4. You Can See a 19th-Century Letterpress in Action

Bowne & Co. is New York’s oldest operating business under the same name! The company was established in 1775 by Robert Bowne. Most of New York City’s 700 printing offices at the turn of the 20th-century were located in Lower Manhattan and in the Seaport District. The booming maritime industries needed printed materials like invoices, and advertisements, so it was convenient to have the printers nearby.

The printing company partnered with the Seaport Museum in 1975 to create a 19th-century-style print shop. The shop at 211 Water Street features a collection of seven historic letterpresses, that are still in use! Resident printers at the shop can help customers create individual designs using custom plates or historic fonts, just like printers have been doing for almost 200 years. The shop also features an array of eclectic gifts and stationery. You can explore more of the historic buildings of the seaport in a new study created by the National Maritime Historical Society which highlights the South Street Seaport Museum and other at-risk historic structures.