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Mackenzie Heritage Printery Museum

It was in a small, Queenston printery that William Lyon Mackenzie let out his rebel yell. Enraged at the 'Family Compact', Upper Canada's rul;ing political clique, Mackenzie put his disgust into words with the advent of the Colonial Advocate. The first issue rolled off the press in 1824, and Canadian politics had a new, powerful voice to contend with.

Location: 1 Queenston Street, Queenston, Ontario, Canada

Mackenzie Heritage Printery Museum

Scotland-born Mackenzie wasn't concerned with profits - he already owned a country store in Queenston. It was his passion for political reform that led him to publishing. Using the Louis Roy press, which churned out Upper Canada's first paper, the Upper Canada Gazette in 1793, Mackenzie's voice reached the masses on May 18, 1824. The Advocate's first issue contained poems, classifieds, agricultural advice, and Mackenzie's own political rabble-rousing. It was published every Tuesday and cost five pence per issue.

It didn't take long for his attack on the Family Compact to rile Upper Canada's leaders. Soon after publication bagan, work began on the General Brock monument, and during the opening ceremonies, a copy of the Advocate was placed in the foundation stone. A furious Sir Peregrine Maitland - Lieutenat Governor of Upper Canada and head of the Family Compact - halted construction and ordered much of the masonry torn down to remove the paper from its interior. The Advocate, he said, was a "colonial rag".

Later that year Mackenzie moved his family and press to York so he could reach more people and be closer to his political enemies. He even led a failed rebellion in 1837, but it wasn't until 1849 that a political evolution spawned his long-sought responsible government.

With Mackenzie's former home deteriorating, the Niagara Parks Comission begin restoring it in 1935. Three years later, it was re-opened in 1938 during a ceremony by the country's Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King.

The Commission purchased Mackenzie's original press and planned on turning the homestead into a printery museum, but it didn't materialize. The press was loaned to Mackenzie's Toronto home, and the Queenston site became Niagara's municipal offices until 1958. It was home at the Kirby Collection until 1974, and it wasn't until 1990 - during celebrations for Portage Road's 200th anniversary - that the Mackenzie House got back to its roots. Mackenzie memorabalia was showcased, and the next year, the home hosted a collection of heritage hand presses and displays on the history of printing.  In 1992, the Luis Roy Press returned to its rightful home. It had been on display at the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. 

Visitors today can enjoy eight operating presses, a working linotype and the litography studio of Canadian artist Frederick Hagan.

You might also take notice of the two large locust (acacia) trees growing near the printery's entrance. In 1854, Mackenzie planted a row of locust trees to celebrate the Advocate's 30th birthday, and as he wrote.  "to commemorate the day that had transformed a quiet, peaceful obscure trader into an ardent colonial politician and public censor." Two of his original five locust trees remain standing as a living memorial to an early Canadian publisher and political activist.


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Mackenzie Heritage Printery Museum

Did You Know?
Block Books - Most books produced before the invention of movable tape were written by hand. However, there were a few books printed from complete pages carved on wood blocks. They were usually of religous nature with more ilustrations than text. It was easier to cut pictures than letterforms in wood, and few people could read anyway.

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