Following the Footsteps of Jamie Fraser: Printing Press + Tea = A Memorable Afternoon

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Outlander has forever changed us. With all the choices of book authors and genres to choose from, nothing seems to compare to the writings of Diana Gabaldon. The length of her books are not for the faint of heart. However, those that begin the journey soon discover a whole new world awaits. It has led us to broaden our horizons by expanding our adventures and allowing us to meet others who share the same admiration for this series. As our appreciation for each character grows, we have been inspired to search for ways to walk in their footsteps.

Today’s adventure was no exception. We found a way to get closer to Jamie Fraser by exploring a local printing press. We couldn’t wait to discover more about the history that surrounded Jamie at this time and what defined him as The King of The Press in our eyes. Travel back in time with us as we explore the history and workings of the printing press in historic Old Town, San Diego. Following this adventure and fun photo opportunities within the Print Shop, we decided to head to Afternoon Tea at the historic Cosmopolitan Hotel. Needless to say, it was a day we will always remember! 

We take our books everywhere! We needed to especially re-read Chapter 24, “A. Malcolm.”

The Inspiration For Our Adventure

We each, at Sass3, have read every single book and novella within the series (at least 4 times, but really who is counting). With the hours of time we have invested into this story, we each know exactly what to expect. Does that change our ability to wait, without heightened anticipation, for the release of each new episode? Absolutely NOT! We countdown until each segment airs, strategically schedule our viewings to ensure minimal family distractions, and plan our coping strategies accordingly (sometimes more than a wee dram is needed to get through the roller coaster of emotions we experience)!

Sam Heughan did a perfect job embodying Jamie Fraser during the print shop scenes. The printing press he used was very similar to the one we toured!

We simply couldn’t remain idle after watching Toni Graphia’s Freedom & Whisky. Following Claire’s personal journey, witnessing Brianna’s growing independence, seeing Roger’s wish to have an American Christmas, and absorbing every exact detail that encompassed Jamie’s realization that Claire had returned – left us in an emotional collapse. We LOVED every single moment! The anticipation for the next episode,  written by Matthew B. Roberts, A. Malcolm, was our hardest yet. Prior to it’s release, we found ourselves asking, “What can we do next to support our addiction and bide the time until it airs?” Our answer was to use the cherished images of the print shop, seen at SDCC and the photography illustrated by Matthew B. Roberts, as inspiration to gather our own clan to experience the printing press beyond the screen. In the process, we found a way to follow the path of our beloved Jamie Fraser!

We loved being able to experience the printing press ourselves. In fact, one of our youngest members was able to actually work the press!

To Understand The Past, We First Need to Look At Our Own History

There is a wealth of history in our own backyards if we just take the time to find it. Our own city of San Diego has a history that is as diverse as it is colorful. It is foremost the home to the Kumeyaay Nation. The San Diego Bay was discovered by Europeans in 1542 by Juan Cabrillo on his ship, the San Salvador. Sailing from Spain, his hope was to locate the mythical waterway that could take him across North America – a shorter trade route to the Orient. He did succeed in mapping many of the most important features of the California coast. However, he eventually fell ill and his work was left largely incomplete. It wouldn’t be until 200 years later that Europeans began to officially settle in this area. A fort and mission were established in 1769, which slowly expanded under first Spanish and then Mexican rule. San Diego officially became part of the U.S. in 1848, followed by the grant of statehood to California in 1850.

History is turbulent, ever changing, and the past certainly continues to influence the future. There can be a wealth of knowledge that can be gained by studying our own personal or national history. However, it also means gaining some skill in sorting through diverse, often conflicting interpretations of the past. Luckily for us, we had a tour guide that was eloquent, engaging, and mindful of the layers of social and societal dynamics that shaped our very own city. We tried to filter rumor from lore, all the while maintaining lively conversations throughout our afternoon together. There was so much to learn, but better yet, there was so much more to experience! We were bound to achieve our goal of getting closer to the literary footsteps we were each so deeply motivated to follow, the trade path of Jamie Fraser.

"History is often said to be written by the victors. Filled with facts that were often based upon what side has won."

 -Historic Tour Guide, San Diego Old Town

The Print Shop: Following The Footsteps of Jamie Fraser

We admit it. We love history, but today’s adventure had some very special meanings. The print shop, in one regard, will always be a poignant place in the Outlander timeline where fans can finally see Jamie and Claire unite after a lifetime of separation. We have witnessed their separate journeys, marked with moments of loss, sacrifice, detachment, and loneliness. Each walking in the shadows of their own existence, finding each other once again meant completion, and nothing signifies this more than the events that soon followed the time and space of the print shop floor. The joy in their re-discovery of one another, in addition to their visceral connection in both body and spirit, is what makes this reunification so profoundly memorable.

Outlander Journal insert by Insight Editions / Photo Courtesy / Insight Editions

Yet, on the other hand, the print shop had another meaning.

"I have fought wi' sword and dirk many times. The English took them away. But the press was a weapon in my hands again. I've been arrested for sedition six times in the last two years, and my premises seized twice, but the court wasna able to prove anything."

-Jamie Fraser in “A. Malcolm.” Outlander. Starz, 22 Oct. 2017

We all wish we could have traveled back to Scotland to experience the year 1766, the time period that Jamie Fraser operated the Print Shop. There is so much we can learn, from a historical perspective, by looking at the Print Society of the 18th century to imagine what Jamie’s life may have been like. More importantly, how the printing press influenced the spread of information on a wide range of political, constitutional, and religious topics through pamphlets and other printed materials. We saw a glimpse of some of Jamie’s printed seditious materials, hinting to some of his illegal dealings, in Episode 7, Creme de Menthe. These scenes illustrated the power the printing press had during this time period, facilitating the spread of information to all components of society and not solely elite members. The easy reproduction of written material in large quantities, holding differing views of the class system in place, were considered a great threat and viewed as inciting disobedience or heresy. Thankfully, our beloved hero always narrowly manages to distance himself enough to avoid getting caught on the vast charges that were often imposed.

Perhaps as a printer, he also would have developed a close network with publishers, and other printers and booksellers – collaborating as necessary to secure profit. His inner circle may have now also included Scottish lawyers, intellectuals, and heads of religious society. What is most striking is that his name, A. Malcolm, would have been registered for licensing purposes, creating a whole new legal identity that further separated himself from his previous ties to the Jacobite cause. These poignant facts and interpretations were discovered through a fantastic discussion held by the Outlander Podcast entitled 18th Century Print Culture of Scotland. We highly suggest this podcast! You can listen to this specific episode by clicking here.

Our marvelous group of Sassenachs that enjoyed the Print Shop tour. Photo Courtesy / J.M.G.

For these reasons alone we needed to come to experience the print shop – to walk the footprints of these monumental scenes. As our tour guide brought us closer to our destination, there was a clear elevation in excitement found within our group. Imagery formed through our imagination from reading these cherished passages to seeing Sam Heughan embody Jamie Fraser within the Print Shop scenes had made this visit even more special. We no longer saw the print shop through pictures or snippets of our own interpretation – we could touch the materials, manipulate the type sets, and even work the press! Who could ask for more! And yes, we really did feel that much closer to Jamie Fraser (if you needed to ask)!

As we walked into San Diego’s very own Print Shop, we each marveled at the tools and materials that were laid out. The setup of the store was very reminiscent to what it may have looked like in its working days. We found a workspace that may have been used to place type sets, spent time exploring the wooden storage that held every possibility of letter sizes for printing use, and then held the tools that were needed to efficiently place and manipulate each application perfectly prior to being placed on the working press.

Fun Facts About San Diego’s Printing Press

We went in to be closer to our favorite hero, but we also were presented with some fun and interesting facts in the process. Here are a few of our favorite tidbits of information we learned from our knowledgeable guide.

Our guide showing us the workings of the printing press.
  • The printing press we observed was an antique Washington Press built in 1840. This press, reminiscent of the one possibly used by Jamie Fraser, was built to last. In fact, 70% of the press is from its original form. In the past, a blacksmith often repaired the parts of the press if they were broken.
  • Females could be a typesetter. There was a requirement to be able to read in order place backgrounds and place type set in reversed order. From our experience, you also needed good eyesight!
  • Printer Devils were often associated with this type of press. The name fits the description as the boys who worked this type of press were often covered in ink and found to be overdeveloped on one side of the body from working the lever of the press. It was truly hard and laborious work.
  • The model found on this working press was actually the newspaper from 1869.
  • It took an estimated four days to layout the format of the newspaper and set the type print. The fifth day was spent on production in order to print an average of 600 papers. This left the sixth day (Saturday) to sell in hopes of making a profit.
  • The cost of this San Diego paper was 12.5 cents, significantly higher than larger cities who charged 5 cents. The reason was the increased cost of importing paper. This was also a time period in which the average man earned $30 a month, making the cost of the newspaper nearly 1/8th of a dollar. To pay this amount a coin system was developed, called a ‘bit.’
  • A proof press (a simple wooden roller) was often utilized to catch mistakes before massive production was to be completed. This tool enabled the ink to be placed and distributed manually versus using the machine. Mistakes and errors could quickly be found, and modifications would be completed to ensure accuracy of the final publication.

Celebrating Strong Women In Our Own History

Truthfully, we learned much more than what could be placed in a single blog. Our guide taught us about a local healer/medicine woman, allowed us to explore their local herb gardens, and spoke to us about Helen Hunt – who was a poet and writer. Most importantly, she became an Indian rights activist that used literature as a way to speak truths about inhumanity. Telling us these memorable stories enabled our tour guide to quickly find a way to each of our hearts by emphasizing the strong women in our local history. After all, we all admire those who are not the meek or obedient type. With such a lively afternoon full of tales and adventures, we each felt the best place to end our day was at Afternoon Tea.

Afternoon Tea Brings Us Closer Together

The site of this Afternoon Tea was not only beautifully prepared for our group, but it also held a special ambience that could be felt throughout the event. These walls had stories to tell! Originally built in the early 1800’s, it was first a mansion and considered the societal center of town. By 1870, it was a hotel that featured a saloon, sitting room, billiards room, barber shop, and post office. Sitting in this space, restored to its splendors found nearly 150 years ago, added more meaning to each of us, and we enjoyed every moment!

Our gorgeous tea serving, even with edible flowers! Photo Courtesy / J.M.G.

With three tiers of delicious food, from savories to desserts, we replenished ourselves with fresh brewed tea, tasty bites, and fun conversation. This Afternoon Tea was different than the traditional English inspired food served at other locations. The menu reflected the history of this location by incorporating hints of Spanish and Mexican flavorings into the food. We ate brioche with skirt steak and mango salsa, Gazpacho soup, Spanish egg salad, and even roasted red pepper scones! We savored every bite and tried a variety of teas. There is no question, we will be returning!

My personal favorite was the Assam Tea. Fresh tea, great conversation, and greeted by my beloved characters – led to a perfect afternoon!

Our day had to come to an end, but not without planning for the next event! As we said our goodbyes, we couldn’t help but stop and take a moment to be thankful for all these new friendships – “All because she wrote a book.”

We couldn’t have had a better afternoon. Thank you for sharing memories that we will always remember!

Special Thank You

We must send our sincerest thank you to one of our group members, Maria, who spent the time planning and organizing this tour for our group. She was able to help create a priceless experience we all can cherish. We can’t wait for next one!

References as of 10/16/2017

All photos from our blogs are owned by Timeless Sass3nach Journeys, unless noted or attributed. The use of our photos is not permitted unless consent is given.


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