- Griffin Swartzell
- Doris, Tom Baker still live their dream.
Doris and Tom Baker's business could be more idyllic, but not without effort. They run their small publishing company, Filter Press, from their beautiful home in Monument. Originally from North Carolina by way of Virginia, they always have been big fans of history.
"When we were in Virginia in the D.C. area, we were constantly dragging our two sons to Civil War battlefields and to museums," says Tom. "When we came out here, this was a whole new world for us, and we became fascinated with Western history."
That's how they first got involved with Filter Press. Doris was buying presents at Covered Treasures in Monument and picked up a few volumes from Filter.
"When the proprietor was ringing me up, she said, 'You know this business is for sale,' and I knew immediately," she says. "We didn't really close the deal until October of 1995 ... Gil was very careful, we were very careful, and it turned out to be very amicable."
Gil is Gilbert Campbell, founder of Filter Press. He was into his 80s and looking to retire after a long, storied career — he was the librarian at Los Alamos National Labs during the Manhattan Project, and later at the Air Force Academy. Campbell founded Filter Press in 1956 to publish a historical book he was writing under the pen name Kelly Choda, titled Thirty Pound Rails.
"It was a perfect pun, because [Thirty Pound Rails] is about the extraction of ores that were used to build the railroads," says Doris Baker. "So that extraction part of that process was sending those ores through a filter press. While he was working on the book, it occurred to him, or I'd like to speculate it occurred to him, that the Filter Press would be a jolly good name for [his company]."
Most of the books Filter released between its founding and Campbell's retirement focused on the history and lore of the Southwest. He published books on the first Anglo encounters with the Native American peoples of the Southwest, including anthropologist Frank Cushing's studies of the Zuni people of New Mexico and John Wesley Powell's documentation of the Hopi in Arizona.
Campbell marketed his tomes at monuments and state and national parks throughout the region, his eye on curious tourists. Filter also printed a swath of out-of-print public domain works like Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
"Twain's was published ... in Harper's Magazine or Century Magazine or some government printing offices," says Tom. "He was able to take these things that were really lost, get them back into print and market those across the Southwest."
After the Bakers took over, the need for local publishers of public domain works dried up. The Bakers emphasized the existing focus on history and historical fiction.
Filter now focuses much of its efforts on educational printing for third- to sixth-grade readers, one market where print books remain relevant. They released a series of 17 teacher-written biographies on prominent Coloradans like Edward Wynkoop and Florence Sabin, dubbed the Now You Know Bios.
Most recently, they released Spencer Penrose: Builder & Benefactor by Colorado author Joyce B. Lohse.
All told, the past 20 years have been good to Filter Press and the Bakers.
"We've grown in sales and we've grown in products and we've grown in touches to the marketplace," says Doris. "We like the fact that we have the feeling that we do meaningful things."