Ericson Printing Press

The printing press on exhibit at the Trinidad Museum once belonged to Augustus William Ericson (1848-1927), a popular photographer and businessman in Humboldt County during his time. Thanks to his photography and to his printing, we have many more resources on life in Humboldt and Trinidad area than we would have otherwise. Ericson lived in Trinidad for a time during the 1870s while working in the lumber industry. He fell in love with the Pacific Coast while living here and would go on to become a widely renowned photographer of the area, capturing many cultural and natural scenes of his time recorded nowhere else. Long after his death, local community member Burch Calkins acquired this printing press in order to print and publish Trinidad News and Views from November 1980 to October 1985 in his bookshop on the corner of Trinity and Parker streets (the current location of the Trinidad Art Gallery).

Ericson was born in Orebro, Sweden in 1848. His father was a farmer, but also worked as a printer at Lindska Printing Works in Orebro. Ericson immigrated to the United States in 1866, first landing in New York. He quickly left for Chicago, where he worked as a laborer for a time, then the same in Michigan, eventually making his way to San Francisco. There he presumably was solicited to join the lumber industry in far-away Humboldt County, arriving in Trinidad in 1869 to work at the Hooper Brothers Mill. A short while later he made one visit back to Sweden but returned just as quickly by steamer and appears to have truly devoted himself to life in California thereafter. He worked at the lumber mill in Trinidad until 1876 when he moved to Arcata and opened a general goods store. In 1882 his brother Richard joined him from Sweden as a journeyman printer. Ericson readily expanded his business to include printing for local businesses.

Shortly thereafter Ericson was bankrupted after joining a business venture with J.N. Davies. He turned to homesteading with what money was left and invested in photography equipment to supplement his then growing interest in the trade. Over the years leading up to the turn of the century, he established a reputation as a noteworthy landscape photographer. In the 1890s he expanded to include portraits, especially his widely acclaimed photos with Yurok and Hoopa tribal members. He inadvertently received an opportunity to photograph his experiences in the 1906 earthquake while he was staying briefly in San Francisco. He continued his work until his death in 1927 at the age of 79. He was a prolific artist and contributed much to our history of Humboldt County.

For further reference and with many thanks, much of this information was found in:
Palmquist, Peter E. Fine California Views, the Photographs of A.W. Ericson. Eureka: Interface California Corporation, 1975.

Patrick Duerr, TMS Intern, 2018