Excelsior Press Collection

HOME / DIRECTORY NEW PRESSES OF 1897 / Newpaper Press 1897

Chandler & Price Platen PressNewspaper & Book Presses
of the 19th Century

Cylinder Presses of 1867-97
Bed - and - Platen Presses 1830 -

From an 1897 Type Foundry Catalog

In 1897, Cleveland Type Foundry listed the Campbell Country Press as one of the newspaper presses they sold. The text below the image indicates that this press had been in use for "more than thirty years".

That would suggest that this press could would have been an option beginning in 1867, but similar presses from other manufacturers might well have been in use as early as 1840.

This is a hand-fed, hand-cranked press. The bed moves back and forth beneath the cylinder, which rotates in one direction and lays the printed sheet on the delivery board (beneath the feed board) after it is printed. The long fingers shown in the bottom right would slip under the printed sheet as the impression cylinder rotated and
would rotate up to support sheet and lay it onto the delivery board for stacking and drying.

This press is equipped with a hand crank, but can also be driven via line shaft or other means. Later installations may have used a gas or steam engine to drive it; and, when they became available, an electric motor.

This is a very basic, simple press; easy to replicate and "pretty much" period accurate circa 1850.

These presses did dominate in smaller newspaper offices well into the 20th century and can still be seen in operation in some museum printing shop exhibits.

Chandler & Price Platen Press

Campbell Country Press Text

Cincinnati Cylinder Press circa 1870

1870 Cincinnati Cylinder Press

This Press was made by the Cincinatti Type Foundry and sold under their name in their 1870 Catalog
CTF Claimed that this press would print 700-1000 sheets/hour or 10-15 rpm
These presses came in a variety of bed sizes that could handle forms from 24x36 to 30x48"

It is also important to note that these are only a few of the many presses used to print books and newspapers during the 19th century. More advanced presses had been made, but sold only to the largest big-city newspapers, while most smaller newspapers in the country were printed on presses such as these.

These presses were also used for printing more than books and newspapers. They were also considered "Job" presses - used for printing various commerical printing jobs - posters, calendars, anything that needed to be printed and was to large for the common hand-fed platen press to handle. 

An interesting note in this regard is the Washington Hand Press currently on display that the Holcome-Jimison Farmstead Museum in Lambertville, NJ. It was used to print the weekly Milford (NJ) Leader. That old hand-fed, hand-inked, hand-pulled Iron Hand Press was used to print the small town's weekly newspaper until 1949 - nearly 100 years after others considered this style press to be "obsolete". It wasn't. Old presses run for a long time....
Washington Hand Press on display at the Hunterdon County Demorcrat

Bed - and - Platen Presses

Although the Flatbed Cylinder style presses did become dominant after 1850, prior to that, the transition from Wooden Common Press to Iron Hand Press to Flatbed Cylinder Press included a less well-known design - the Bed and Platen Press. On this style press, the older Iron Hand Press style platen was incorporated to make the impression and the sheets were hand-fed into a powered system. That power could come from leather-belted Line Shafts as seen in the images below or by a steam or gasoline engine. These presses could produce up to 1000 impressions per hour while maintaining the image quality of the older style Iron Hand Press, which the flatbed cylinder presses of the era could not.

Gleason's Magazine Press Room circa 1852
(image identified by printing historian John Archibald)

Gleason's Magazine Press Room 1852
The presses shown above - as can also be seen in the photo below appear to illustrate not the more familiar flatbed cylinder presses, but appear to be "Bed - and - Platen" presses which were actually more popular for quality printing during the early 19th century.

These presses were powered, but continued to use the older style platen for impression, rather than the cylinders that became more popular after they were improved after 1850.
Bed-n-Platen Presses in Press Room
Bed - and - Platen Presses in Press Room
(location and year unknown)

photo taken from
BED & PLATEN Book Printing Machines
A technical study by
Douglas W. Charles
with a foreword by
Stephen O. Saxe
"American and British streams of ingenious regression in the
quest for print quality"
See more about of Bed-n-Platen Printing Machines  at

Bed-n-Platen Press - Adams, 1856
Adams Single Feed Bed-and-Platen Press as advertized in 1856
This is more likely the press shown in the photo and drawing above. This is the press more likely to have been used at the Springfield Republican in 1840.

Bed-n-Platen Press Patent
                            Model - Adams, 1830
Patent Model of Adam's Two-feed Bed and Platen Press
note the old style iron platen in the center.

This press was designed for two sheet feeders to operate from opposite ends of the press, with sheets being transported to beneath the platen to make the impression. The single-feed Bed -and- Platen design - as seen in the advertisement above - was shorter and designed to be operated by a single feeder. In other words, "half" of the press shown in the patent model photo.

Inking was accomplished automatically - using glycerine or leather-covered rollers rather than the old style Ink Balls used on the hand-operated horizontal platen presses - whether Wooden Common Press design or the later Iron Hand Press Design.

The Bed -and- Platen design greatly improved production without losing the image quality that the Iron Hand Presses were known for. By 1860, designers of Flatbed Cylinder Presses were able to accomplish the improved image quality formerly only available with a fixed platen design.

And, while many Flatbed Cylinder presses have survived into the 21st century, few, if any of the Bed -and-platen design appear to exist outside of books and museums.

Acknowledgements: The information I have assembled on this page began with the identification by John Archibald who recognized the image as being a scene at Gleason's magazine's publishing house, dated 1852.

And then
Michael Hurley identified the odd-looking presses in the image as "Bed-and-Platen presses" and passed on a link to a book about these presses by Douglas Charles, with a forward by Stephen Saxe. The book is hosted by Dave MacMillian at Circuitous Route on his Galleyrack server -, where I was able to read the entire book and also found the undated photograph shown above.

However, from reading Stephen Saxe' forward, I learned that these presses continued to be in operation for fine printing of quality books and magazines as late as the end of the 19th century, when they mysteriously disappeared as the flatbed cylinder presses improved to the point of outperforming the bed-and-platen presses both in productivity while matching their quality of inking and register. 

No operational bed-and-platen press is now known to exist.

And this is odd, because nearly all presses in printing's history have left at a few examples somewhere in the world. I still operate presses that are well over 100 years old, and an old Washington Hand Press was used to print a local newspaper until 1949. But still, no Bed-and-Platen presses are known to exist in 2019.

In any case, we could NOT have compiled this information without the advice and recommendations of other printers who know more than I do about these presses' histories.
We are grateful for their advice and support.


Please contact Alan Runfeldt with other questions


page last updated Nov, December 2019