Many people in the nineteenth century could neither read nor write. The printer printed newspapers, religious pamphlets, almanacs, schoolbooks, medical handbooks, and government papers. A newspaper with summaries of national happenings as well as local events and ads provided a link with the outside.

Printing was a long process. Each letter used in a word was handmade out of metal. These letters were called "matrices". Words were set up in "composition sticks", and then transferred to the galley. The stoneman decided what the page would look like in the finished form and laid out the type and pictures in that way. The stoneman then framed the page with an iron chaise and secured the matrices. The finished galley was then placed into the press machine. Ink was spread over it. When a piece of paper was placed on top of the inked galley, the result was a printed page.