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BY MIKE AVITT
This building in Diagonal was erected in 1909 for A. W. Marts and Dr. A. E. Jessup. After the previous newspaper plant burned, Carson Williams bought some printing equipment and placed it in the Jessup building in December 1917. Williams started a new newspaper called the Diagonal Reporter in January 1918. Thomas Waffle bought the paper in early 1922.
Waffle died in 1933 and long-time employee Harold Turnbull took over as editor and publisher. Harold and Mildred Turnbull bought the paper from the Waffle estate in January 1937. The Turnbulls published the Diagonal Reporter here until Helen Terry bought the paper in 1972.
On December 15, 1983 a public meeting was held seeking interest and ideas on turning the old Diagonal Reporter building into a printing museum. A representative from Southern Iowa Council of Governments was present to outline funding possibilities. Twenty-two people attended and many ideas and fund-raising efforts were discussed.
By January 1984 a committee had been formed with Arlene Sobotka heading the group. The Ringgold County Historical Society had voted at their January meeting to donate $1,000 to the printing museum’s efforts. Harold and Mildred Turnbull had given their printing equipment to the cause and the Diagonal Printing Museum was a certainty.
Fund-raising efforts continued in February 1984 and an effort began to put the Diagonal Reporter building on the National Register of Historic Places. Plans for the museum included printing and Diagonal history on the ground floor with Knowlton, Goshen, and Bohemian Community history upstairs. The museum would be open on weekends from spring until fall and it was hoped grade school tours could be given.
By early July enough money ($4,000) was raised to purchase the building. The museum was progressing nicely.
The Diagonal Printing Museum opened Labor Day Weekend in 1984 and school tours began shortly afterwards. Veteran printers like Jack Bonebrake performed demonstrations on the linotype machines and other printing machines in the following years.
Sharon Becker and I had a book signing here in 2011 with our book, “Images of America: Ringgold County.” My favorite part of the Printing Museum is the diorama of Knowlton upstairs. Arlene Sobotka made this eight-foot by four-foot diorama in 1994. It is a work of historical art showing the layout of Knowlton circa 1900. There is also a great deal of genealogy at the museum.
I have donated items and pictures to the Printing Museum and, in turn, I have been allowed to copy photos from the Printing Museum. History, by its very nature, is designed to be shared.