Early Printing Presses For Newspapers
By Rick Brown, Editor-in-Chief
The press shown in the image to the right is what is known as a Ramage press and it was used by Ben Franklin in London in 1725. The press is constructed almost entirely out of wood though iron was subsequently used in many of the parts.
In the early part of the 19th century, Earl Stanhope invented a press made entirely of iron, the frame being cast in a single piece. The power was applied by a combination toggle joint and lever. The Columbian press was invented in Philadelphia in 1817. The power was applied by a command lever. In 1829 the Washington press of Samuel Rust was introduced and many presses, the impression being given by raising the bed upon which the form rests against a stationary platen.
The first attempt to make a rotary press was that of Friedrich Konig in 1814. In this the type moved horizontally printing 1,800 impressions per hour.
The first great step toward facilitating the rapid and cheap production of the modern newspaper was made by Robert Hoe of New York about 1840 when the first of the type-revolving presses were built. At about the same time a type-revolving press on materially different lines, the Applegath machine was brought into practical use in England. This machine was first employed by the London Times in 1848. In the Applegath machine the type-holding cylinder revolved on a vertical axis and it could print about 12,000 single sheets on one side in an hour. In the Hoe press, the type cylinder revolved on a horiztontal axis. This arrangement for feeding the sheets was more simple and the capacity of the press varied according to the number of impression cylinders arranged around the type cylinder, these presses being successfully made with four, six, eight, or ten impression cylinders respectively.
A four-cylinder press of this kind was built for the Philadelphia Ledger in 1845. The first eight-cylinder press was built for the New York Sun in 1850, and the first ten-cylinder press for the New York Herald in 1857. The average capacity of the presses was 2,000 single sheets per hour by cylinder, or 20,000 sheets per hour on one side, on the largest press, the ten-cylinder. These presses were 37 feet long, 18 feet high, and 21 feet wide, and were beautiful pieces of mechanism to look at in full operation, as their working parts could be seen to advantage, the ten feeders, five on each side, supplying the sheets, which traveled on tapes to an impression cylinder, the later pressing the paper against the inked type, which was held on the large central revolving cylinder. Between each two impression cylinders the type passed under inking rollers, and the paper printed upon was passed back by tapes to delivery boards, each revolution of the main cylinder of the ten-cylinder press thus printing ten separate sheets of paper.
The great advance thus effected upon all previous means of fast newspaper printing was deemed one of the highest triumphs of mechanical genius during the decade from 1850 to 1860, but this success was entirely along the lines established by the presses at work in 1845. Still faster work was, however, to meet the enormous increase in the public demand for newspapers, which publishers were enabled more easily to furnish at reduced prices, when the substitution of wood pulp for rags had greatly lessened the cost of paper. But itis of primary importance to note, in connection with the next great advance in fast printing, that all promptly issued editions of newspapers, prior to 1860, were printed from the type forms direct. To make stereotype plates with sufficient expedition for the requirements of newspaper work had not, before that time, been considered practicable, but this difficulty was removed in 1861 by the employment of a steam bed to dry a novel style of paper mache matrix, or mold, which could be conveniently used for making stereotype reproductions of the type pages, in the form of plates to fit around the cylinders.
At first it required half an hour to make a single plate, but by 1896 a plate could be made in about seven minutes and a half dozen duplicates of the same plate could be made in about fifteen minutes. This made possible the "perfecting" press, so called because both sides of the paper are printed in passing through the press.
In its largest size, the octuple machine, of which but only one was in operation in 1896, the press printed, folded, and counted 96,000 complete eight-page papers per hour, or 48,000 sixteen-page papers, the size of the page being that of the ordinary daily newspaper. The press has eight plate or impression cylinders, there being eight stereotype plates or pages on each cylinder, and the paper of double width is fed from four independent rolls, 73 inches wide, one side being printed upon as the paper passes over the set of stereotype pages on one cylinder and the other side being printed upon as it passes over the plates of another cylinder. The paper rushes through the cylinders at a speed of thirty-two and one-half miles an hour, the several sheets being separated and folded, and passed out of the press with accuracy and precision. The entire work was automatically performed, after the press is once started, but it required the active labor of ten men and boys to operate it and to re move the folded sheets as fast as they were printed. With three presses, they could print 748,000 eight-page sheets per hour, or an output equal to 42 tons of printed matter an hour.
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