Information Machines: Printing Presses at The Henry Ford
18 artifacts in this set
This hand-operated printing press is one of the oldest remaining in the United States. America's premier press maker, Adam Ramage, made it in Philadelphia in about 1809. He was the first American to improve printing presses and began a tradition of American innovations in printing press design. With this press, two journeymen printers printed about 250 one-sided sheets per hour.
This was the first all-iron press model built by manufacturers R. Hoe & Co. of New York. It was also the very last press made in its series before being succeeded by the Washington Press. This particular press belonged to C.C. Beavers, who used it to print the Ridgeway News (until 1889) and Mecklenburg Times (until 1929) in Virginia.
This press represents the original form of the Washington Hand Press. It established two innovations in printing history: a lightened metal frame for easier transport, and a toggle-joint mechanism to create impressions. This press was used by the Hostetter Company in Pittsburgh. As proprietors of "medicinal" tonics with high alcohol content, the company was successful during the Temperance and Civil War eras.
This peripatetic press was used to print newspapers in the 19th-century American West. Washington hand presses were rugged and extremely popular; this one crossed the Isthmus of Panama on its way from New Orleans to California's gold fields. In 1851, the press's owner, John Judson Ames, started San Diego's first newspaper. The press also printed newspapers in San Bernardino and Independence, California, and in Aurora, Nevada.
Adam Ramage of Philadelphia was the first well-known press maker in America, in business from 1800-1850. He improved upon older wooden presses, using iron for the bed and platen, and a larger screw mechanism. Its low cost and small size made the Ramage popular as a proofing and job press. This "foolscap" press was made by Ramage's successor, Frederick Bronstrup.
This printing press turned the commonly accepted image of a press upside down. Instead of pressing paper down onto a bed of inked type, a lever pushed the inked type up to the paper. And while it functioned similarly to the widespread Washington press, the dramatic reversal of the Foster press caused printers to be skeptical of its practicality.
The Washington Press established two innovations in printing history: a lightened metal frame for easier transport, and a toggle-joint mechanism to create impressions. Over 6000 of these rugged hand presses were sold between 1835-1902; many specialist printers continue to use them today. This press was donated by George Booth, Detroit News publisher and founder of the Cranbrook Educational Community.
The Lowe printing press was one of the earliest portable, low price American presses designed for amateur use. The usual flat platen was replaced by a rolling conical cylinder--which was an interesting experiment--but produced irregular impressions. Presses like this became a solution during the Civil War to print military orders in the field.
This ornate cast iron hand press paid homage to America, but sold best in England. George Clymer developed the press and its ingenious system of levers in Philadelphia in 1813. He named it "Columbian" and decorated it with an eagle (which also served as counterweight), a horn of plenty, and other symbols of American prosperity. Our Columbian was made in England in 1857, after Clymer's death.
The job press was used for short runs of small items like business cards, handbills, and small books. Its foot-operated treadle made printing efficient--typical operators could produce 1000 prints per hour. This job press could also be adapted to run on steam power, allowing the print process to become mechanized for even greater output.
Large cylinder presses were typically used to print newspapers. A curved printing plate attached to the drum rolled over the flat paper surface, leaving an impression behind. Designed for higher capacity than smaller platen hand presses, cylinder and rotary presses produced thousands of copies per hour. This particular press was used to print the Constantine Advertiser Record in Michigan.
The Gordon Franklin was a popular platen job press in the 19th century, celebrated for its innovative ink distribution. Its inventor, George P. Gordon, a Spiritualist, claimed that Benjamin Franklin described the press to him in a dream. J.H. Crouse of Chicago used this press for small jobs, printing patent medicine labels and church bulletins to cover college expenses.
Invented by Abraham O. Stansbury in 1821, this press included an innovative "torsion toggle." When the press bar was turned, three inclined rods straightened, exerting pressure on the platen to make a print impression. The spring-loaded platen returned to its starting position once the print was made.
Large cylinder presses were typically used to print newspapers. A curved printing plate attached to the drum rolled over the flat paper surface, leaving an impression behind. Designed for higher capacity than smaller platen hand presses, cylinder and rotary presses produced thousands of copies per hour. This particular press was used to print the Rhode Island Pendulum.
Enoch Prouty was a Baptist minister who wanted to print a temperance newspaper. He could not afford a press--so he invented one. The long arms and rods on this "grasshopper" press move when operated. In 1892 and 1893, it received merit awards at Chicago's Columbian Exposition. This particular press printed an agricultural journal in Ohio in the 1920s.
The copy press, while visually similar to certain printing presses, serves a different function. These devices were used to make copies of handwritten correspondence or drawings. A document written in water-soluble ink was moistened and placed in the press to make a duplicate. James Watt--who improved upon and invented important steam engines--patented the perfected copy press in 1780.
Before large editions of books or newspapers went into production on mechanized presses, proof presses were often used to make single prints--to proofread hand-set type galleys. Hand presses were becoming obsolete in the late 19th century, but Shniedewend marketed his device as a way to check the quality of photo-engraved image blocks. It is functionally identical to a Washington press.
Invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886, the Linotype machine revolutionized the printing industry. Instead of setting individual pieces of type by hand, printers operated the Linotype's keyboard to assemble a mould of an entire line of type. The machine then cast the entire line in type metal and printers assembled individual lines of type into full pages.