Specimen Cabinet?

I recently came across a cabinet (with Hamilton drawer pulls) that isn’t like anything I’ve seen before. Each drawer is about the height of three type cases combined, and has eight drawers. Each drawer has two interior tracks on the short sides, but I haven’t determined what might have originally fit there.

I had a friend look it over who assumed it was for wood type, given the pulls, but after looking through the 1897 ATF catalog, it seems like this type of cabinet is what is called a “specimen cabinet” instead (see picture).

Any ideas for how this cabinet would have been used in a print shop, and why it was necessary for the drawers to be so deep? I can’t imagine that specimens printed on paper alone would necessitate such deep drawers. Although I’ll be using it for miscellaneous letterpress supplies, I was curious as to what would have originally been used for!

image: specimencabinet1897.png


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This doesn’t appear to be a printer’s cabinet. From the description, it seems to be for retail samples of products. The letter copying press it references is a simple duplicator for business forms, not something that would use type.

Thank you!

Those Specimen cabinets were made specifically for printers. I believe they were made by Hamilton Mfg. ATF sold them.

The cabinets were intended to house the printer’s work examples, or “specimens”.

I recall seeing just such a cabinet in the office of a closed rural newspaper that did an extensive job printing service. Inside were booklets that they had printed, along with a few scrapbook type collections of business cards, billheads and social printing like wedding invitations.

The client could go through the examples and select type styles, paper stock and colors based on the samples in the cabinet.

I’ll bet those Specimen cabinets that have survived are rare now.

Michael Vickey
Nickel Plate Press