Images of printing equipment
The Excelsior Press
Museum  Print Shop
Frenchtown, NJ 08825
founded in Free Acres, NJ ~ 1962

The Excelsior Press is a working job printing shop - a private letterpress print shop, currently located in an essentially unheated barn on a farm in Kingwood Township, Frenchtown, NJ. 08825
The shop is equipped with type that was cast and machines that were built between 1880 & 1950,  and is operated with the same skills, craftsmanship and attention to detail as in small print shops all across America during that era.

The Excelsior Press (private) Museum Print Shop
is a real 1930's era letterpress print  shop.
We do custom letterpress printing of  cards, posters,invitations, prose, poetry, small books and pamplets - all printed on our classic cast iron letterpresses...
Some might call it a "letterpress studio" or a "printing office", but we prefer to simply call it our print shop.



Other Resources

Fritz Klinke - NA Graphics,
John Barret, Letterpress Things
Craig Black - Don Black Linecasting
Steve Robison - Letterpreservation


Pages about US:

The Excelsior Press - Our Print Shop - Then and Now


Fiona Otway's Kiss The Paper Documentary Film
MISC PHOTOS from our Online Image Catalog


A 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior restored at The Excelsior Press
Ed's Pilot Restoration - a work in progress
Jane's Letterpress Kit

Aerial Photo of the Farm

How we can help YOU


We've been doing Letterpress Printing as The Excelsior Press for over fifty years. Perhaps we can do a good job for you.

     Things we print:
  • Broadsides
  • Business Cards
  • Greeting Cards
  • Posters
  • Trade Services:
    • Imprinting
    • Consecutive Numbering
    • Perforating
    • Die-Cutting
    • Scoring
    • Embossing
  • Custom Printing Projects
  • Wild, Crazy, Fun Creative Printing Projects
  • Short-run work on the Vandercook & Hand Presses
  • Maximum Production on Heidelberg Windmills

 from the Excelsior Press Inventory and Collection

About using your press:
Letterpress Classes - Tutoring at the Excelsior Press

Essays & Articles & Frequently Asked  Questions
Some Tips on Using Your Small Platen Press

Moving a Press Safely - How we do it.

Letterpress Printing Presses - Your Next Press

More about Excelsior Parts, Pawtucket, R.I.

Buyer Endorsements
Example Table Top Press Restorations

The New 7x11 Excelsior Pilot Bench Top Platen Press


Press Identification:
"Ken's Mystery Press"

An Especially Historical Chandler & Price 12x18 restored by the Canadian Conservation Institute

Get Some Inspiration -
Resources that Inspire Letterpress Designers
Brian Allen's OfficinaBriana Press
Contemporary Letterpress -
what it can be - something to see:

A great site about Wood Block Engraving & Printing

A Photo-Essay of the Old Caslon Type Foundry in England - circa 1900

More Links to pages about Letterpress Printing


Letterpress Resources
Quaker City Type (CLOSED)
Skyline Type Foundry
Dale Guild Type Foundry (CLOSED)
M&H Type
Swamp Press Type Foundry

Wood Type
Virgin Wood Type

Type Casting
American Typecasting Fellowship
Brass & Copper printing & Embossing Dies
 Owoso Graphic Arts, Owosso, Michigan
Hodgins Engraving, Batavia, NY
Globe Engraving, NJ

Photo-polymer plates

Book  Bindery Equipment
Bindery Tools, LLC
New Industrial-grade Round Cornering Machine
from Craftsmen Machinery

Page on Diecutting

  • Fritz Klinke of NA Graphics sells rollers for Kelsey and other presses
  • David Hauser of Tarheel Roller in North Carolina continues to make high quality composition rollers for these (and other) letter presses. AND, now offers letterpress rollers made from soft rubber 20 durometer Buna N material. Call Tarheel for soft rubber prices.
  • Ramco Rollers, in Los Angeles, casts and grinds rollers for all sized presses.
  • Tod's PressTime is casting rollers for Adana and many other small presses. Find him on eBay.
  • The Excelsior Press also casts custom rollers for any press in our collection. 


Our New "Under Construction" Index of Platen Presses we have information about

Adana Presses ~ British Letterpress (Adana)   ~   Chandler & Price   ~    C&P Pilot Press   ~   Challenge Proof Press  ~ 
  Craftsmen Presses  
Sigwalt Presses
  ~  APA Page on Sigwalt  ~  Thompson/Colt/Gally   ~   Vandercook   ~
 Victor Table Top Press   ~   Heidelberg Windmill   ~  The 6x10 Favorite Platen Press
The Washington Hand Press

AAPA Page on Golding Pearl, Official & Golding  Company History
(moved to)
Dave Tribby's page on Golding Presses at Handset Press
John Falstrom's Golding Restorations
Golding Guru web site



Original Excelsior Press Essays/Articles on Misc. Letterpress Subjects - local links
Other Web Pages of Interest to Letterpress Printers - external links

Our Work - Letterpress Printing
Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson,
                                hand-set in 18 Nicholas Cochin Foundry
An Emerson excerpt, hand-set in 18 point Nicholas Cochin foundry type.
The setting and printing of this piece was documented in the Video Biography.

We do traditional letterpress printing. And, in our spare time, we rescue, restore and pass on old letterpress equipment such Kelsey Excelsior Platen Presses, Chandler & Price Platen Presses and Vandercook & Challenge Proof presses. We also collect, catalog, use and some times pass on  fonts of  hand-set foundry type and wood type as well as the cases and cabinets to keep them in... WE PRINT
Letterpress Posters
Letterpress Cards
Letterpress Invitations

Film Festival Type Form in

The form used to print The 2007 River Moon Film Festival poster

Excelsior Press business card
                                  circa 1975
The Excelsior Press Business Card,
circa 1975
(phone #'s and address out of date)
Excelsior Press Museum card circa
The Excelsior Press Museum card
circa 2001
(Calif phone # no longer in use.)
current shipping address:
1133B State Route 12
Frenchtown, NJ 08825
                                  Runfeldt, Printer - business card
Business Card printed May, 2009
The Excelsior Press Printing Shop is located on the Grossman Farm, near Frenchtown, New Jersey
Hay field on the Grossman Farm,
                                    home of the Excelsior Press
View from the Excelsior Press - a Hayfield on the Grossman Farm
Click photo to see farm map.
Visitors welcome. Please  contact us for appointment.
Watch here for an update describing the filming of a short scene for a video about the life of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The scenes of typesetting and printing on the old platen press were shot in our shop.

visit our PHOTOS  pages,
or check out our Videos of Letterpress Live!

Occasionally, and as time and circumstances permit, we accept students who wish to learn the craft of letterpress
printing as it was taught to us nearly fifty years ago...

Services Available: Rates: $65-85/hour for:
  • Letterpress Printing - cards, tickets, stationary, wedding invitations, posters... consecutive numbering of forms and tickets, die cutting, embossing, etc.
  • Letterpress Printing Equipment Consulting and repair
  • "Lessons in Letterpress" - Letterpress Printing Instruction, Training, Tutuoring - in my shop or yours.
  • Small letterpress repair  & restoration services
  • Ludlow Composition & casting
  • Linotype Composition
call 908 627-2730 or  CONTACT
The Compositor at Work -
The Compositor at Work - from Harper's 1887


Sarah & Jenet Hand Feed the old Gordon Jobberx
Sarah & Jenet hand-feeding
                                    the old Gordon Platen Press
Other Video worth seeing:


USA Network's New TV Show "White Collar" premiered Oct 23, 2009
and features one of our Heidelberg Windmills in the "counterfeitters" scene..

See trailer And see "the rest of the story"....

Collected Animations and Videos
of C&P Presses at work:

Handfeeding the
                            old C&P
Hand-feeding the old
Chandler & Price

(This animated gif comes from Fireproof Press and features John Upchurch running a Chandler and Price 14x22.
copyright 1994, Matthew McClintock.


And here's s neat animation of a C&P in operation from
Blinc Publishing

Animation of
                                          Chandler & Price Hand
                                          Press from Blink Publishing


Youtube Video
by Andrea & Joe Lanich of
Laughing Owl Press
Printing Leekfest Posters
on the Heidelberg Windmill

Video - Printing Leekfest Posters
                                at The Excelsior Press

(great soundtrack, by the way....)


The Excelsior Press was the name I picked for my shop when the only press was a Kelsey Excelsior and I was about 12 years old. Twenty years later, when I finally decided to get the heck out of the maddening printing business, and preserve my equipment (and my sanity) for posterity - and to get back to doing printing I could enjoy, with no customer deadlines, I thought that "Museum of Printing" sounded good. But, there is so much more to printing than I can even fathom, much less teach, and there are so many excellent web sites on line and so many new printing shops and museums throughout the world today, that I have decided to better describe my little endeavor as "The Excelsior Press Museum Printing Shop", which is what it is, simply my little print shop, preserved for demonstration, teaching and, of course real old time printing.... This museum print shop was founded in 1962 as The Excelsior Press, by a young boy who wanted to be a printer when he grew up. His first press was a present from his parents on his 12th birthday. It was a small letterpress manufactured by the Kelsey Company of Meriden, Connecticut. It was their 3"x5" Press - the "Excelsior" Model. (This press model press was recently featured in a Smithsonian Institute Presentation entitled "A Boy and His Press") To a twelve year old boy, "The Excelsior Press" was a logical choice for the name of the printing shop he established in the basement of his parents' home. 

continue "history" | | Go to Main Menu

a short quicktime video
of Alan Runfeldt Hand-feeding his circa 1914 10x15 Chandler & Price Platen Press.
Shot by Wayne Miller as I printed tickets and posters for the River Moon Film Festival

Hand Feedling the Chandler &
                                  Price - video

download free Quicktime player

See the poster that is show being printed in the video

New Video -  4/12/07
"Running the Windmill"

Running the
                              Heidelberg Windmill Platen Press

3 min run time, 2 min download time via dsl.
For dozens of additional videos - and new ones being added, please visit our Youtube Channel - No Deadlines.
Runnng the 25x37" ATF Kelly Three Flatbed Press
at the Garfield Messenger, Garfield, NJ
October, 14, 2009
Excelsior Press Video

Video of Jimmy printing newspapers

The ATF Kelly Three - the last - and largest - of the ATF Kelly Flatbed Letterpresses made in America.

This letterpress WAS NOT RESCUED
... and was scrapped -  lost forever!
Hand Feeding the Dexter Folder
at the Garfield Messenger, Garfield, NJ
October, 14, 2009
Excelsior Press Video

Video of Jimmy folding newspapers

This Hand-fed Dexter folder will fold 1,000 23x35 inch sheets to tabloid size in 1/2 hour.

Only used once a week for the past fifty years to print the local newspaper. This press and folder are now lost to history...



And a Great BBC Video about Gutenberg.... Thanks for the link to Briar Press and Dan at The Arm...
Sarah & Jenet hand-feeding the old
                            Gordon Platen PressSarah and Jenet "kicking the treadle" on the old Gordon Jobber - accompanied by Rich (Frontroom Press) on the guitar.

Sarah had printed a wedding suite on the Vandercook and needed to score the table tents, so the Gordon was just the press for the job. It's a great video, and the music really adds to the effect.   - check it out!

The purpose of our collection and restoration is: "To Document, Illustrate, Practice and Preserve the Techniques of Printing Generally Employed in a sole-proprietor-sized printing office of the first half of the Twentieth Century."
Notes: Feb 19, 2005:
I learned letterpress in the 60's; my teachers were already old printers. This new crop of printers make me a bit nervous - hobbyists and artists. I learned letterpress because it was printing, and it worked. The old guys I worked with were simply printers - not artists; not historians; not bookmakers; simply printers. Printing was a trade. It was different then. They were typographers because in a small print shop, the printer was the graphic artist, typographer, pressman and bindery worker - all in one. And their work was distinctive; the things they printed carried the stamp of their style...

The difference to me is that the old printers I worked with didn't know they were artists, and had little pretension beyond knowing that they were printers, and they were proud enough of that...

And, although I now earn my living as a database programmer and web developer, I always enjoy sneaking away to the barn to set type by hand - or cast Ludlow slugs - or run the hand press or Vandercook... just to relax.

Someday, I may make my shop more public. For now, it's just my little print shop in a barn on a farm 2 miles from a quaint little village on the Delaware River about an hour north of Philadelphia.

But I thought it might be worth sharing with the world. I like this work; this type; these presses. And I know a lot about the tools I use and the printers who used them before me.

I learned printing when it was a trade; before it attracted afficiandos. But I'm glad that it has. It kinda makes me feel a bit special as I see the world waking up again to the quality and beauty of letterpress printing...

Alan Runfeldt, printer (since 1962)
February, 2005


Document Menu

Return to Introduction - 1962

History of Excelsior Press - 1962-1967

The Excelsior Press Today - 1986-1997

How It was Done - 1986-1996

The PEOPLE of The Excelsior Press - 1975-1985

Smithsonian Museum of American History Exhibit: Printing & Graphic Arts
Lycos search for "Printing History"
Links of Other websites of interest to Letterpress Afficianados
goto Alan Runfeldt's Website - 1995-2007

Contact  webmaster

|Menu| History of Excelsior Press- 1962 - 1967

continuing from introduction..... Begin at Introduction ...

During the previous winter (1962), his father had brought home a gift from a neighbor, William C. Soper who had heard that this neighbor's son wanted to be a printer. In his youth, the now retired Mr. Soper had worked for the American Type Founders Company. ATF was the major manufacturer of printers high quality, hard-metal lead type. The gift he sent over was a couple of peach baskets filled with pied type - little lead letters all jumbled up in a pile. 12 point ATF Goudy Oldstyle and Italic - cast on a 14 point body. Easy to work with, even for a novice. That winter, father and son worked together, sorting out the letters into the California Job Cases Mr. Soper had supplied.

Now he was ready to start printing.

Some special neighbors knew of his interest in printing. One of these neighbors was Mr. Spencer Brodney an author who could be rightly described as "A Victorian Gentleman", born in Brisbane, Australia in the 1880's. Mr. Brodney's story - and that of his wife Edith and his sons Kenneth and Richard, who became a characters in the story of the Excelsior Press in later years - is a tale of its own and deserves its own web page.

One day, Spencer Brodney wrote a "Letter of Introduction" to his friend Joseph Ishill, proprietor of the private "Oriole Press". Mr. Ishill and his wife, the poet Rose Freeman Ishill, were personal friends of Frederick W. Goudy, one of America's pre-emient typographers. They had known Mr. Goudy when they both lived in Garden City, Long Island during the 1920's.

Mr. Ishill welcomed the young printer, but would not let him actually enter the shop beneath his house while he was working, so the young printer would stand in the doorway, watch Mr. Ishill at work and listen to the impromtu lectures that came from this interesting old man.

Mr. Ishill did not earn a living as a printer; he had a job of some sort - but nothing related to printing. He loved printing too much, he explained, and wanted to print what he chose to print, not what some paying customer wanted. His advice was to avoid "job printing" as printing for pay was called, and focus on the content and design and purpose of the things to be printed.

During the 1920's and 30's, he had printed broadsides for anarchists and union organizers and poetry and short stories - some quite radical - for authors whose work he respected. The result is a collection of beautiful small books and pamphlets currently in the collection of the library at Rutgers University.

Mr. Ishill printed on an old "Favorite" as well as an Improved Pearl #8 - a 5x8 chase-sized press which is currently in the collection of the Excelsior Press Museum.

But although the young boy appreciated the advice and understood its value, he did not follow it, but thought instead that by doing job printing, he could acquire the type and equipment and build a shop with which he could someday print what he wanted as Mr. Ishill did.

He wanted to be a printer. If printing for pay could make that happen,  it was the path to follow...

As time went on, he learned about printing wherever he could - mostly from old printers he met. He spent one summer visiting his grandmother in Florida and managed to work his way into a part time job  - mostly sorting type and spaces - for a small print shop called Pembroke Press. Pay was a Big Boy Hamburger and large coke for lunch. He was satisfied; he was printing and that Big Boy was the first hamburger he had ever had that was served with lettuce and mayonaise. Quite exotic.

When he left Pembroke Press, the proprietor insisted on sending him on his way with a letter of recommendation that said, in part that "(this boy) has an interest in printing to the highest degree".

Strong words, but they stuck in his mind for the rest of his life.

When he was fourteen, he had the opportunity to buy a "real" full-sized printing press, a Chandler & Price 8x12 Platen Press. This press was not built for a boy hobbiest, as was his Kelsey Excelsior, this press was built for a man to operate, full time and at full speed - about 30 impressions per minute. It was built around the turn of the century, and was operated by a foot treadle, as well as an add-on electric motor. Along with this press came an older (1870's-90's) Gordon press built in New England by Damon & Peets. There were also about fifty California job cases full of old foundry type - including a complete selection of Theodore Devinne's "New" Typeface from the 1890's, and a very full case of "Typewriter Type" a mono-spaced font used to simultate the style of a Typewriter - a modern machine during that era. These presses and type were from a printing shop owned and operated by Tony Rienzo who had used the shop to support his family during the Great Depression of the 30's, then closed the shop and left it in storage for thirty years until he decided it was time to part with the now obsolete equipment. None of the printing businesses of the '60's had any interest in this old letterpress equipment, so he offered to sell it all for $400 to the boy who worked in the print shop downtown.

That boy was fourteen year-old Alan Runfeldt, who wanted more than anything to have his own type cases and printing presses to begin his own career. He was frustrated that, because of his age, he could not get a "real" job in a printing shop, and was forced to do menial clean-up and manual labor. He wanted to "set type and run a press" but there was no type to be set in the mostly offset shops in the area, and the old printers in the nearby city - those who still used lead type - would not trust the work to a young boy.

So, at fourteen, Alan, encouraged and assisted by his parents, loaded up the entire shop from the basement of an old building in Jersey City, and unloaded it all into the new basement of their home in the wooded Free Acres section of Berkeley Heights. The Excelsior Press began to grow. It was no longer a young boy with a boy's toy printing press, but a real print shop with real printing presses - somewhat old-fashioned, but at last, he could set his own type and print on his own printing presses. He couldn't get a job doing what he wanted to do, so he equipped his own print shop and went to work.

Three years later, he met Mr. Wallach, who had equipped a basement print shop for his son, Ken - a classmate of Alan's. Ken showed no interest in the printing press and type, so it was offered for sale to Alan. The equipement consisted of a 10x15 Chandler & Price Platen Press and 48 cases of foundry type, including a complete series of Goudy OldStyle and Italic, from 6 to 48 point. The cases were clean and enclosed in tight-fitting dust-free Hamilton Cabinets which shone when polished and oiled. The metal was fresh, hard ATF foundry metal - not merely lead, but a unique alloy of lead, tin and antimony - all mixed to exactly the right percentage to make a type that felt right in the typesetter's fingers.

to be continued.....

�1996-2007 Excelsior Press TOP � Contact  webmaster

TOP The Excelsior Press Today- 1986-1996

Today (1996) the Excelsior Press is resting in a barn on a farm a few miles outside of Frenchtown, New Jersey. Only a few miles from the Delaware River, the farm is a tranquil place for a collection of old printing presses and printers types. The shop "is a mess" and everything needs to be cleaned and arranged. Some presses have collected some rust, the paint is pealing off of the Vandercook Proof Press, and the typecases all need to be cleaned and the wood oiled. But this is being done, slowly, but surely. The shop will be fully functional and available to illustrate - hands-on - just how a small print shop operated during the period from 1900 to 1950. The 10x15 C&P and the Heidelberg Windmill are fully operational and are being used again. In 1995, the Heidelberg was used to produce some beautifully embossed cards for The Knoll Group, and the Windmill continues to crank out carton upon carton of numbered and perforated receipt forms every autumn, as it has since 1976..


update 12/27/2001:
After four months away from home this summer, it finally dawned on me that I was 52 years old and had been dreaming about resurrecting the old Excelsior Press as a working shop for over 15 years... The result was a resolve to walk away from this damned computer and the internet for a few hours each day, and head into the barn to putter and print.

Well, I'm happy to say that I've been doing just that. The result can be seen in the photo links listed at the top of this page.

The Vandercook Proof Press has been disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, given a new set of soft rollers and is once again in operation. It sure feels good.

* n.b. As of this writing, we are just completing the 2001/2002 "Dog License Season". We've been doing this one job since 1976... twenty-five years. For twenty-five years, my Thanksgiving, Birthday and Christmas has been overshadowed by the pressing need to get late orders processed and printed above all else. No wonder I'm such a Scrooge. For weeks before Christmas, my primary concern is to "print the dog licenses" and Christmas always arrives as a surprise to me...

But, now the Heidelberg is placed in a shop in barn on a farm - with heat and insulation- and a fantastic view of hay fields, the Delaware Valley, and The Hills of Pennsylvania off in the distance. Sunsets are amazing here, too. So these days, as I run my Windmill and print these boring, mundane black on white municipal forms, I gaze off into the distance at blue skies and amazing sunsets.

It's fun to be a printer... and to be printing.

And now, once again, I'm beginning to print things much more interesting than dog licenses!

- Alan - 12/27/2001

update 3/3/2006:
Apologies for the lack of updates in the past five years... Life goes on and is very busy. But here I am again, back at the keyboard, cleaning up old errors and improving (hopefully) the look of the website. Over the years since 2001, a lot has changed - improved - at the Excelsior Press. It's really back in operation and things are being printed now and then. There's still a lot of cleaning and organizing to be done, and much of the equipment is still dirty and grimy and in need of cleaning, but a lot of it is working as well. At least I can go in there now and set type and print cards and tickets and posters and such when I can find the time. But it's a spring-summer-fall print shop. There is no heat or insulation, so most actual printing is curtailed during the New Jersey winter - when it's generally below 45 degrees.

But I have been able to print on the C&P using a new propane heater to warm up the ink table and the old printer's trick of "the ink candle" - a thick candle behind the ink table, keeping it warm in a cold print shop... I learned that from Mr. Liberty in 1965. He learned it in Romania in the 1890's....

The exciting news from 2004 was Wayne Miller's video of me at work cutting card stock and printing some tickets and posters for the local Film Festival. There's a link at the top of this page.

The big news for 2006 is the addition of a few more hand presses and hot metal keyboard composition added to our mostly foundry-type composing room. Barry Mueller has sold his building and is bringing his Intertype and his Linotype - and dozens of fonts - down to the Excelsior Press for semi-retirement. Barry's been running these machines for 20-30 years and he's coming too - to teach me operation and maintenance of these linecasters (something I've waited 40 years to learn) and to do composition work for our projects.

We also picked up some type cabinets and some type from Hobson Printing, in Easton, Pa. Hobson Printing was founded in 1896 and did mostly letterpress printing - books and such - almost until the end of the last century. But the building was sold, and had to be emptied. Some of their type and cabinets - and a really neat wrapping paper dispenser have been added to our collection.

Next chore is to arrange for some projects to do...

update - May 2006

This week's news contains two stories -

The first is about a new printer - Amy, a graphic designer from Ohio, who wanted her own press and is intrigued about letterpress printing. Amy and her husband Jason drove all the way out from Ohio to spend a day at the shop, learning to print on her own 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior Press. The best part of the day was when I saw that light go on in her eyes and her sparkling smile of joy when she got the test print to look good. Then she learned to set hand type and printed a "Happy Mother's Day" card for her mother. By the end of the all-too short day together. We got some nice photos, too. Watch for them on our photos page soon.

And, during the week before Amy's visit, we cleaned up the back room and washed, etched and painted the concrete floor - to hold down the all-too present dust - and made room for Barry's equipment - the Intertype, the Model 31 Linotype, his Model M Ludlow and his as-yet unsold Heidelberg Windmill. They all arrived on Tuesday - finally, after about two years' discussion, the job is nearly done. All that we are waiting for is the new 220 volt line to get power to this equipment. Soon I'll be learning to operate the Linotype and Intertype and we'll be casting slugs for our Excelsior/Mercury Linotype Samples. And, once everything is operational, we will be offering Linotype and Ludlow Casting Services for other printers as well!

(Now, if I can just get my friend Paul to part with his Elrod at a good price, we'll be casting leads, slugs and border materials as well.)

- Alan 5/13/06

update 5/6/2012: 

Can it be? I have not updated this chronicle in six years! What have I been doing? (Lots of stuff, but not updating this page, obviously.) Well, the print shop and web site have grown quite a bit during the past six years.  Updates can now be see on the blog pages which have been chronicling much of what has happened since it was begun in 2008. The blog pages also now serve as links to new information being published on the site, so it's worth a visit..

And, more news. (Gee, this is like a personal diary...) Since 2006, the craft of letterpress - and the skills and equipment needed to pursue the craft - have again come into vogue. In fact, two years ago, a nationally-recognized film maker made a documentary about letterpress printing right here in the shop. Kiss The Paper by Fiona Otway is currently "on the festival circuit", and we are hoping to see it on PBS some day. Our equipment has been filmed by Discovery Channel, USA Networks, Doug Audria, Wayne Miller and many visitors to the shop. It's been quite a ride and has been lots of fun.

These days, we are restoring presses, tutoring new printers, supplying starter kits and various used equipment and supplies in small quantities to folks who need it. We've also begun "consulting" on letterpress printing as well as doing training and servicing of old presses on site. It's nice to get out now and then.

And of course, we are still printing - but now it's both job printing to help pay the bills and (finally) personal printing which is quite literally just for fun. I make an effort to print something new every day when I can. If not every day, at least one little project a week - maybe just a proof, maybe a stack of cards - what ever. But it's putting ink on paper that's printing...

And it is still fun. Been at this craft off and on for fifty years now, and to me printing is still magical...

One of the printing projects in the shop, by the way, is a catalog of well over 50 different photoengravings and wood cuts that were used by The Kelsey Company in their advertising from the 1870's through the 1990's. These cuts are on loan from Gene Mosher, last owner of the Kelsey Company. We are printing a catalog, then a book using the original cuts that Kelsey used well over a hundred years ago. Now, that's a project!

- and we will shout it from the rooftops once it's ready to share with the world.

- Alan Runfeldt May, 2012

For further updates, see our blog pages

to be continued.....

�1996-2012 Excelsior Press TOP Contact  webmaster

TOP The People of The Excelsior Press - 1975-1985

THE PEOPLE of the Excelsior Press are an important part of its history. They are a collection of some very unique individuals. There is something about a printing shop which, throughout history - from Ben Franklin's shops in the 17th century, to the Excelsior Press is the 1970's, which seems to attracts interesting characters. Those who passed through the EP over the years seemed to be aware that they had participated in a special moment in history. They all seem to have had a sense of "something special" about the EP and they all made a personal contribution to its character, reputation and history. The cast of characters involved and where they are now would be the subject of a small book. Perhaps we'll explore that in the future, after the Web Site fulfills its main purpose: Documenting and Illustrating the Techniques of Printing Generally Employed in a sole-proprietor-sized printing office of the first half of the Twentieth Century

to be continued.....

continued January, 2014

Yes, it's been a while, but now it's time to immortalize some of that great staff we've had at the Excelsior Press since the days in the basement and up to today, with the shop in the barn...

While in sixth grade, Ricky Ryan and I had my little 3x5 Kelsey set up in a spare art room in the basement of Columbia School in Berkeley Heights. Ricky & I printed a few jobs for the school during our art classes.

But the first actual employee of the Excelsior Press was Charlie Bivona 1974. That was in the basement shop at 362 Emerson Lane, in Berkeley Heights, NJ - where the Excelsior Press began. Charlie moved on before we set up shop in town, but apparently he liked printing presses, stayed in close touch after he got "a real job" and spent many years servicing - and now selling - small offset presses here in New Jersey.

Curt Nowell graduated high school with my brother in 1974 and wanted something better than continued work with his Uncle Dirk's landscaping business; he wanted to learn an indoor trade and started at The Excelsior Press while it was still in the basement, was integral in the move and set up at 614 Springfield Avenue and stayed with the EP until moving on to join our good friend John Brundo at Bantam Press, where he managed production until John retired and closed the shop a few years ago. When Bantam shut down, Curt was quickly hired by our combined best customer and continues to manage printing production at MGL Printing Solutions. We work together on projects to this day.

MGL Printing Solutions is the evolved name of MGL Forms-Systems, founded by Matthew G. Lowe in 1975 or so - when he was just out of college. As the business grew, he hired his brothers and a cousin and developed a wonderfully successful family business. Now, many years later, we still do one particular large annual printing job for MGL as we have been for nearly 40 years...

Mike Ryan was also fresh out of high school and in need of some direction - and a job. As an artist, he had always enjoyed graphics and printing, and he quickly took to setting foundry type and making up metal letterpress forms. Mike did proofs and production work on the Vandercook Model 4 Proof Press we still use to this day. In his honor, it is named "The Michael Ryan Memorial Proof Press"... Mike moved on to working in an engraving shop, then computer graphics and web development.

Mark Powell worked at the EP summers while he was in college. He not only enjoyed the regular job work we produced, but enjoyed doing his own projects as well. Mark completed college and medical school, married his college sweetheart and they opened their own Family Practice in Pennsylvania and raised a bunch of neat kids. We stay in touch now via Facebook...

During the summer of 1977 or '78, Mark and Cathy Rutigliano pretty much ran the entire business and kept the Excelsior Press serving the community while I was off on a travel adventure to California and preoccupied with other issues.

Noel Shaw was an experienced pressman who we met through our friend and fellow printer, Al Beckman. Noel could run any machine he was put in front of and made our little ATF Chief 15 perform like a smaller version of the large presses Noel had been running in the bigger shops. When it came to servicing the machine, he was not afraid to strip it down to its component parts, repair what needed repairing and reassemble the press and get back to printing in an amazingly short time. Noel later ran his own shop in California, then followed me into web development during the mid 1990's before following his own dream and becoming a sea captain, a trade he plies now throughout the world, but particularly enjoys his own "Delivery Skipper" business which includes sailing and delivering beautiful yachts throughout the east coast and the Caribbean...   The adventures of "Tall  Sailor" can be followed on Facebook.

Greg Daniels was an experienced printer and friend of one of our clients. Greg arrived shortly before we got the Heidelberg Windmill, but was familiar with all aspects of letterpress and offset printing and managed the hand type, the C&P and the ATF Chief 15 quite well when he worked part time in the first shop during the 1970's. Later, he returned full time to run the Heidelberg in the enlarged shop we moved into in 1979 - when we got the Windmill. I was very frustrated at the time to finally own my own Windmill, but not have the time to run it. As owner of a 7-person shop running two shifts, I had my hands full and had to hire a pressman to run my dream platen press. Greg was an experienced Windmill operator and took great care of the press, did fine press work and taught me the importance of setting aside time each day for cleaning and preventive maintenance. 

Tom Coyne was still in high school when he came to the Excelsior Press as a customer - he needed to find someone to print his underground newspaper "The Dood"... He needed printing; we needed more help; it was a natural match. We enjoyed the brilliant creativity and cheerful spirit of Tom Coyne for quite a few years - summers mostly, before he went off to college. He eventually married a girl who worked for one our clients and last we heard from him, he was managing a large computerized typesetting computer system for a major publisher.

Mary Ellen Szper was managing the local McDonald's restaurant when she discovered the Excelsior Press and made a career change to something more to her liking... As an artist, she liked all things graphic. As a craftsman, she loved setting type and printing on the old letterpresses. As an experienced manager, she organized the shop and made it profitable. She was a big part of the Excelsior Press for many years and finally left and wound her way west where she became a very successful graphic designer. She returned to visit a few times in the past years as she now wends her way around the continent in her new RV, "Painting her way Across America"...

Sherry Allen arrived one day and said she wanted to learn more about printing. She had already run an AB Dick 360, but we had only an ATF Chief offset, and two operators for it. M.E. took her under wing and taught her to use the darkroom camera, set hand type and run the letter presses. Sherry was a part of the team for a year or two before moving on.

David Powell - Mark's brother - liked what he'd heard about working at the EP and came for a job in the early 1980's. It worked out well. Dave was an integral part of the staff and named his favorite press - our 12x18 Chandler & Price "Big Ben". After he moved on to work at an engraving shop, he engraved a name plate for his press, which sits on it now in the museum print shop. Dave also worked for a time at Bantam Press and is currently an executive at a major printing firm.

Russ Letieq was a friend of Mark and David Powell, had been operating an engraving press in Mountainside, but decided, based upon Mark's suggestion, that working at the EP would be a good thing. We were fully staffed when Russ made his offer to work for two weeks at no pay to let us see how he fit in. Fit in, he did. As Tom Coyne would say "Indeed". Russ was the last full-time employee of the Excelsior Press as we shut down operations in Berkeley Heights, moved briefly to Plainfield, then "retired" the collection of antique presses to the barn where the Excelsior Press Museum Print shop now resides. Russ went on to buy his own over-the-road tractor, settled down, married Sue, and continues to earn his way hauling large trailers here and there around the country. Russ came to visit the shop a few years ago and printed some campaign posters for his wife's run for town council. (She won.)

Howard Henson never worked at the Excelsior Press, but he is an integral part of its history, nonetheless. Howard worked for the sons of the man who bought the rights to "The Little Rascals" short movies back in the 1940's. We printed the sales sheets that he used to sell these shows to local tv stations throughout the country. The business relationship was good and one day we were asked to design and print a spiffy new letterhead for King World Productions. It was this job that let us move up from using a borrowed AM Multilith 1250w to purchase our own more advanced ATF Chief 15 offset press. Eventually, Howard just sort of moved in and became part of the family... arriving at the shop after he left his office at five and staying until it was time to pack it in for the day.

Back around 1979, HH spent months using our computerized typesetting system to prepare a very professional presentation for a pitch to Billy Joel which included the unique idea of a tv channel presenting nothing but music videos 24x7. The idea did not sell, and Howard did not make a million dollars. But a few years later, MTV hit the scene and proved him prescient in his concept... Howard eventually left the area and moved to New York City - the urban center which suits his interests and personality.


Today. Today, the Excelsior Press does not hire people. I found years ago that managing a staff is a full time responsibility and a lot to handle. It's easier to work alone. I get far less done, but life is much, much simpler for me...

But, instead of brilliant staff, we now have brilliant students who come to the shop to learn what they can about letterpress printing for their own purposes. During the past few years, we have trained dozens and dozens of folks how to set type and print - on the Vandercook, the hand presses and the Heidelberg.

Many of them would have fit in well with the historical EP staff and many of them have assisted as informal interns for short periods. Although managed by one individual these days, the Excelsior Press has too much to offer to keep it all for one person to enjoy alone. We welcome visitors and students - especially first-time printers - and love to see the look of wonder and pride in their eyes as they print perhaps their first piece on a letter press. 

Their stories are pretty much told among the pages of the Excelsior Press blog..

Update December 27, 2001.

A few months ago, we had the sad news that one of our Excelsior Press alumni, Mike Ryan, suffered a heart attack and died at 46. Mike first came to the Excelsior Press just out of high school, when his father strongly suggested that he "get a job and learn a trade". Well, Mike learned the trade of letterpress printer at the Excelsior Press. Mike set type, designed printing jobs, and operated the Vandercook Proof Press. He printed most of the pages of the engravings catalog of the Excelsior Press.

After he left the Excelsior Press, Mike went on to become a graphic designer and was most recently involved in designing and creating websites on the internet - a far cry from hand-set type, but a natural progression - and one which has been followed by many of us who used to set all their type by hand from the California job case...

We had hoped that Mike would be able to visit the Museum frequently, and continue his cataloging of the boxes and boxes and trays and trays of engravings, wood type and various ornaments in our collection. Alas, life was too short for that. Instead, we will continue his project for him.

In what we feel is fitting tribute to Mike and his time at the Excelsior Press, our Vandercook, the 1946 Model 4 Proof Press currently being restored, is being christened "The Michael Ryan Memorial Proof Press".

It might seem odd to have a press named in someone's honor, but discussion with Mike's friends and other members of the Excelsior Press Alumni have convinced us that Mike would have liked that, and his mother was deeply touched when told of our plans. So. We are having a brass plaque engraved with his name and will mount it on the press as a part of the restoration. We'll also be collecting and scanning some images of Mike to add to this website in the future.

- ar 12/27/2001

Update October 23, 2007
Last Saturday, we had a visit from one of the Excelsior Press Alumni. Russ Letieq wanted to print some campaign posters for his wife Sue who is running for town council in Glendon, PA. We had a wonderful time playing with the wood type and the Vandercook and made some nice posters for Sue. We have some photos which we will hopefully post on page of their own some time soon...

Update May, 2012

During the past year, we've had two more very special alumni visitors; Mary Ellen Szper went on to a very successful career as an artist - practicing both  commercial and fine art and making quite a name for herself in California.

She bought herself an RV last year and decided to spend a year "or so" on the road - seeing old friends and "painting her way across the country", so to speak. And that's what she's doing right now. She stopped by the farm last summer and parked her RV out by the north field for a few weeks of painting in a bucolic setting before continuing her adventure and heading south "towards Mexico", but seems at this time to be having too much fun in Florida to leave The Sunshine State. It was good to have her back, even just for a time. She was likewise pleased that The Excelsior Press survives. But she was not surprised...

Then, back in March, Dave Powell stopped by. There's a blog post about his visit... He was a young boy, new to printing when he came to us. Now he's a grown man and has been very successful in life and in the printing industry. It's guys like Dave that make us proudest of all...

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THIS SECTION was intended to offer links to explanations of how printing was done in the small letterpress print shop of 1900-1950. These techniques are being practiced today in museum exhibitions, as well as by hobby printers and private presses throughout the world.

 However, over the years, it simply has not been done. Meanwhile, many other printers have done a fine job dealing with this subject. I'll add links here to their sites as we find them. (Suggestions welcome)

If you have a particular interest, and can't find information here, (this is a long-term project....) Please ASK and I will be happy to answer your questions and turn my writing to your subject if I can. 

The Skills of Letterpress Printing fall into three major categories;

  1. Typesetting and Composition
    1. Setting Lead Type
      • Fonts
      • Spacing
    2. Casting Ludlow
    3. Inserting "Cuts" (pictures)
  2. Press work (Printing)
    1. Lockup
      • The Chase
      • The Form
      • Furniture
    2. Makeready
    3. Printing (Running the press)
      • Inking
      • Hand-Feeding
  3. Bindery (All post-press work)
    1. Cutting
    2. Padding
    3. Stitching
    4. Packaging

�� All of the above subjects (and more!) must be mastered by the printer in order to take a job from beginning to end. In the larger shops, these skills became specialized and split up among different craftsmen - eventually, even different unions. But, for the "job" shop of the early 20th century - and even back to Ben Franklin's - or even Gutenberg's times, A "Printer" was a complete master of his trade only if he could follow every step in the design, production and packaging of printed material. ��

to be continued.....

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