Amateur Journalism: Printing, Writing and Publishing for Fun and Relaxation
Joseph F. Blackburn
July 1973
Front Cover

“…the Prince of Hobbies…”
“…the hobby that has everything…”
“…to me amateur journalism is
more than just a hobby. It
is a way of life…”

Published for
The National Amateur Press Association
by Joseph F. Bradburn
July, 1973

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Many people, down through the years, have tried hard to express the pleasures to be found in the practice of amateur journalism, in such a way that it will appeal to anyone interested in printing, writing and publishing from a hobby standpoint rather than a commercial one. The list would include such names as William R. Murphy, Walter F. Zahn and Timothy B. Thrift from the early days down through Edwin Hadley Smith and Vincent Haggerty, to such current members as Willametta Keffer, J. Ed Newman, Harold Ellis and the late Milton R. Grady and W. Emory Moore.

The present production is my attempt to merge part of the copy written by Jeanne N. Murtland several years ago, which was used with such success in the Kelsey mailing, with part of the material from the Haggerty recruiting pamphlet, which has been used many times in various editions. I have also revised the copy in some respects to avoid duplication of wording, and have inserted some paragraphs or sentences of my own where it seemed advisable to do so.

I offer it as a small tribute to all the people, now known or unknown, who have played a part in keeping the National Amateur Press Association alive through their recruiting efforts, and from the continued well-being of the association.

-Joseph F. Bradburn
NAPA Recruiting Chairman

Amateur Journalism

Did you ever try to make beautiful designs with a cereal-box rubber stamp set?
Have you ever had a manuscript rejected?
Have you wanted lately to write a letter to the editor, but didn’t, because you knew it wouldn’t get printed?
Do you get tired of reading the same old magazines? Do they seem… predictable?
Do you have a pet subject or two that no one seems to want to hear about any more? Air pollution or music education or the trip you took to the Cape?

If you nod your head “Yes” to any of these questions, Amateur Journalism is waiting for you. “AJ” has something for every literate or literary person.

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For The Reader: Some of the titles in a recent bundle – Typomania Press, The Ingrown Toenail, Marti’s Mouser, The Boxwooder, The Morceau, The Pantry Printery Cookery Book, NAPA West, Quill & Platen, Silver and Gold.

Looking through it you’d find: Reminiscenses about a long-time member, recently deceased; a wife’s humorous recollections of her experiences in learning her way around a kitchen; prize-winning entries in a recently held Trans-Atlantic competition for various forms of writing: a journal featuring articles by Southern California writers: numerous personal news items; a lot of poetry; no advertising; and many other things. Good reading!

For The Writer: The National Amateur Press Association runs a manuscript bureau, which receives manuscripts of any sort and forwards them to the interested printers and editors. Good writers are in great demand. Printers frequently ask them directly for material.

Then, too, these amateurs are a communicative bunch. If the published material has value, negative or positive, the writer is sure to know it quickly by means of correspondence and outspoken comments printed by fellow-members.

The NAPA is also a publishing ground for things that maybe aren’t marketable right now. If you write sonnets or haiku, epigrams or movie reviews, there is a place for them. And a readership waiting for them every month.

For The Editor: There is the opportunity to put together the kind of journal you’d like to read. If you don’t want to write or print, you can gather material wherever you like and hire someone to do the printing for you. You can choose the type faces, design the layout, decide on the paper and the initial letters, the ink colors and cuts and cover. The only limit is your pocketbook.

A number of libraries, including New York University, collect the journals. A lot of the members live in a sea of them, keeping the good ones, which amount to quite a stack pretty soon. Then there are your relatives and friends – they don’t dare throw your efforts away! So, for the editor, a little better chance at immortality.

For The Printer: There is no other place. And many people who never had given a thought to the art of printing become fascinated by it when they join the NAPA. They think it’s the most rewarding aspect of all. The printer can print what he wants with no one else blue-penciling or rejecting it. He does all the things the editor does and a good deal more. He cuts linoleum blocks for illustrations and fools around with close-register work. He haunts supply houses in search of more type and a bigger press. He may trade through the mails with other printers. He can, actually, start out very small with $50 to $75, and then build up from there as much and as fast as he wants to.

When he travels he can map out a route of other printers he’d like to meet. These visits always begin and end in the print shop, and often result in some impromptu publication to commemorate the visit.

The hand printing he does is rare now, and professionals are invariably amazed that anyone can single-handedly put out what amateurs sometimes do. He has to be a Jack-of-all-trades, and master of them as well. Unless his wife is a good assistant, he is his own writer, editor, stylebook, proofreader, purchasing agent, quality control, pressman, maintenance mechanic – this list could go on and on. The printer is keeping alive some extremely respectable American traditions too, but that is not his goal. He just likes it, that’s all.

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Nearly a hundred years ago, amateur publishers of the United States organized an association, so they could keep in touch with each other, exchange their papers and obtain contributors. The contributors also belong to this association and the association maintains a Manuscript Bureau which helps place the manuscripts of those who do not desire to deal direct.

This association is the National Amateur Press Association, which was organized in Philadelphia, Pa., on July 4, 1876. One of the organizers was James M. Beck, later Representative in Congress and Postmaster General. Other members of the NAPA in early days were Senator Moses of New Hampshire and Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson, and publisher of the Raleigh, N. C. News and Observer.


Any person who is interested in amateur writing or amateur printing may join. A membership application properly filled out and endorsed by a member must be sent to the Secretary-Treasurer, with the dues. A membership card will be sent to the applicant, and his name will be enrolled on the list of members. He will begin to receive the papers on the next month’s mailing.

It is a voluntary organization, and every member has an equal voice in its affairs. There are no permanent officers or headquarters. A convention is held each year in some city selected at the previous convention, and every member in good standing can attend the convention, or vote by an absentee ballot if unable to attend. The campaigns for office are often spirited, and much of the editorial matter in the papers is devoted to association affairs, plus news notes and comments on the various members.

The social side of the association appeals to most of the members, and lifelong friendships with people worthwhile are formed. Correspondence among the members is frequent, and any member visiting a city where another member resides is usually heartily welcomed and made to feel at home. Local clubs in the various regions where there are a number of members bring these members closer together and add to the social side of amateur journalism.


To be eligible to vote or to hold office, a member must have paid his dues so as to be in good standing, and either contributed at least 300 words in prose or poetry to amateur papers published within the preceding twelve months and distributed preferably to the entire membership but to at least 100 members including the officers, or handset and printed at least 1000 words in such amateur papers. To be eligible for election as President, Official Editor, or Secretary-Treasurer, a person must have been a member for at least three years, and for Executive Judge five years.

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The association maintains a Mailing Bureau, to which papers may be sent in bulk. The Mailer then distributes them into envelopes with other amateur papers, and sends them out to each member and library on the mailing list. This method saves the envelopes and postage required for an individual mailing of papers, to say nothing of the labor of addressing separate envelopes. (At the present time, the association pays the cost of operating the Mailing Bureau, although this has in past years been paid by the publishers and other contributors.)

The NAPA also maintains a Bureau of Critics, which criticizes the published papers and their contents in a friendly and helpful way, and it awards laureateships to the members excelling in poetry, miscellaneous prose, history of amateur journalism, fiction, printing, editing and art.


For the publisher, it costs whatever he wants to spend. Everything is voluntary. Almost all amateur papers have no fixed date of publication: they are published “occasionally.” This may mean annually or quarterly or even monthly, but no obligation is incurred to issue the paper at any specific date or at specific intervals.

For the amateur contributors to the papers, the cost is nothing but the postage on the letters they may write. Nothing is charged them for publishing their contributions and, of course, nothing is paid for their work, because the publisher gives the paper away. It is all truly “amateur” in the real definition of the word, in that it is done for pleasure rather than for profit.


Anything that pleases them. Very few amateur papers have circumscribed limits. As a rule the amateur publisher will print anything that is interesting and worth reading, whether it be a profound treatise on an obscure subject that has required much patient research, or the veriest nonsense dashed off in a few moments.


In the same way that one becomes a contributor to a professional paper. Just send your article, and if the publisher likes it he will print it; if not, he will return it. The amateur publisher, of course, can accept or reject what he wishes.

For writers who may not wish to deal directly with the publishers, the association also maintains a Manuscript Bureau, which accepts the material and then attempts to place it with publishers who want copy to fill their pages. Some of the journals, for example, publish only poetry, while others have a more balanced format.

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Amateur publishers may be said to fall into three general classes: those who do their own printing by letterpress; those who do their own printing by offset, office duplicators, mimeograph or other forms of reproduction; those who have their papers printed for them by others. Each of these methods has its own advantages and its drawbacks.

Probably the fastest and most economical method of publishing is the offset or duplicator methods. For those proficient in the cutting of stencils and operation of the machines, a sizable amount of copy can be turned out at a nominal cost, in a relatively short production time. On the other hand, offset papers may not stand up too well as permanent records, and careless or unskilled preparation of copy can result in a colorless production.

For those who do not have the time or the desire to do their own printing, there are some printers in the ranks who quote very low prices for their work, by comparison to professional printers. Any such arrangement must be worked out on an individual basis between the publisher and the printer, so each will know what to expect of the other.


The best known of the amateur publishers, and the ones who issue the best papers, are generally those who do their own printing. Satisfactory outfits to print the usual size amateur paper can be bought for as low as $75 from such sources as The Kelsey Company, Meriden, Conn., and after that the only cost is for the paper used and the mailing expense. Furthermore, while no money is made on the paper, the same outfit that prints the paper can be used to print envelopes, letterheads, cards, announcements, church papers, etc., for others, so that often a little revenue is derived from the work.

As the labor costs them nothing, being done in spare time, an eight page 5×7 paper can be printed at a reasonable expenditure for paper and ink, and by using the Mailing Bureau, the total cost of the issue need not exceed $10 or $12. Amateur printers are thus able to issue their papers more frequently, sometimes monthly, depending upon the spare time at their disposal. There is much competition among the amateur printers to see who can issue the best and most artistic paper from a typographical standpoint, and so the best amateur papers are generally brought out from amateur print shops.


The most complete collection of amateur journals in existence today is that now located at the Special Collections Division of the New York University Library. It is sometimes referred to as the Edwin Hadley Smith Collection or the Fossil Collection, since Mr. Smith began the collection many years ago, and The Fossils maintained it until ownership was transferred to the University in 1967.

Among the largest collections of journals maintained by present NAPA members are those of Martin and Willametta Keffer, Victor and Rowena Moitoret, Sheldon C. and Helen Wesson, Anthony F. Moitoret, Ralph Babcock and Hyman Bradofsky.

Back Cover

Shades of Gutenberg!

In our basement there’s a jumble
Of new type that’s being set.
There’s a Vic who turns to mumble
Tales of Wesson, Crane and Spink;
There’s the smell of printers’ ink
That I never can forget.

In our basement now I stumble
Over “furniture” and “pi”;
But I do not stop to grumble.
Vic is careful and intent;
Soon he will begin to print.
There’s a glad gleam in his eye!

In our basement there’s a rumble:
Vic, amid the hum and roar,
Feeds the press without a fumble.
Then at last our Rabbit’s done,
And I know I’ve had more fun
Than I ever had before!

– Rowena Autry Moitoret
The Cemetery Rabbit No. 8

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