Amusements & Useful Devices from K. A. Wisniewski
Sentimental? Perhaps. I certainly enjoy anniversaries . . . those “this-date-in-history” snippets in print or on television. Yesterday, I was reading up on printing history and came across the name Samuel Rust . . . On this day in 1821, Samuel Rust patented the Washington hand press.
To say presses were monstrously heavy contraptions is an understatement. Unlike presses in the prior century it was made of cast iron instead of wood. More importantly, and again distinguishing it from unlike its predecessors, the Washington Press could be taken apart (and much more easily transported) and reassembled, making it a much more versatile and marketable product. It used a “figure 4” toggle mechanism to firmly and evenly hold the flat metal plate against the paper. Note the images of Washington and Franklin at the top of the press.
The Washington press proved so popular that many other manufacturers tried to copy it, but without success. Controversially, in 1835, R. Hoe & Company took over Rust’s firm. For years, Rust refused to sell rights to his patent the New York-based printing press manufacturer. In 1835, Rust agreed to sell it to a Hoe employee posing as an an independent craftsman trying to establish his own company. The company would continue manufacturing these presses into the early twentieth century, with a New York-based factory employing over 2,500 workers and a London-based factory employing about 800. From 1835 to about 1902, R. Hoe & Company sold over 6,000 of these presses; it was the last style of the hand press made in the United States. Today there are several of these presses still in operation, both for museum exhibitions and for fine-printing at studios.