Step inside Manhattan 1885.
Helen Kerr’s world smells of paper and ink, warm metal and machine oil. Her world is fronted with gleaming glass with the name carefully applied:
William Kerr’s Fine Printery.
And Fine it was.
Behind the shopfront, is a counter made of special drawers…
Drawers full of samples. There were calling cards pinned artistically to faded blue velvet.
There were invitations to garden parties and at homes and soirees, guild edged mourning cards, customised stationery, playbills, pamphlets and newsletters.
They printed flyers for shops and advertisements for hopeful entrepreneurs.
From the age of 7, Helen thought that being the owner of a print shop was a very fine thing. Like being a fairy godmother, you made dreams come true, at least the dreams of authors, brides and businessmen.
The hours were long but there was almost always time for coffee; except at Christmas when everyone doubled their orders but wanted to pay half the price.
The Foundation and Tone of Helen’s World were set by her father
William Kerr held that a good printery is one with heart.
There was comfort in going over the details of stationary requirements for mourning with Mr Kerr. He was always kind, having you step into the parlour where people wouldn’t comment if you gave way to tears.
And a good printery has a conscience.
He had in his younger days, at his own expense, published an abolitionist newspaper. He, himself stayed up all night typesetting reprints of Fredrick Douglas’s speeches for broader local distribution.
Of course, that was long before Helen was born but she felt her father’s legacy deeply.
His code of conduct was hers: Never published an item which offends your conscience, no matter how much money is offered or how influential the person placing the order.
What was the point of owning a press if you did not use it for the betterment of society?
As a result of these scruples, William Kerr’s Fine Printery was not always as prosperous as it might have been. There were times when bread and dripping were all that Helen had in her lunch pail. But while they might live off bread and dripping for a fortnight here or there, Helen’s school fees were always paid.
There were times when bread and dripping were all that Helen had in her lunch pail. But while they might live off bread and dripping for a fortnight here or there, Helen’s school fees were always paid.
A sacrifice she did not always appreciate.
Helen preferred to be in the press room all day laying the type in neat rows, fingering the brass letters on their wooden mounts, mixing ink or sketching embellishments for their artist to transform into custom scrolling and profusions of leaves found only at their fine printery.
On the matter of education, Mr Kerr was firm. No printer could hold his, or her, head up if their headlines were misspelt and no amount of decoration made up for incorrect punctuation. So, to school she went, every day until she turned 16. When she turned her full attention to learning the family business.
At 19 she thought she had her whole life mapped out, but that was before she went away for the summer. That was before she met Theodore Wrenwood.
To find out what happens that fateful summer when Helen leaves behind her ink-stained apron for garden gloves read Helen’s Summer, the first book in the Helen’s Seasons Series containing the adventures and misadventures of a working class Manhattan girl as she takes on the world with honesty and humor.