as prices go 
now, that was a very good buy, and he ought to urge her to 
get it if she had any need for a press. It was a very good 
buy on it. I think the Pilots run up $350, something like 
that, now. Time I got mine, back in '48, it cost about 



New or used? 



Yes, but they're way up now. But, anyway, this 

Kelsey I have will do me now. I didn't want to get involved 


in more. I've had three little presses in six months, and 
I think I'll stick with this last one that I have now. 
It isn't as good as a Pilot, but it's good enough. 
DOCTER: Gets the job done. 

CHENEY: Well, as long as I select jobs, it'll do. But I 
don't think I'll think up anything that's difficult for 
it. I'll try to find things that are easy for the little 
press . 

DOCTER: You started out with an old proof press. I won- 
dered if you wouldn't want to wind up with a proof press? 
CHENEY: Well, they take more space, they're heavier, and 
you have to have a place to put them. This stood on a 
cabinet, and, well, if you know the size of an ordinary 
small proof press, it was maybe four feet long. And they're 
heavy. And, of course, they're much slower than the clam- 
shell platen. You have to ink it by hand each time--lay 
the paper down on it, lift the paper up, and then ink it 
again. Little faster than the handpress, such as you're 
speaking of, I mean, the Albion-type or Washington-type 
handpress. They're faster than that, but not much faster. 
DOCTER: VJell, do you think you'll be able to move your 
shop into the bedroom here? 

CHENEY: Well, I don't know. You'll have to ask my wife 
about that. She's got a sewing room in there. But I 
hadn't intended to move the type cases in, just the table 


with the press on it, so that I could have light to print. 
It's pretty dark out in the garage, and cold on winter 
days. I can string a light out to there, but then I'd 
have to take it down every night. Couldn't leave it up 
in the rain. Not a very comfortable place to work. It's 
also crowded. 

DOCTER: Why did you leave the Clark? 

CHENEY: Well, because I was done with it. I mean, I 
didn't want to stay there and do more of their seminar 
papers, and so on. The type was getting worn out 
DOCTER: The deal was, you had to help them out from time 
to time. 

CHENEY: Well, yes, I had to do the work that they had to 
do. And sometimes there were three or four things at a 
time; other times, there was nothing to do. It meant 
a considerable type composition. And, of course, the 
professors there, at the seminars, they didn't know how 
much work was involved, and that some things are not set 
by hand anymore. 

DOCTER: Exactly. It seems to me they were pretty unrealis- 
tic in what they asked you to do there. 
CHENEY: Well, I think [William] Conway understood the 
situation, but some of them, like Professor Novak — he 
wanted — oh, for giving some seminar talk, he wanted every- 
thing listed in one 8 1/2 x 11 form set solid. And he 


wanted it by next week or a shorter time. That sort of 
thing was done all the time back in the nineteenth century, 
but it isn't done anymore. You can't buy type the way you 
could then. You may have to wait a long time for your 
type, and you don't want to lay in that much body type. 
You smash it up on jobs like that. 

DOCTER: Right. Well, did you talk with Conway about this 
and try to smooth out the amount that they expected of 

CHENEY: No, I didn't. He was always between the forces, 
trying to — that's his job, anyway — always trying to balance 
between irreconcilable opposites and make them work out. I 
didn't want to make any more problems for him that I could. 
These things were all possible to do. It's possible to 
satisfy those professors and set something by hand. It 
might as well just be typed and Xeroxed copies made. 

CHENEY: You can do it, but it's such foolishness when 
such things aren't done anymore. Some things that aren't 
done anymore you like to do, because you want to do that 
kind of work, like these miniature books and certain kinds 
of hand setting. It may not be consonant with the times, 
but you get a pleasure out of it. But I didn't get any 
pleasure out of hand setting whole pages like that, that 
ought simply to have been typed. 
DOCTER: Absolutely. Well, couldn't you just go to Conway, 


and tell him, "Look, this is foolish. If I'm to be here 
printing, I just can't do so much of this nonsense." 
What would happen if you told him that? 
CHENEY: Well, he'd try to smooth it out, try to work 
out something. Just be more problem for him. But then I 
wasn't unwilling to do it, I just — I'd rather get out of 
a position where it had to be done. In other words, while 
I was there, I felt that I ought to do things like that 
to justify my being here, because that's what they wanted. 
DOCTER: It seems to me they missed the boat, that they 
should have asked you to do maybe one announcement a 
year, or something like that; that it's really an honor to 
have you on the premises designing and printing things. 
CHENEY: Well, I don't know whether it is or not. Those 
things are just ephemeral; that's the trouble with it. 
That's what I really meant when I said you don't hand-set 
things like that, hand-set things that are read once and 
thrown on the f loor--programs for meetings and so forth, 
where you do an immense amount of handsetting and it 
doesn't mean any more to the people that get it than if 
it were simply typed and Xeroxed. 

CHENEY: That's the discouraging part of it. I don't know 
whether it's any particular honor to do those things. Bill 
Conway and Edna Davis would save their copies, but not many 


other people would. But as long as I was there, I wanted 
to do what they needed; they needed certain things. It 
wasn't just what I would prefer to do; it's what the Clark 
Library needed. And I was there, taking up space; it was 
a place where I could do my own work, so I felt that I 
should do anything they needed. And it wasn't too much 
work, although there 'd be three or four things they'd need 
at once and need it pretty fast, and there 'd be a month, 
sometimes, when they needed almost nothing. Wasn't a very 
hard job there. 

DOCTER: But there was the sense of obligation. 
CHENEY: Well, yes, there was a sense of obligation. I 
didn't mind that; it's just that I didn't like to hand set 
and smash up the type and use the press on something that 
there's no point in setting in type in the first place. 
DOCTER: Exactly. That arrangement was originally fixed 
up by Powell, wasn't it? Didn't he invite you there? 
CHENEY: Well, yes. Sort of collusion, with Glen Dawson 
and Powell, I guess, and Conway. I was moving out of that 
place up on La Cienega, and Munn was going to take it over 
for his picture framing place. And it's kind of hard to 
find a place to go. I could find little shops on the 
street, but I didn't want drop-in trade. 
CHENEY: Kind of hard to find a place to go where I could 


do my work, and have my press, and so forth; and I think 

it was Glen that thought of Clark Library first. He and 

Powell worked it out. 

DOCTER: And how many years were you there? 

CHENEY: Oh, about twelve years. You were asking why I 

ever quit there, but it seems to me twelve years is long 


DOCTER: It's quite a long time, really. You know, 

speaking of Powell, I recall that you printed a broadside 

for Powell, in the Southwest broadside series. Is that his 


CHENEY: Let's see, by William Comfort? 


CHENEY: Somebody like that. Yes, I think it was the 

first in the series. Started off with me, kind of a small 

specimen of a broadside. The later broadsides that others 

did were much larger. I never could see much point in a 

broadside. You can't read them sitting down; have to stand 

up to read them, and there's nowhere to put them. Put 

them on the wall for a while, then you take them down from 

there. And then they get folded and put in the closet. 

Then they fall down on the floor, there, and finally they 

wind up in the garage and finally fall on the floor, there, 

and the car runs over them. There's not much you can do 

with broadsides. 


DOCTER: Well, you'll be glad to know that I have yours 
nicely framed and hanging up where it's perfectly safe, 
inside the house. 

CHENEY: That's all right, but there are only so many 
broadsides that you can frame and hang up. 
DOCTER: That's true. 

CHENEY: And that's not satisfactory, either. What I 
mean is, you can't read them sitting down; you've got to 
get up and stand by the wall and read them. 'Tisn't 
like a book that you can sit down and read or take to 
bed with you. 

DOCTER: What arrangements did Powell make with printers to 
get those done? 

CHENEY: Just ordered them done. Gave them a copy, and 
contacted the printer and asked if they'd do it. As I 
recall, he paid for them. I think he paid me for mine; I 
don't know. As I recall, he did; I don't think they were 
just done for the love of it. They were done as jobs. 
DOCTER: If a person were to contact you right now, just a 
stranger, say, come to the door, perhaps, would you do a 
business card for him? Would you be able to take on that 
kind of a job? 

CHENEY: I could, but I wouldn't. It'd be a bit incon- 
venient. Cases are stacked on top of one another; I'd 
have to dig around, pile them all over the garage floor 


to find the one that has the type in it and put it up on 

the table where I can get at it, and then I'd have slow 

work on this little hand platen. And it wouldn't be 

worthwhile doing cards. He might as well go to a regular 

printer, a commercial printer, and get the card job done. 

I could do it, in the sense that it's physically possible, 

but I wouldn't want to do it. And as for card Gothics, I 

think you got my card Gothics. 

DOCTER: Copperplate Gothics? 

CHENEY: Yes, copperplate Gothic, and I don't know whether 

you got the bank Gothic or not. 

DOCTER: Yes. I think two or three sizes. 


DOCTER: That's nice for the main line, isn't it, in a 


CHENEY: Well, yes, you use it for all the lines if you're 

setting it in copperplate Gothic. 

DOCTER: No, I meant the bank. The heavier, bank Gothic. 


DOCTER: It's a very bold . . . 

CHENEY: Well, it's just squared off; it's no bolder than 

the copperplate. I think you're thinking of something else, 

DOCTER: I'm thinking of the — is it called bankers. . . ? 

CHENEY: Well, bankers', stationers' Gothic or bank Gothic. 

You're thinking of something else, which is a Roman face. 


DOCTER: Yes . 

CHENEY: Very contrasting thick and thin — can't, offhand, 

think of the name of that. It's called Title — engraver's . . 

DOCTER: That's it. 

CHENEY: Engraver's bold, that is. 

DOCTER: That's it. You sold me a couple of sizes of that. 

I'v6 really enjoyed it very much. I got quite a few cases 

to put that type in, and I'm gradually getting it distributed; 

as I need a certain size, I put it in the cases. I've got 

most of the Baskerville put away now. Well, this has been 

a most helpful series of interviews, and on behalf of the 

Oral History Program at UCLA, and on my behalf, and on 

behalf of anyone who may read this in years to come and 

enjoy it, learn something from it, I'd like to sincerely 

say thank you for taking this time and sharing these 

things with us. 

CHENEY: Well, I want to thank you for thinking that I'm 

worthwhile to interview. I haven't much information to 

give, but I'm glad to do it, for what it's worth. 



Archer, H. Richard 

Archer, Margot (Mrs. H. Richard) 
Arellanes, Audrey 
Artesia News (newspaper) 

104, 105-106, 108- 

109, 113 



31, 47, 49, 128 


Beaman, A.G. 
Blau, Bela 
Bliss, Carey 
Bohne, Pall 
Bunker Hill 

16, 28, 37, 81, 82 

50, 61, 145 




Carpenter, Ed 
Castle, Press 


Cheney, (father) 

Cheney, (mother) 

Cheney, Will 

Art of Reviling 

Books of the Los Angeles 
District (Gregg Layne) 


Essays and Footnotes 

Fortnightly Intruder, The 

Gettysburg Address (miniature 

Pig Latin 

Pot Pig (cartoon character) 

Rabelaisian Phancies (Paul 

Voyage to Trolland , A 

Cheney, Mrs. Will (first wife) 

Cheney, Mrs. Will (second wife) 

Chotiner, Murray 

Christian, Peggy 

Clark, William Andrews, Memorial 

Cockell, Carol 
Conway, William 


138, 141 

2, 7, 19, 21-23 


2, 3, 6, 

81, 82 



18, 42, 64 


19-20, 21 

69, 84 


37, 83, 84-85 

34, 35, 66, 67, 69- 

77, 79, 81-82 


26, 80 


97, 98 

59-60, 105, 143, 153- 

156, 157 


153, 154, 155, 156 


Dahlstrom, Grant 

Davis, Edna 
Dawson, Ernest 

Dawson, Glen 

Dawson, June 
Dawson, Muir 

Dawson, Ruth 
Dawson ' s Book Shop 

Douglas Aircraft 


63, 85, 86, 99, 100, 

111-112, 113, 114, 

119, 130, 134, 136- 

137, 138-139, 141, 



10, 11, 13, 14-15, 


10, 13-14, 59, 61, 
96, 97, 99, 110, 146- 

147, 148-149, 156, 157 

11, 13, 14, 97, 147- 

148, 149-150 

10, 11-13, 35, 61, 


42-44, 46, 129 

Earl, C.N. 

Eshelman, William F. 
Etter, William Kirby 



18, 37, 64, 65, 68, 


Fortnightly Intruder , The 

Freeman, Marvin 

18, 42, 64, 69, 84 

Gale, Edmund W. 
Gerry, Vance 
Goddard, Leslie 
Grabhorn, Edwin 
Grapewin, Charley 
Grayson, Harold 
Gunning, Miss 

78, 92 








Herriman, George 
Hoffman, Richard 
College Press 

78, 93 
141, 143 


Holmquist, Gordon 

Cole-Holmquist Press 


Lang, Fred 
Layne, Gregg 

Books of the Los Angeles 
Los Angeles High School 
Los Angeles Times (newspaper) 
Luininis, Charles 





McCallister, Bruce 
Marks, Byron 
Marks, Fred 
Marks, Lillian 

Marks, Saul 

Muir, Leo 

Muir and Watts print shop 


111-112, 142-143 

127, 129 

127, 129 

63, 117, 118, 125, 

127-128, 139 

62-63, 89, 112, 

117-128, 129-131, 

134, 135, 136, 138, 

140, 143 


50, 52 

Novak, Max 


Parker, C.C. 
Pearson, Reuben 
Pettus, William 
Powell, Lawrence Clark 

Southwest broadside series 









100, 102, 
157, 158 



Ritchie, Ward 

Ward Ritchie Press 
Rounce and Coffin 

Western Books exhibit 

101, 102-103, 

120-121, 139, 



85, 100-101, 

106-107, 142, 

57, 104, 107 




St. Onge, Achille J. 
Simon, Joe 
Smith, Paul Jordan 
Strieker, Thomas Perry 

The Town Pump (Grapewin) 


124, 139-140 

64, 83 

16-17, 26, 28-31, 
32-33, 37-38, 39, 

65, 66, 67-68, 70, 
76, 79-80, 81-82, 
83, 112, 113, 142 
17, 29, 33 

Town Pump , The (Grapewin) 
Trogman, Robert 
Trogman, Mrs. Robert 
Tyer, Norman 

17, 29, 33 
85-86, 87, 



University of California, 
Los Angeles 



Ward Ritchie Press 
Westlake Park 
Williams, Gordon 
Wood, Cornett 
Wright, Mr. 





Zeitlin, Jake 

28, 34, 39-40, 56, 
58, 101, 107 



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