Mainstream Movies with presses in them

I have decided to start a collection of DVDs of movies which have printing or printing presses in them. I’m trying develop a list. Would like suggestions. Here’s what I have so far . .. .

Miss Potter (2007 movie about Beatrix Potter and her writing and publishing) depicts old litho printing of her illustrations in the books.

The Paper (1994 movie with Glenn Close and Michael Keaton) showing a fight between the owner Glenn Close, and the editor Michael Keaton , on the catwalk of a web newspaper press while it is running—in an attempt to “stop the presses” by Keaton’s character.

Catch Me If You Can (2003 movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, and Martin Sheen ) about a counterfeiter who in one scene is operating a huge press by himself printing bogus checks)

What other similar movies can you suggest from the past 20 years?

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The Hours—

Virginia Wolf’s husband was a printmaker and there are several scenes in his printshop.


If I remember correctly, a heidelberg windmill was used to produce counterfit money in The Goonies.

Well, although it’s more than 20 years old ( more like 78), the Academy Award-winning Best Picture of 1930 — Cimarron — features a frontier newspaper and job-printing editor in this story of the settling of the Oklahoma Territory. One character is “the compositor” who is seen setting type in the functioning printing office and if I remember correctly, the movie also shows a working handpress and a platen press or two. If you like wood type you should like this movie!

Hi there,

Not a movie, but the TV series Deadwood features a newspaper publisher/printer in the 1870s(?). There are a few scenes of him setting type, inking and pulling a print on a handpress.


The press in “catch me if you can” was a 40” Heidelburg iirc. An offset press, and there’s no way bills would have flown out if it like they did. I got a good laugh out of that. My wife didn’t get it though.

We had a camera crew come to our shop and do some shoots of our Heidelberg cylinder “printing” a newspaper page. The movie was about the Stork derby from 1926 in canada. I think the movie has the same name. We never did get sent a copy of it though.

An early sequence in the movie “Helvetica” by Gary Hustwit, the feature-length documentary of the typeface of the same name shows an old-timer handsetting the word Helvetica, positioning the line on a basic proof press, inking it and pulling a proof. Essentially a good basic example of the most rudimentary form of letterpress printing/proofing.

While the movie is either loved or hated by most who see it, you’ll have to decide which side you ultimately end up on.


Now the Will Smith movie “Seven Pounds” has printing presses. Depressing, dark movie, but still printing presses.

The Counterfeiters.Fairly recent about concentration camp victims forced to work making plates and printing Allied currency.I recall it is based on fact.

The movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart as a printer. I believe there’s a fight in the print shop, or maybe the shop is attacked to stop Stewart from printing.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Not mainstream and not in last 20 years, but “Elevator to the Gallows” french thriller from 1957…there’s a shot of newspapers being printed and someone hand setting lead type. has a pretty good collection found with google. Stewart was a lawyer the printer was killed by Liberty.

“The Counterfeiters” has many platen presses showing throughout the movie.

Lords of War with Nicholas Cage has a shot of a table top platen press in his storage container.

The closing credits of “State of Play” are set against a background of the final printing stages of a newspaper. I got a bit choked up watching it, since it may not be long before that amazing operation can be seen only via video images.


We just rented the movie “The Wind that Blows the Barley” from the library. It’s about the fight for Irelands Independence from England after World War I. Several scenes are set in a print shop where you can see what looks like and Adana and maybe a Pilot as well as what I think is a Pin Punch or Board Shear.

A Pilot press (or similar tabletop platen) appears in the episode of The Andy Griffith Show in which Andy and Barney encounter a couple of counterfeiters. Granted, it’s not a movie, but it’s still sort of interesting.

The opening of the movie,”To live and die in L.A’ features someone making counterfeit money on a small duplicator press. Also shooting negs. striping & burning plates.

there was a twilight zone episode set in a small newspaper office with heavy reference and use of a linotype machine. the linotype operator happened to be the devil and the headlines he wrote came true. I’ll look for the title.

I just watched the Goonies last week and it is definitely a Heidelberg Windmill that they print the ‘fifty dolla bills’ on and it magically starts up and stops with a 10 year old walking past it.

Penny Serenade (1941)

I want the attachment for my C&P oldstyle that lets me pull 3 color prints in one pass like in Seven Pounds. That would be something.

This topic just keeps going and going…..

OK… here’s another one for you Printing Movie Fans: “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966) with Don Knots.

In it, Don Knotts plays a typesetter / printer for “the Rachel Courier Express” who wants to move up to being a reporter. He winds up spending the night in a Mansion reputed to be haunted by the Ghost of a murderer.

The pressroom, which contains a C&P press (or at least I think it’s a C&P, I’m not sure after 40 years!) is shown in the first few scenes…. along with a few type cabinets and he is seen holding a composing stick. I don’t know about you… but I’d HATE to have to compose an entire newspaper by hand.

“Seven Pounds”
with Rosario Dawson & Will Smith

The Italian actress Claudia Cardinale becomes a feeder in a printshop in postwar Italy. Plenty of Linotype and stopcylinder presses visible. The title of the film: La Ragazza di Bube (YouTube)

NEW ONE - I have a TV show that I just watched called “Legend of the Seeker” it is a fantasy show like Harry Potter.

Anyway, the map maker in the show in Season 1, Episode #3 uses what I think to be a 12 x 18 C&P to create his maps - very cool!

You can see the press just behind him in this image from the episode guide but you can see it actually running if you watch the show!

I will keep my eye out for more!

OK Boys and Girls….. I’ve got still another title to add to this auspicious listing. It’s not actually a movie, but is a TV show:

The pilot episode of “White Collar”, which aired Friday night on USA network, featured a Windmill printing fake bonds. The funny thing was that while the press was running…. there was no paper in the feeder.

The finished bonds they showed were quite impressive, though. They featured a Goya painting at the top, printed in 4-color process, a fade away background, and some very finely detailed scrollwork around the border. To print such a bond on a Windmill would be quite a feat of expertise!

If you’d like to see the press in action, tune into USA network this Monday (Oct 26) at 10pm Central Time.

Has anyone noticed the title at the end of the “Sherlock Holmes” trailer? Obviously meant to be lead type, although, of course, backwards.


The Rockford Files often had Jim Rockford printing fake business cards on a tiny platen press that he set on the drive-shaft hump in his Camaro(?). He then used these newly minted cards to pretend that he was somebody that he wasn’t to get information for his case. Kent at Nomadic Press

The Rockford Files often had Jim Rockford printing fake business cards on a tiny platen press that he set on the drive-shaft hump in his Camaro(?). He then used these newly minted cards to pretend that he was somebody that he wasn’t to get information for his case. Kent at Nomadic Press

“ Seven Pounds ”, with Will Smith and Rosario Dawson, 2008.

This is just out. Will Smith fixes a windmill. Actually he pulls off the cluth lever and the gripper head. Only that he doesn’t run the press, so you don’t know if it works or not…

An interesting thing, she has a C&P and in a scene she feeds the C&P with a blanc piece of paper and takes off a multi-color piece… She is a letterpress printer and in the story, she own IRS fifty something thousand dollars and unpaid taxes.

“Substance of Fire,” 1996. Scenes shot in Peter Kruty’s (not current) Brooklyn shop.

Our film has presses in about 75 percent of the shots I would estimate. :) Catch it in a city near you,

OK, you folks will probably think that all I do is sit around watching TV….. BUT I have another press sighting for you: The Gilmore Girls, episode name “Tippicanoe & Taylor, too”. In it, a college student named Paris inherited a bookbinding plough press from her recently deceased boyfriend…. that was SO big that it took up all the room in her tiny dorm.

OK… so it’s not exactly a letterpress, but it is a related piece of equipment, so it’s good enough for me.

My family was watching “Paris, je t’aime” (because the Coen brothers directed one of the segments, and being Minnesotans, we are huge Coen fans) (yes! we really talk like they do in “Fargo”!), and they called to me to come from the next room and see a scene set in a print shop.

In the scene, a French guy who works at the shop begins a long, heartfelt monologue directed at another guy, who, as it turns out, doesn’t understand French.

I just caught the tail end of the scene and couldn’t see any presses, nor what kind of printing the shop did. But it *was* a print shop. In a movie.

Two episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” showed printing presses. The first episode is when Goober runs the contest at the filling station and has tickets printed at the local printer showing a running 10x15 C&P platen. The second is when Aunt Bea takes a job working for a new printer who is using Mayberry as a hideout for his counterfeiting operation. In the latter, shows a 6x10 pilot printing money.

Go check out “Printer to the Territory,” (1978). It’s about 60 min. and came out in VHS. Longtime attorney, Dan McGraw of Hot Springs, Ark., starred with a leading role in the documentary about William Woodruff in 1827, publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, and the wild events of that era in the state’s history.

The Goonies - 1985
Has one scene where the main characters in the movie (kids called “The Goonies”) are in a building used by the villains in the movie (the Fratellis) who among other things happen to be counterfeiting.

“Fifty Dollar Bill, Fifty Dollar Bill”

“The Thin Man” 1934. The scene in which they are printing up wanted posters for the Thin Man. It goes by pretty quickly, tho.

Enemy at the Gates (2001) features two children printing handbills with a tabletop model. One child feeds, while the other works the impression handle.

The Odessa File (1974) The printer uses a 13x18 windmill. There’s a fight in the printshop between the hero (John Voight) and the hitman, and you can guess where the bad guy ends up…

Captains Courageous (1937) a great film by all standards. The boys run a school newspaper, and their press looks like a new style C&P 12x18 (?)

That clip in “Catch Me If You Can” always made me laugh, too. Those little bills flying out of that 40” Heidelberg, stretching cinematic license to the limit!

The Odessa File- death by Heidelberg, but it isn’t the platen that get’s him!

Also, this great clip from Sesame Street about a letterpress shop was recently blogged about on
I’m pretty sure this made me want to be a printer.

Check out Quills with Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, and Juaquin Phoenix. The movie is about the Marquis de Sade. At the very end of the movie there is splendid footage of a Stanhope Press!

“The Book of Eli” features a letterpress in the climactic scene. I have not seen it yet myself to identify the press, but a friend who knows of my interest just gave me the review. Guess I’ll have to see it now.

Just watched “Without a Clue” starring Michael Caine as a bumbling Sherlock Holmes and Ben Kinsley as the true sleuth, Dr. Watson. The story involves a plot to forge 5 pound notes from stolen plates and features a Heidelberg Windmill a couple of decades ahead of schedule.

Where’s a continuity person when you need one.

Hey - That Sesame Street clip of them printing fliers on the Kluge is super!

One of our Windmills was used by for the Pilot of USA Networks’ “White Collar” last winter. (referred to above) But for most of the scenes, it was feeding sheets - 11x16” WWII war bonds on a 10x15 Windmill! - I was running the press - although an actor stood in front of it as they shot the scene.

The basic theme of White Collar, btw seems to be based upon the more well known “Catch Me If You Can” - same theme, same story, basically, but White Collar’s a tv series.

The director would call “lights”, “presses”… (and, once I ran over and started the press feeding sheets), “action”.. It was fun - but very cold in the warehouse that day, so the ink did not spread well on the steel drum… In the story, the colors were printed on the Multi; the Windmill was numbering the war bonds…

Bogart’s “Passage to Marseille” includes a painful scene (to printers, at least) in which the bad guys break into Bogart’s newspaper office and destroy everything. Really, it was painful to watch the bad guys dumping type cases, smashing locked up forms - and attacking the pressman - (for which Bogie got blamed, of course). Still, it was real and accurate, which I guess is what gets our attention.

The Ralph Waldo Emerson society ( produced a video biography of Emerson which includes scenes shot in my shop. - of me setting type and printing part of an Emerson essay on my 10x15 C&P. (

I tried to explain that my 1914 C&P was too “new” for Emerson to have had access to, and we should print on the older (1870’s) Gordon instead. But it was “close enough” for them and the scenes came out quite well.

A crew came from England last summer to shoot scenes of me printing a headline “Jack the Ripper in America” on my old Model 17 Vandercook. Never saw the show, but it may be out there.. let me know if you see it.

A table top press is commonly used in local productions of “You Can’t Take it With You”. I have supplied many schools with a Kelsey or Victor for this popular play.

A History Channel documentary on the dust bowl includes some original scenes of a local newspaper publisher pulling proofs on his old drum-style galley proof press.

Sherlock Holmes - yeah. I saw the promo and liked their use of the reverse image of what appears to be hand type for the title.

An old 30’s movie has scenes of students using an old-style C&P Pilot to print fliers for a political meeting. Sorry, I forget the title.

This is a good thread, though. I’m sure one which will continue to grow over time. Keep it up!

- Alan

“The Pianist” shows some kids printing on a Boston Tiegel.

A printing press plays a pivotal role in the movie “The Wizard of Gore (2007)” … not for the squeamish.

Not sure of the press.

I know I am a little late, but there is platen press in Disney’s Newsies from 1992. The newsies secretly use Mr. Pulitzer’s old press to print their own paper/flyer. I’m pretty sure it was a C&P new style which wouldn’t have been created until at least a decade after the movie was set (1899). They also show them hand-setting the type, but at one point it is obvious that they are printing from one large cut.

In the 1952 Moulin Rouge there is a scene where Toulouse-Lautrec is working with a printer to produce his famous lithographic posters.

Just watched The Goonies frame-by-frame last night. The kid says “50 dollar bill 50 dollar bill,’ but the cut that’s locked up in the chase is a $100 bill. Hah!

Also, there’s an episode of Batman (1967) in which the Joker is running a counterfeit money ring, printing on a C+P.

Not a movie, I realize, and not even the proper printing technique for money, but for those interested I believe it’s Season 2, Episode 47: The Joker’s Last Laugh.

How about Citizen Kane?

Newspaper presses…but presses non the less

Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sinatra, Martin, Davis Jnr + Crosby. Filmed around the time of Kennedy’s assasination.
CP 10x15, 3 rollers, no ink duct, foot brake. 2 scenes.
Very late in the film, after the big “Chicago” song and found in the back room of a soup kitchen counterfeiting money.
Interesting, seems a genuine effort, the full use of the image area, use of friskets, good large sheet hand feeding. Note how the printer/actor makes sure the platen is in the idle/stop position. Black ink? not sure if that is right for American money.
The smash scene: only the delivery table is broken, while attacks on the iron work are faked.
William Amer, Australian

Not platen presses but almost :


The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)


Esmeralda is arrested and sentenced to hang for murder.

A while after that scene there are some folks getting ready to typeset a pamphlet in a local print shop.

Suddenly a (it) band (it) of storm troops raid the place and start trowing up type cabinets all over, smacking typographers…

Bang! Bahhgthh. Aracahhboom ! &c.

Ending the troopers banging and tearing down a wood flat press to an amalgam of tooth picks.


Embarrassingly, I noticed that the opening credits to “Mr Magorium’s Magic Emporium” has a platen press of some sort rigged up to crank out (apparently magical) toys or something…can’t quite recall. But there was definitely a press there. rh

More newspaper stuff. Cool clip though, and a great movie:

Not a movie but in the TV series BATMAN
“A Piece Of The Action” Green Hornet, Kato (Bruce Lee)
get blocked glued and perforated at “Pinks Chip Stamp Factory”. The villains Colonel Gumm, Reprint and Cancelled work on a new style floor C&P and an old style table top C&P Pilot.

image: batman.jpg



OK….. here’s my latest contribution: An episode of “Little House on the Prairie” features a newspaper operated by the same guy who played Higgins on “Magnum PI”…. I have no idea what the episode name is. (or the actor, for that matter!)

Anyway, it shows an iron Handpress, a lever operated paper cutter, type cabinets, and chases set up for printing. Oddly though, there is not a single sheet of paper to be seen in the entire shop! Hhhmmmmm how curious!

The current Lark Rise to Candleford series on the BBC now has what appears to be an Arab press printing the Candleford Chronicle.

Check out “The Newsies” its a 1992 Disney. Featuring CHRISTIAN BALE and The Chandler & Price! It has clips of most of the stages of making a print…including a proof!

The clip you want to see is this one, I just LOVE IT!!

Great clip from “Newsies.” Makes me think of what might happen if there’s some calamity and all the power goes out. Letterpress printers would be heros!


That’s why I keep my C&P around ;-)

Great thread.
There’s one scene I remember in a film, but can’t remember what it is. I think it was an Indian film in fact, perhaps?

There’s a tiny print shop, and the hero goes there to get some sort of small piece printed. The printer is composing type for something else and gets annoyed at him ;-)

If I think of the name, I’ll be back!


7 Faces of Dr. Lao
A classical must have for your collection starring Tony Randall. Excellent film footage of hand fed cylinder press in action…a shop to make anyone envious. Still available on DVD

I read through the comments and don’t think this one was mentioned…

but the documentary Wisconsin Death Trip has many scenes using a platen press (not quite sure which one) and they also use type as the opening shot for the different seasons.

it’s also a “watch instantly” if anyone has a netflix account!

(It’s also a pretty nice documentary in general)

There was a movie called “Kaleidoscope” were a man breakes into the pressroom of a playing card printing company and marks all printing plates backs of the cards. When the cards are printed he can read other peoples hands while at the casino.

Also in “An Officer and a Gentelman” the final scene is in a paper companys paper bag converting plant where they also make and print on grocery bags.

“Addicted to Love”, from 1997 with Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick. It was a story about 2 people who were spying on their X-lovers who had left them to hook up with each other. They were spying on their Xs from the vantage point of an abandoned printshop in the vacant building across the street. Lots of book presses and type drawers scattered about in the background. I can’t remember if I saw an actual press though.

One of the first two Indiana Jones films has a fleeting glimpse of a pre-1950 Heidelberg ‘windmill’ platen.

Here’s my list—by no means definitive:
Newsies—Disney—(The Only Musical on the list) (Robert Duvall, Bill Pullman, Ann-Margaret, Christian Bale)
An old C & P or such in the basement of the New York World in 1899 is used by a bunch of penniless urchins
to fight Joseph Pulitzer for a living wage as street corner newspaper hawkers.
You Can’t Take It With You—Columbia, 1949 (James Stewart) A 9x 13 Kelsey operated by Dub Taylor playing the
half-wit former college football player son-in-law of Lionel Barrymore. He unwittingly uses it to
spread socialist propaganda.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington Columbia 1939 — Printing Equipment of several types play a big role in the
power struggle between Jimmy Stewart (Jefferson Smith) and Edward Arnold (James Taylor).
Deadline USA - Humphrey Bogart —Rotary Stereo Web Newspaper Letterpress — Bogey is a
New York City reporter trying top solve a murder before his newspaper, “The Day,” goes out of business.
The Paper — Michael Keaton, Robert Duvall and Glenn Close—A lot of the improbable action takes place around
a tabloid newspaper’s Web Offset Newspaper Press.
Penny Serenade — (Cary Grant, Myrna Loy) 1949 Two-Up Hand-fed broadsheet newspaper press. In this melodrama, A big city
newspaperman gets married, buys a struggling weekly paper in a tiny town and raises a daughter.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance James Stewart, John Wayne — a whole newspaper office is
trashed and the editor horsewhipped by Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, a drunken gunfighter and bully working for the cattlemen of Colorado, tried to throw an election.
Seven Pounds — Will Smith 2008 an old platen press (Looks like a C & P) and a Heidelberg “Windmill” are part of a very complicated plot about redemption. These amazing printing presses print in CMYK color in one pass!

Television shows featuring a printing press in at least one episode
“Lou Grant”—Web Newspaper Press shown in the opening credits every week. Two episodes come to
mind— “Hostage”—a crazed man holds the city room of “The Los Angeles Tribune” under a gun,
and “Blackout” in which Los Angeles suffers a citywide power outage in a thunderstorm and
the Trib has to publish in Long Beach.
Several of the “Gallager” series-within-a-series episodes on Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in the
1960’s — Washington style hand press used to print the “Brimstone Blast” newspaper in the Old West..
The Andy Griffth Show—Conterfeiters use a Kelsey Press to make dollar bills— talk about fiction
and comedy!
Rockford Files—Kelsey—Use by Rockford to print bogus business cards on the front seat of his car!
The Waltons — Motorized small platen press of some type (Kelsey Star?) used by John-Boy
to print his newspaper,”The Blue Ridge Chronicle.”
The Wild Wild West - Cast Iron Washington Hand Press holds a clue to catching scheming baddie
Agnes Moorehead. Moorehead won an Emmy for her performance. She was basically reprising her “Endorra” character from “Bewitched.” Feminist overtones in the script got her the Emmy.
Petticoat Junction/Green Acres grocer Mr. Drucker prints the “Hooterville World Guardian”
on a platen press.
. . and one episode of Twilight Zone with a Linotype machine as a major prop: “Printer’s Devil” with Ray Walston and Bill Bixby. Walston saves Bixby’s failing newspaper by writing history ahead of time on his demon-possessed linotype machine.

In the new movie Inception their lab/training base/hideout is an old print shop. Lot’s of equipment in the background including, a galley press, cabinets of type, manual guillotine, perforator, a little offset litho press, keys, and some furniture cabinets.

In George Formby’s 1939 film “Trouble Brewing”, George, as a print room operator in a newspaper, develops a finger marking system which incriminates his newspaper editor (Garry Marsh), who is counterfeiting money in an old brewery. In one of the final scenes the counterfeiters are shown behind a false wall working on their Croppers. One of the rare films in which the star gives his girlfriend (Googie Withers) a full kiss in a beer vat, before going to fadeout. It turned out nice again!

jtucker84- you beat me to it!

I saw Inception last night and couldn’t help but noticing all of the print stuff. I wonder what happened to all of it after the film?

I saw Inception too. They used abandoned old print shop for the hideout/training base. I noticed there was printing press stuffs in the background which is cool. It’s shame that no one use them for very long time.

Svatos, the equipment was rented from the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA. Congratulations Mark Barbour and IPM staff for being part of Inception.

“Inception” — Possible Spoiler Alert!

I just saw “Inception” yesterday. Does anyone have any thoughts about why Nolan would choose an abandoned print shop for the team’s “hideout”? This is one of the many questions I’ve been pondering. Perhaps the print shop represents solid ground — a firm reality as opposed to all of the dream states through which the team travels? As a printer who works with metal type, I would take this as a compliment!


One of my all time favorite TV shows “Then Came Bronson” with Michael Parks has an episode called “Still Waters” concerning a small newspaper shop owner and his daughter who was a reporter for the small firm.
Seen on YouTube, part 4 of this episode clearly shows a Miehle vertical, probably a V-50 or so it seems. Also are other shots of the shop with type cases, furniture and other printing equipment. Earlier in the episode, Michael Parks, “Bronson” is in printer’s training and is shown planing a form of type.

[edit] Don’t waste your time on these links….they were removed likely to copyright infringement.

Worth a look and see…..

Sorry for the double post but I thought I’d make it really easy to view the entire “Then Came Bronson” episode “Still Waters”. The quality is only OK..

[edit] Don’t waste your time on these links….they were removed likely to copyright infringement.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

BUT also I wanted to mention; because I didn’t see it mentioned previously in the lists…the 1997 Steven Spielberg film “Amistad” has an extraordinarily accurate looking print shop of the 1830’s. I have the suspicion that the International Printing Museum had a hand in that, perhaps.


I saw Inception today. I hadn’t read this thread lately so was surprised to see this set! I was pointing at everything I noticed. It was great!
I was also trying to find the connection.
My take on this set was that dreaming can be like printing in the sense that we write/print our own story. We create it. Like we create a dream. The dream can become somehow more real then when put down in ink on paper.
I loved it and wonder where all the equipment came from?


Just saw The Mask with Jim Carrey today. There is a press in this movie about an hour in where they bad guys threaten to throw Carrey’s character into a press if he does not give up the mask. Pretty funny, but not sure what press it is, but I do know it is a very large offset press.

What about “Goonies” Believe it or not, they use a Heidelberg Windmill in the movie to print money. And it’s done by a kid who never even saw a press like that before!

Also, Seven Pounds with Will Smith. He repairs a Windmill.

The old ‘60’s kid show Davey and Goliath. Stop motion animation kids show produced by the Lutheran Church. One of the episodes has Davey getting a small letterpress and almost putting the local printer out of business.

Time’s haven’t changed much!

I just saw a wonderful classic film called “Park Row”, directed by Sam Fuller from 1952. It is the story of The Globe newspaper in NY and its fight to survive against a rival paper in the 1880’s. It is steeped in letterpress technology and lore from steam driven cylinder presses being locked up and run, to a printer’s devil learning the hard way about type lice. A major element of the film is Merganthaler inventing his linotype machine. He gives a fairly detailed description about how his machine works and is shown running it the first time. It saves the day when the requisite bad guys wreck the type shop and pi all of the Globe’s type. Enjoyed it tremendously and recommend it to anybody into letterpress.


Darn! “Park Row” doesn’t seem to be on Netflix. :-(


Just caught an episode of the A Team. They used a small platen press to reproduce a photo. They funny part is the form was larger the bed. Since it was taller then the bed it was impossible for the rollers to go all the way to the ink disk. Ron

Just saw Harry Potter 7, the deathly hallows…

The film has a segment at Mr. Lovegood’s residence where he publishes an alternative newspaper. In the background is a Gordon style press, possibly an Arab?

The time travelers wife

Mentioned before is a 1931 movie Cimarron.

There is also a 1960 version of the movie from the book by Edna Ferber that was just aired here on satelite TV, it also features the ‘Oklahoma Wigwam’ newspaper. It includes the 1889 and 1893 land rushes and ends during the first world war in 1915.

From what I saw they start of with a Washington hand press and later move to what seems to be a double revolution hand fed cylinder and a small platen press.

Sadly the type cases are shown empty and the Washington is operated without opening the frisket or inking the the type. The cylinder press seems not to mind the erratic feeding but I have no experience so perhaps that is OK.

Shindler’s List.

the book of eli the press is a windmill. you can just tell by the sound …

I won’t call this a mainstream movie by any stretch of the imagination but my wife and I watched a cheesy 80’s horror movie called Dolls last week and there is a scene when one of two goth girls goes into an attic to find her friend that was dragged off by the killer dolls that come to life and she walks by what looks like a book press or maybe a paper cutter. We streamed in on Netflix.

If your into cheesy horror movies its actually pretty entertaining. Especially when the people fight the killer dolls!

loving this thread! i just had to say it.

Great Contributions everyone … it’s interesting how much printing in used in movies!

Don’t forget Seven Pounds (2008) Gabrielle Muccino and Will Smith. There’s a key scene with letterpress in this movie.

“You Can’t Take It with You” which is a 1938 Frank Capra classic shows a few second scene of a guy using a table top press.

I was just watching To Live and Die in L.A. and stumbled on here doing a web search. Willem DaFoe’s character was using a Multi 1250 with all the side covers removed. I guess he never heard of safety first.

Also, I think it was Beverly Hills Ninja with Chris Farley, the conterfeiters are using an offset press (I forget the model), but a character removes a set of engraving plates from the double sheet deflector tray, LOL.


Clothdog mentions the movie “Paris je t’aime” 2006,_je_t%27aime

The featured press is a cylinder press that is making art prints slowly. The scene is in the segment called “Le Marais”.

The Pianist - With Adrian Brody - A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II - It won three Oscars in 2002. There’s a scene with a gathering of sympathizers and there are two young boys printing on a tabletop press in the background.

The end of “The Book Of Eli” has a shot of a heidelberg windmill delivery side.

In “12 Monkeys” the anarchists have a vandercook piled high with papers in the background.

The end of “The Book Of Eli” has a shot of a heidelberg windmill delivery side.

In “12 Monkeys” the anarchists have a vandercook piled high with papers in the background.

Clothdog mentions the movie “Paris je t’aime” 2006

The press is a lithographic press, in the workshop of Clot-Bramsen, in the rue Vieille du Temple. It’s one of the last remaining large-format presses in France and artists from all over the world still come here to print. Here are some photos I took there:

To contribute to the ‘thread that refuses to die’.

I read this thread a while back and immediately thought of this movie, I had to dig out my VHS tapes and hook up my dusty VCR, but I thought I remembered a press…

In Young Guns II Pat Garrett goes to his fathers print shop to hire him to chronicle the chase of Billy the Kid. He is treadling a C&P (I think) and in the background there is a large paper cutter and type cabinets.

Now I have that Bon Jovi song stuck in my head…

This one was mentioned earlier but by far the best would be “The Counterfeiters” for me. Based on Operation Bernhard during WW2.
In “For a Few Dollars More”, towards the begining, there is a pressman operating an old press at the newspaper shop. You can make out a cylinder. The press is not moving though.
In “Soul Food” actor Mekhi Phifer finally lands a job running a press. He is in a press shop running something with envelopes. Not too sure.

Looks like counterfeiting is always going to include a press. There’a great book called The Art of Making Money about one of the best counterfeiters in years (and currently in jail).

It’s still in production but will likely include a number of presses (and a good deal of Chicago). I recommend the book:

Excited for the movie to come out though.

Newsies - The Musical - at The Paper Mill Playhouse and on “The View”…

The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ is producing Newsies this month in partnership with Disney.

They bought an 8x12 C&P and hired me to service it and add a treadle. And, I can verify that the press in use in this production is an 8x12 New Series C&P - and now it runs smoothly and is operated by treadle.

The show is expected to go on the road after performances in NJ end, so it may be “coming soon to a theater near you….”

And, it was premiered on tv just this past Monday - on “The View” -

see for up-to-date information.

The movie “Society Lawyer”, a nice 1939 mystery story presently showing on Turner Movie Classics, starring Walter Pidgeon and Leo Carrillo, opens with a large city newspaper scrambling to headline a jury verdict of acquittal and takes the viewer into a working composing room. One sees the row of Linotypes, handsetting of (Ludlow-?) mats for the headline, and pulling proofs. Not the corner cutting of printing scenes such as this which we see more often today.
Bill Murray


Went back and watched the intro to Helvetica the other day. It’s still amazing.

Book of Eli. They are reprinting books on a (I think) Heidelberg. Didn’t get a good look at it. But the delivery blower looked like it belonged to a Heidelberg. Pretty good movie too.

The Counterfeiters (Original title in german: Die Fälscher). An Austrian-German movie that fictionalizes Operation Bernhard, during the second world war.

In the 2007, or so, film Seven Pounds with Will Smith, the woman that he is interested in helping, prints cards and invitations for a living. In the work shop behind her house she has what i believe to be a heidelberg. She says it doesnt work, and Will smith, an engineer in the film, fixes it and it prints again.

How about music videos? Ray Stevens prints money on a Heidelberg cylinder press

A great one for you printers with kids… a PBS series called “Liberty’s Kids.” It shows the Revolutionary War through the adventures of three teenagers, two of which work in Ben Franklin’s print shop. Printers save the day several times through the series, and it shows printing as hard work that people do because they believe in its power. Available for Netflix streaming.

As long as we’re adding music videos, I’ll pass along this one that was posted on Letpress. I now regard Justin Bieber in a new light.


In National Treasure (the first one), Nicolas Cage finds a 200 year old pipe with an engraving on the handle. He prints out a clue using his blood as ink.

Just saw the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, “Game of Shadows”. There is a quick shot of a small table top press. It is in a Wine cellar, Holmes had deduced it’s presence before they find the location, and we are shown a quick look to confirm that he was correct. Too quick for me to identify, but it was fairly small chase.

There is another one in Dr. Moriarty’s college office in front of some bookshelves when Sherlock goes to meet him. Maybe a book press? I don’t know much about that style. You get to see parts of it a couple times. My wife says there was one in the munitions factory later on too but I didn’t see it.

Bogart movie Dead Line-U.S.A.
shows 1952 press room of the
New York Daily News
end of movie you see and hear
the big web start up

makes this ex jogger boy
kinda shiver


I know this isn’t a mainstream movie but its cool enough for a mention. Ray Stevens is hilarious. I’ve grown up listening to his music.

Making Money with a Heidelberg Cylinder Press

Ray Stevens at best is a functioning idiot.
He stereotypes the ignorant southerner
and perpetuates bigotry. The TV western mini series
Silverado has a C&P in it. best james

A 1969 episode of Scooby-Doo titled, “The Backstage Rage” shows this press.

The press was being used to counterfeit $20!

image: Scooby-Doo


OK, caught another one. “Enemy at the gate” WWII movie about a battle between a German sniper and a Russian sniper. The Russian sniper is being used as propaganda fiqure to help the moral of the men fighting the Germans. He goes to the writer at somepoint to tell him to stop writing the stories. They are in a print shop. Not a great view of any presses but there are type cases in the background.

“The Lone Wolf and His Lady” (1949). Newspaper-themed movie w/one scene looking down … into the middle of a “canyon” of dozens of Linotype machines and their operators.

All press-related scenes from:
The Counterfeiters of Paris (Le cave se rebiffe) 1961

“Man of the World”: 1931 Carole Lombard movie. William Powell is living in Paris, where he prints a scandal sheet with items about visiting Americans. He extorts money from them in exchange for keeping their names (and compromising activities) out of the paper. Halfway through the movie you see the print shop, with his assistant treadling a Challenge Gordon press; later on William Powell sets type.

The Raven, starring John Cusack as a passable Eddie Poe, features a lovely pneumatically-fed cylinder press in a newsroom in Baltimore in 1849. When my wife, who barely tolerates my letterpress habits, saw this obviously anacronistic press, she leaned over to me and said “Don’t say it!”

On May 9, the History Channel’s new auction series, SOLD!, will have a segment featuring a letterpress. For collectors of letterpress movies and shows, I think it will be available on a DVD at the History Channel’s store.

The Disney musical the Newsies. I havent seen it in a long time but when the boys print their own version of a paper they hand set type and print on a platen press.

The A-Team, Season 1, Episode 4: Pros and Cons features a section approximately 13 minutes into the episode which the team, while en route from CA to FL, DRIVING IN THE VAN, opens up a compartment and pulls out what looks like a sigwalt. Team then magically prints some halftone photographs onto some glossy stock to doctor up a case file and forge ID for some impersonation. They use what appears to be a 3X5 card press to ink up and print (impossibly) these halftones, magically slipping them into the press without a chase and inking them up with some leathery rollers.

(episode is on netflix)

Ninth gate , a film with johnny depp in it the lad visits two wrinkled old einstein lookalikes with the evil book , the room is considerably and believably cluttered with letterpress kit of the most ancient description cast iron screw press , a chase lurks on the bench , bit of a dreary film .
The jackal , starring edward fox ? A heidelberg platen .

Thanks, Mike, for posting Alastair Johnston’s article, “Book Arts in Film.” I really enjoyed it! I also enjoyed looking through the Poltroon Press website. So many veterans out there!


This is not a movie with a press, but a movie with many era posters. Film is: “Albert Nobbs”
They do fill a wall with late 19th century posters, which for the era would all be obviously letterpressed.

“Going Postal”, an adaptation of a Terry Pratchett novel, features a hand press being used to print stamps. Available streaming on Netflix.

In the new P.T. Anderson film “The Master”, a Miehle Vertical is depicted/used to print ‘book two’ in 4 up page forms and is displayed both working, and prominently as part of a set closer to the last 1/4 of the movie.

A recent episode of Revolution on NBC has someone working on a c&p to print a copy of the harry potter book {I believe}:

“Anno 1790” is a recent Swedish historical mystery series. One episode has a printer conked with a leather litho roller, then his head is placed under the platen of a wooden handpress, and pop goes the weasel.
Their wooden handpress is pretty wierd, typical frame but no screw or toggle mechanism for pressure. Instead there are wooden gears and pins. No frisket or tympan either, just bed and platen, and when the printer pulls a proof, he lays a piece of paper on the bed, lowers the platen, and voila, a print without form or inking.

How about a commercial?

I saw this Aleve spot last night with hard-working Saint Nick requiring some pain relief. There is some bizarre contraption that he turns to adjust the countdown calendar until Xmas that looks remarkably like a press or, more specifically, the remnants of a press. Could it be a dismantled Pearl? Take a look.

image: Santa's Press.PNG

Santa's Press.PNG

We just finished watching As Young As You Feel (1951), about a platen pressman forced to resign from Acme Printing because he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. He goes on to pose as the president of his former employer’s holding company to try to change the retirement policy, with comic results. There are several scenes in the pressroom with running cylinder and platen presses, the latter of which has an operating canvas “safety screen” to keep one’s hands out of the closing press. The pressman goes on to describe his job as a printer as a noble pursuit and printing as an art, etc. Kinda gets me right here….

Side Note: This movie also has a young Marilyn Monroe in a role as a top executive’s secretary.

Thanks, Armchair. Just added it to our Netflix queue.


Barabara, you can actually watch the movie online right now at Vimeo and not have to wait for the DVD.

We hired our loose interpretation of an English wooden common press to two TV productions:

“Sophie’s World”, 1995, BBC. An adaptation for TV of the 1991 Norwegian philosophical novel Sofies Verden by Jostein Gaarder. It was part of the background clutter of philosophical objects - brass and hardwood vaguely scientific instruments.

“Newes of the Weeke”, 1997, UK C4. A four part children’s historical drama set in an English Civil War (1640s) period printing office. The press printed various editions of a newsbook based on period prototypes but set with news items relating to the script of the series.

We learnt how very boring TV productions can be, especially when filmed in unheated historic buildings in winter.

Dodge’s new commercials have a table lock up at the end of them

Choose Me by the Cohen Brothers.There is a windmill running behind the scene but there is no paper running
through the press!

watch the goonies.
great movie.

Field of Dreams (Film) with Kevin Costner
Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (Series)

Saw an older 1992 Sherlock Holmes Movie that also made use a a small desktop platen to pull a print. It had ink rollers and everything on it.

Besides the litho press, “Miss Potter” shows the printer pulling proofs on a Columbian hand press.


Just want to correct one misconception. In the movie Catch Me if You Can, the big press is a MAN not a Heidelberg. That greenish press , probably a 44” is made in Germany by MAN and sat next to what looks like a Harris LUP 2 color,(49”).My guess is the shop was in the USA not France. Hallmark used MAN presses extensively and even made their subcontractors purchase the GS-H (H for Hallmark) too.

Recently I saw most of “Who’s Minding the Mint” from 1967. The presses shown are supposed to be Bureau of Engraving and Printing presses used to print paper currency, but rather than engraving and finishing presses, sheets of bills are done in one pass on offset presses no more complex than a Multi 1850, that magially produce from the very first sheet through.
The best part for me was Walter Brennan saying:
“I’m a Printer! I just want to print!”

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (2012): Period movie- opening title sequence is inking and printing a wedding invitation

This list has gotten long and I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but I just stumbled across an episode of “The Streets of San Fransisco” called “The Stamp of Death”..that has a print shop scene at about 18:30:

Ok…. here is a CLASSIC from the 1930s that came on AMC a few weeks ago: “Mr 880”. It’s the true story of a kindly old gentleman who printed $1 bills on a Kelsey press…… and got away with it for decades.

In the movie they show the letterpress several times, and there is a quite emotional scene when he is forced to bury his press to avoid getting caught. Since he is so attached to his Kelsey, it’s hard for him to let it go…. and the scene is shot almost like a funeral. Even though he is a criminal, you can’t help but like the guy.

AND… lest we should forget, in the latest WWF Wrestling commercials the contestants’ names are shown as metal type in a lock-up…. much like the RAM truck commercials.

THATs got to be the ultimate recognition of greatness: to be immortalized in a WWF commercial!

Regarding “Mister 880” with Burt Lancaster, Dorothy McGuire, and Edmund Gwenn:

“One of the overhauls of his plates rendered the spelling of the surname of George Washington (whose portrait appears on the one dollar bill) as “Wahsington.”

The movie was based on an article by St. Clair McKelway in the New Yorker.

Read a good summary of the case that kept the Secret Service at bay for ten years because Mister 880 printed only one dollar bills, which no one looks at closely. With the trailer for the movie, at


The opening credits of the BBC’s “Ripper Street” has all the text put together out of what looks like sliced up hand-set type. Right-reading, of course. It’s rather an odd visual effect, really.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Not from the last 20 years, but the classic 1952 newspaper movie “Deadline USA” with Humphrey Bogart as the crusading managing editor has a lot of great composing-room and pressroom shots (including a bad guy who does indeed fall into the press). Best is the closing line, when the gangster trying to stop publication of a story is on the phone with Bogey and asks about the racket in the background. “That’s the press, baby,” says Bogart. “The press. And there’s nothing you can do about it.” Opening titles of the last version of “The Front Page” also have some pretty fabulous composing-room and pressroom footage.

Towards the end of the film “The Paper” starring starring Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Randy Quaid and Robert Duvall, Keaton punches Close adjacent to a large newspaper press in full production and presses the emergency stop button. Close recovers, has Keaton hauled away and asks a machine minder “Can we restart it without a wet brick?” or similar words, though the phrase “a wet brick” is definite.

Is / was there such a thing as a wet brick and, if so, what was it?

The Free Presse, apparently ‘a wet brick’ means someone useless, perhaps it refers to a technician (specifically a slow, by the book… and expensive one) of some sort having to be called in?

The upcoming season of season 4 of Hell on Wheels, an American Western television series about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States, is planning to replicate a newspaper/job shop of the 1860’s

They have procurred presses, type, cabinets and every thing else to get the set built.

the series follows the Union Pacific Railroad and its surveyors, laborers, prostitutes, (& printers) mercenaries, and others who lived, worked and died in the mobile encampment called “Hell on Wheels” that followed the railhead west across the Great Plains.

I will be heading to Calgary 4/21/14 to get the equipment and crew in good working order.
Stay tuned….

OK… here is an update to the early posting about “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”: It came on TV last night…. and since i knew it had a press in it, I watched it.

The press shown is a Reliance Handpress, and appears to be set up correctly. There are also a lot of small tools, type and paper visible. The scenes in the newspaper shop are extensive, and well done. In the attached pic you can see the name…. partly.

Also…. Jimmy Stewart is not the printer. He’s the friend of the Newspaper editor….. who gets the stuffing beat out of him because he dared to print the truth.

One last thing: Look at the headline of the newspaper…. I’m not sure that “DEFEETED” is spelled correctly.

image: lee-marvin-libertyvalance-3.jpg


Not encouraging any gambling but just spotted some presses in this Sportsbet ad in Australia

If you’ll listen to the printer when he sets up and prints the copy he recites the heading and spells out the word “defeeted”. Only then he realizes his mistake. Because he is drunk. Watched this movie many times.
I’ve got many movies to contribute to this post as soon as I can get time to list them all.

Winfred Reed
Black Diamond Press (Kentucky)

This is a fantastic list!

I’ve been collecting images from movies and shows (as well as short films) that feature presses and other book arts related scenes over at this blog:

Take a look! Some of the films on this list are featured.

This Saturday August 2nd is the season premiere of Hell on Wheels Season 4 on AMC.
The shows backdrop is the building of the transcontinental railway by the Union Pacific Railroad and its surveyors, laborers, prostitutes, mercenaries, (& newspaper printer) and others who lived, worked and died in the mobile encampment called “Hell on Wheels” that followed the railhead west across the Great Plains.
The lead actor takes us thru the newspaper print shop in this clip
The set designer Paul Healy really did his homework putting this shop together. Even though he calls the Washington press a ’Linclon’ press.
He particularly liked Annie Walsh’s 5” x 8” Pearl press

More can be found at;

image: Annie Walsh's Pearl 5x8 (1).jpg

Annie Walsh's Pearl 5x8 (1).jpg

Fascinating how the attention to detail doesn’t actually extend to the interior of the print shop. The “Lincoln” press appears to be a Paul Schneidewend Washington that dates from about 1900 or later, and the tympan frame cannot drop back behind the press like it did in the clip and still be functional. The type stands are from the 1920s, and I saw Franklin Gothic, Brush Script, Cheltenham Extended, Stymie (with the ‘day’ in Saturday inserted upside down) and some variant of Futura in the tiny clip of the small Pearl chases in the imposing area. When it is possible to acquire reproductions of types that were used in the period, it seems a shame not to pay more attention to detail, or at least consult someone with knowledge of printing in the late 1860s.

Thanks for the buzz kill DTP. This is a TV show not a museum and I had discussions with the set designer and props master on this very subject. We had 18 days from the time they contacted me to pull together as much as we could and were on a limited budget of ~$10,000. They indicated that they only have to convince the 99.9% of their audience that do not know a letterpress from a washing machine that this could be a working print shop. I think they did that quite well. Be sure to watch the third show of the season when the woman who owns the newspaper (like that would happen in the 1860’s) picks up the Washington chase, 19”x34”, and carries it over to the the press. In real the world it would weigh about 100#’s but here it is photopolymer and wood.
You could make a drinking game out of the show and every time you see something out of era-context you can take a shot. SEEE-YA
You are wrong however about the Washinton press being non-functional. I printed a very nice “Wanted for Murder” poster. It printed great from the first pull. But the type was from Hamilton circa 1910. If only they had spent $2500.00 for an original 1860 font, quite a shame.
Letterpress love from MPLS. Jon Drew

2001fred - Sorry, but I stand by what I say, and from your additional comments it is clear that you don’t know much about printing of that period.

They would have used a lye-trough to clean the type, not spring-pumped solvent cans, the person who cleaned the type would have hands and fingernails that were yellow-colored. The composing sticks you found are modern and don’t look period at all, same with the pica sticks, and most of the other implements. They would have used wooden quoins, side sticks and shooting sticks to lock-up the forms. So many details.

You would actually be able to look at the paper that was originally printed in Cheyenne and tell what size of press was used to print it, as they were sold by how many columns would go across the page. You obviously have never seen a Washington press operating, or you would realize that the tympan frame doesn’t drop down the back, and I also noticed that it had no frisket frame which makes it damned hard to put the paper on the tympan, and a newspaper would have not been laid down on the form - which I assume is the way they are doing it. The type cabinets would have been turned at right angles so that the light from the windows would fall on the cases and working surfaces.

A woman could operate the Washington press, but mostly it was considered men’s work, and a man would have been hired to do operate the press. It was and is hard work, and men who did the work years ago would actually have a deformed ribcage because of the excessive pulling with the right arm, which was dramatically over-developed. The press dimensions that you give are way off (which to me shows how much attention you pay to detail), as no press was made that measured 19” x 34”. What is in the show looks to be a 20” x 25” press, usually called a medium, and not really considered a newspaper press as the finished folded sheet could only be 12 1/2” x 20”. By the time that press was made (c.1900) newspapers were no longer (or very rarely) printed on hand-presses, and even in 1868 cylinder presses had dominated the industry for a generation.

There are plenty of wooden types on the market that resemble types of the period (the ones in your photos don’t), and Sky Shipley sells reproductions of a number of old period types, and body types similar to those used during the period are available from several sources which would give the look that is needed. I do hope they do a close-up of the photo-poylmer form. I wish someone would give me a budget of $10,000 to set up a period print shop - it would certainly be more accurate than what I am seeing in the limited images available here.

You do a fine job of restoring presses so they look nice, but you are not so hot at creating a period mood with the right tools. Yes, it is just a TV show, but since there are any number of experts around the country it seems like reaching out to one or two would have been productive, and the shop details wouldn’t look like leftovers from a Wayzgoose.

image: Newspaper1900.JPG


Great job for the time and money.

Wow DTP.
Thanks for the beatdown. Mission accomplished.
I now feel like a total turd.

Well, it is a TV show. Where does one start with how inappropriate the whole thing is? It is no where accurate to the real Cheyenne of 1867-8, from the buildings, signs, railroad sets, street scenes, etc. For a look at what became a major city, still to this day a railroad town, see:

To go ballistic over the print shop misses the point that the entire production is the typical movie/TV fabrication. It is entertainment, not accurately done history.


Thanks for tagging me Fritz, but I have not gone ballistic. Anyone with historic sensibilities could agree that more could have been done to make it more accurate. When Amistad was filmed they had a shot that lasted about 2 minutes of a period printshop, and they made sure that it was accurate by involving the International Printing Museum, if I remember correctly. I don’t know how many shots will involve the printshop in Hell on Wheels, but they do crow about some historic accuracy.

I can allow for interpretation, but I’m saying that I find the set-up for the print shop is not great, and last I checked I am allowed to critique things that are offered up publicly. I offered a critique in detail that is not designed as a personal attack, although Mr. Drew seems to think it is, and I am sorry for that. That he suggests that I should make a drinking game out of those inconsistencies… well, you’ll have to judge for yourself. Since I don’t drink alcohol I would find the exercise wasted.

I spent last evening actually reading the first half year of the original Cheyenne leader. on a website called Wyoming Online Historical Newspapers, to get a sense of what place the newspaper had in the community, and how they handled the printing (as much as can be discerned by looking at on-line microfilms). They initially set-up the paper with very limited resources, but three months in upgraded their shop rather dramatically, probably with the addition of a cylinder press, and most definitely with the addition of newer and better types. It was published three times a week until the equipment was up-graded, at which time it became a daily evening publication, published Monday through Saturday. It was a four page paper with an occasional supplement that expanded it to five pages, and I would estimate that 70% of the paper was repeat advertising. There is a very enlightening serial column that describes the buildings in town by owner, by business, by method of construction, and by size. Altogether it is a fascinating document, filled with all that you would expect from a Dakota Territorial newspaper, and enough violence to keep American readers happy.

image: CheyenneDTin1867.jpg


Amistad may have had professional help, but they still used a photoengraving to represent the page of type shown in the chase, and also in the film was a scene of the wharf-side with a modern street light in the background. The story was what was important, and the details fall by the way side.


I don’t have a problem with them using a plate, but the details do matter. There are other people who have commented on the Hell on Wheels blog that notice historic inaccuracies. I’m sure that in the whole scheme of things it doesn’t matter at all, but it’s like the folks who today see the beat-up quality of old letterpress types and assume that that was the way it always looked, therefore letterpress printing doesn’t look right unless it looks like crap. It’s a skewed way of looking at things.

Because I own a press used in the movies I’ve questioned my thoughts towards filming inaccuracies many times. I have a circa 1850+/- working Washington Press that was used in 2 movies that I know of. One in 1925 silent movie “The Devil’s Cargo” and the other in 1961 “Cimarron”. The R. Hoe Washington Press used in both movies has a visible serial number cast on the face of the press which makes for a positive ID. Somewhere between the making of the two, the toggle mechanism must have been lost. One was re-made, probably under the direction of some movie prop dept machinist who was told to just “make it look like it works”. Although quite ingenious, it was only marginally functional. Printers who are unfamiliar with an iron handpress, would likely never recognize the obvious major flaw unless pointed out to them, and the general public would be clueless. The newspaper when printed and pulled in the 1961 version was also laid directly on the form and not sandwiched between tympan and frisket. Doubt they even used any ink. Late in my restoration, Steve & Ben Pratt machined an accurate remake of the toggle based on measurements I obtained off an identical press in the Henry Ford Museum.

Interestingly, the original version of the movie “Cimarron”, made in 1931, was the 1st Western to win an academy award for Best Picture. An R. Hoe Washington Press, circa 1855+/-, was used in this movie. The 1931 version is seldom televised as it contains a number of racial characterizations which were common for the time. Even in the 1931 version, I spotted inaccuracies. Just about all of the other old western movies I’ve studied suffer from the same fate… the fictional story and actors are far more important than the props.

If you know where to look, you can spot parts of the presses used in both “Cimarron” movies when they are dismantled and attached to the wagons, and also in some of the background scenes.

2001Fred… Other than mischaracterizing the press as a “Lincoln” ???, I’ve come to see little harm done with the many liberties being taken within the print shop or other movie sets. I’d love to see a movie where the production crew is a stickler for accuracy but (sadly) you could have probably set up a black painted Vandercook and the core viewing audience would have thought it correct. Were the show a non-fiction historical documentary, I would hope and expect nothing less than an accurate portrayal that DTP suggests. I do get where he’s coming from and can understand the push to do things 100% right when given the opportunity. Not sure one of those movies has been made yet, except perhaps on a youtube scale.

I recommend a book titled “Newspapering in the Old West” by Karolevitz as it is loaded with historical photos that capture the imagery of frontier printing in the 1800’s.

2001fred, Actually women did own print shops. Dinah Nuthead,Elizabeth Timothy,Lydia Baily, are great examples.
Gay Walker wrote a good read in 1987. best james

image: KingstonDailyShaft1886.jpg


Thanks James, I did searches & those 3 women and ordered Hudak’s book.
Ludia Baily’s story looks to be the best.
And thanks you for the nice, nonjudgemental correction.
Best to you also.

Butch, Thanks for your insight. The ironic part of this thread is that I get it too. I share DTP views. I am a lifelong printer, Had my first letterpress shop in 5th grade. Still have some bookmarks that I in printed in 1965. Was an offset printer my whole adult life.

But I’ll be the first to tell you that I still know very little compared to many of the real letterpress scholars out there. And I consider DTP to be one of those. I’ve looked at his shop and body of work. That is why the way he came at me in a full-frontal attack hurts, it was personal. But he was right when he said it looks like left overs from a Wayzgoose because that is exactly what they wanted. I asked what was going to happen to it all at the end of the run? Do you think I am going to scour the country trying to find the best of the best just to have it get thrown into a prop house inventory? Since this thread was about Mainstream movies (TV) with presses in them, I thought this would be an appropriate post.
Sure I was throwing the folks at HoW a bone when I posted “The set designer Paul Healy really did his homework putting this shop together.” They were fun to work with and we really liked each other..and they read this site…Get it now DTP? Friends deserve props And yes DTP you do have the right to critique but you gave no consideration to why things were presented the way they were. Like the Set Master told me when I brought up your very concerns….”It’s make believe, it’s TV. We don’t have to get it right”.

call me if you want 612.270.6449
I love you man, Jon Drew/Minneapolis.
Next topic…please..

Paul comes at you head on, he is very passonite about this stuff, he has chewed me out a few times but when it comes down to it he is right, love the guy, he has forgotten more about letterpress than i’ll ever know.

I second it…Drew, you have the stuff….along with with Mr. Frank… btw he has a VERY nice type cabinet for sale:
No hating on this post please! Drooling is okay…

“The Printing” A movie produced by the Chappel Hill N.C.
theology school. Based on actual events inside the old U.S.S.R. religous people go about printing there own religous literature even though its against the law. I thought it was an exceptionally good movie, And of course you wont miss the sutle messages either!
And who can forget Bonanza, the greatest, longest, gun battle in the history of television took place all around the print shop! Talk about throwing led around.

This has no press, but I watch a new movie that came in Houston this weekend. The Hundred-Foot Journey, the young cook finds some old cook books and starts reading them. As he turns the pages you can see that the books were printed letterpress, as you can see the pressure of the text on the other side of page in the background of the page.

I took the time to watch several episodes of Hell on Wheels, and found it to be incredibly depressing, dreary and horribly written. That said, when I did see the print shop the young lady was having difficulty making the press go on impression, and in walks the new territorial governor. He tells her that not only is he an old newspaperman, but that when the springs get rusty it keeps the press from going on impression, and that if she replaces them it would solve her problem. I suppose that she had an extra set in the back, ‘cause the next time she pulled the press it worked fine. Next time I have trouble with my hand-press, I don’t know about you, but I’m checking for rusty springs.

“The Frisco Kid” from 1935 with James Cagney has a couple scenes in a Gold Rush newspaper office in San Francisco. You can see type racks in the background, a Washington hand press, copy press, heavy blocking press, and in the later scene there’s a tabletop lever platen jobber.
(not to be confused with the 1979 film of the same name.)

The good news (and we all need more of that) is that wretched excuse for an historical drama, Hell on Wheels, is cancelled after the next season. The bad news is that they are stretching the last season out for two years. And since the ridiculous exchange about the show (see above), I discovered a fascinating biography about the man who was the actual editor of the first newspaper in Cheyenne. The book also contains his diary entries from the period, and includes a description of the first newspaper’s equipment. Nathan Addison Baker (1843-1934) not only founded The Cheyenne Leader in late 1867, just a few weeks after the founding of Cheyenne, but started two other papers in Wyoming, The South Pass News in South Pass, WY, and the Laramie Sentinel; and two newspapers in Colorado. He had previously worked at The Rocky Mountain News, the first paper in Denver, and was a very important early settler in the Denver area.

Quoting from the book:

On September 19, 1867, the first issue of Baker’s paper, The Cheyenne Leader, came off the press. It first appeared as a four page folio, with four columns to the page, and was printed a single page at a time on a quarter medium Gordon press. When the first issue was ready, a crowd of three hundred people stood in front of the Leader office [which was located in a rented log building], which was on Eddy Street. They eagerly snapped up the entire edition at twenty-five cents a copy.

Baker enlarged the paper in 1867 and upgraded the equipment, moving to another building in 1868. The printing office in Cheyenne was destroyed in a major fire in January 1870, but a month later he had the paper up and operating in a new plant, missing only one issue of what was by then a weekly newspaper.

He sold out his newspaper interests to the men (not women) who ran the daily operations at the papers in 1872, and returned to Denver, started an early school and numerous other ventures. Endowed with pioneering spirit he was a consistent ‘boomer’ for Denver and the area, and even planted the first trees in Denver proper, diverting water to them from a spring, a considerable distance away.

This is definitely one of those cases where the real history is infinitely more interesting than the garbage that is delivered on cable. The joyless and despicable world that the writers of this series have depicted in their incredibly disjointed story-line, has nothing but names based in history. Their character’s actions and motivations have little to do with what actually happened in Wyoming history, and should be offensive to the people who are those pioneer’s descendants. Instead, Wyoming’s Department of Tourism offers a Hell on Wheels history tour. No wonder that other peoples around the world are laughing at us.

As for the argument that women were printers too, yes that is true. But until the late 19th century they only became proprietors after their husbands died, and then were allowed to continue their printing at the behest of the local governments, as they were allowed to own, but not control their own property. Women were not allowed to control their own property in Wyoming until 1876, which was several years after they were grant the right to vote.

image: LeaderPrintingOffice1869.JPG


“Wiper Press”, a British movie about WWII. Captain acquires an Arab Press and prints a weekly newspaper for the troops in Ypres Belgium, 1939-1940. One of his troops happens to be a compositor. Recently made movie because it includes Michael Palin.

In the 1936 Three Stooges short “Disorder in the Court”, Moe puts Curly’s head in a letterpress and gives it some serious impression! See the clip here:

Re: Billy White and the 3 Stooges—A “letterpress” yes, but not a printing press. A minor distinction for a few, a knowledgeable factor for others. But in typical YouTube fashion, it lead me to this video which I enjoyed:


Fritz, Since this thread’s title says “movies with presses in them”, I figured that a “head press” would be 100% on topic! :) Besides, I felt this short clip might be enjoyed by this group. Thanks for the other link, quite beautiful.

By now a couple of you have found my post at poltroon press
listing movies with presses in them. I did not put it together “by google” as someone said (how do you do that, precisely?) but with the help of many friends, and I showed clips from some films at SF Public Library’s Holiday lecture. I would like to repeat this as i have many more great clips of mostly absurd & clueless printers in action. My most recent discovery is RUN, MAN RUN, a spaghetti western, which has a hopkinson and cope albion that is crucial to the plot. i dont want to spoil it for movie buffs by telling you what it actually does but check it out!
I also recommend BEN & ME, a Disney cartoon, which was recommended to me by Pat Reagh.

image: ben5.jpg


Here’s one from my own DVD collection that I don’t see listed here yet: It’s from the 1949 movie “Trapped” starring Lloyd Bridges and Barbara Payton. Some nice footage of the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I just uploaded the clip here:

Edit: While this segment has all the hallmarks of a newsreel, it is not; it was purpose made for this film which deals with the often perilous profession of counterfeiting!

This is a good companion video if anyone is interested:

The Wipers Times, a BBC movie from 2013, features a platen press used to print a satirical publication during World War I. I found it to be an awesome movie, not to mention its focus on letterpress printing.


There is a TV series in Canada called Murdoch Mysteries. There was an episode called ‘The War On Terror’ that featured a shot of what appeared to be a tabletop Kelsey supposedly being used to print propaganda flyers, some of which are seen hanging on lines in the background to dry. I think the episode was done in 2012

Searched this discussion and didn’t find it listed. Haven’t seen it personally yet but I was told the opening sequence of Big Eye by Tim Burton has an extensive bit of printing on a Heidelberg Cylinder press. There is a short clip of it in the first trailer.

Three Stooges as printers in the 1965 film “The Outlaws is Coming”. Moe even gets his head stuck in a C&P.

image: moe.JPG


Baby Boom- 1987 movie with Diane Keaton. Looks like a 5x7 Kelsey that is being used to print baby food labels.

“Houdini” with Adrien Brody shows many clips of different letterpresses while showing Houdini’s headlines in the new papers over his career. Good movie too.

Also not from the last twenty years - “Kings of the Road” by Wim Wenders has a scene where the main character visits his dad’s small newspaper production, with a flatbed(?) press. I watched it before I ever got into letterpress, so my memory of it is vague at best, but its role is more than a passing reference in the movie.

Absence of Malice

Just saw a scene in “Enemy at the Gates” not mentioned above. When the Red Army sniper is first made a publicity figure, they show a large press-room with cylinder and platen presses, though the views aren’t clear. The cylinders are fly delivery, and the platens may be Victorias. Certainly there is the typical Victoria flywheel, though one press has an ink disk rather than ink cylinder. The other press has a feeder similar to that of an AutoVic or AutoKobold.
The prop department did an excellent job here, no anachronisms, but why would they, at the siege of Stalingrad, be printing on bleached white stock rather than newsprint?

on a flight today from DFW to SFO on American airlines and there is a Queen Latifah movie called Bessie on. i’m not watching it but happened to look at the monitor around the same time that a chase filled with type was lowered into a platen press and a single page (8x10) was printed all in one smooth motion. too quick for an identification and i wasn’t prepared to pay attention. maybe someone else will know…

“Beloved Sisters,” 2014, directed by Dominik Graf. It’s the (probably heavily fictionalized) story of two sisters, Charlotte and Caroline von Lengefeld, both in love with the writer Friedrich Schiller. Several scenes set in a print shop in the late 1700s, where Schiller goes to see proofs of his books.

More brief glimpses while changing channels:
The Explosive Generation, 1961. Saw a group of teens printing on a power proof press, with delivery system like a Vandercook 425P, flyers for a protest in support of teacher Willian Shatner; found this dialogue at the Internet Movie Database:
Mr. Morton: [refering to handbill about protest rally] In our own printshop! On our own presses! How could this happen?
Printing Teacher: Well like I said, we’re understaffed. Not a bad little job, but the spacing could be a little better here…
Mr. Morton: You may go!

The Forbidden Trail, 1932. Buck Jones western, conflict between homesteaders and cattlemen. Came in at scene with an iron hand press, news sheet being pulled off the form and read. Single page but full news size. Lady editor one of the main characters.

Not a movie but:

Macgyver (original series) Season 1 Episode 4

C&P 12x18 in use in a print shop at 10:50 mark.

Two for your consideration, Firstly, the recent film about Beatrix Potter with Renee Zellwegger , doing quite well with an English accent, was actually filmed in the press hall of the UK Type Museum in Kennington, south London It is no kind of litho press (as noted at the top of this list) but in fact Wharfedale cylinder letterpress machine, and in fact you get just a split second glimpse of a press-man, behind ms Z. . He was and is Mr Frank Millington, who beat me to the part by a hairsbreadth. He and I helped a trifle with the press’s restoration.
Secondly, what about James Garner’s hand platen on the back seat of his car in ‘The Rockford Files’, thats on the
net somewhere … Keeps his ink in the glove box!

Re: Devils Tail ‘s comment about women owning presses,
he didn’t look back far enough. In the colonial era, - you know, when the English were in charge, there was a Charleston and Savannah newspaper run by a lady after her husband died. She left after the Revolution and printed again in the Bahamas, but was persuaded to go back to the new nation to print a newspaper again, but first having to pay a symbolic fine. Later moved to the UK, to London, and married a very famous printseller. Remarkable lady. Paper had ads for touring English opera and theatrical companies. That era mostly ignored by US historians, as
sort of embarrasing I suppose. Read period newspapers folks, see for yourselves.

The Netflix series ‘Hell on Wheels’ season 4. A reporter visits the town that moves west with construction of the railroad, she decides to stay and starts a newspaper. I’d have to go back and look at the episodes for press models but she starts with an iron handpress and later has what looks like a Golding Pearl and a nice type cabinet, among other print shop staples. A gritty but good series
Whistle Pig Press

Going back to the recent film about Beatrix Potter, I do believe that credit be given where its due, The scene where she appears in front of a Wharfedale cylinder press examining a pull, has the minder just behind and on screen for an instant, that part was played in a brown coat by Mr Frank Millington, a geuine ex-professional letterpress cylinder minder. I nearly got the part, but he made up to the producer!. We both had been helpful in getting the press going again at the Type Museum, in Kennington, London UK.

High Treason (1951) Enemy saboteurs infiltrate the industrial suburbs of London, intending to disable three power stations. There’s an Arab press featured. The film includes a small part by Joan Hickson, who went on to play Miss Marple.

All Over the Town (1949) - After serving in the RAF during the Second World War, Nat Hearn (Norman Wooland) returns to his prewar job as a reporter on the Tormouth [actually Lyme Regis] “Clarion”. Nat becomes the owner of the paper, but his employees strike, disagreeing with Nat’s stance on Tormouth’s housing scheme. Plenty of interior shots of old newsprint presses and even an Albion is pressed (sic) into service.

Crooks in Cloisters (1964) - an early film from the “Carry On” studios, including much-loved actress Barbara Windsor. Having pulled off the smallest ever train robbery, Little Walter and his crew decide to get out of London. The six of them set up business in a disused monastery off the Cornish coast. Several shots of what looks like a C&P treadle being used to allegedly print forged bank notes.

ok….. one would think that after a decade of listing and debating movies with presses in them we’d have exhausted the subject. BUT that’s not the case.

I just watched the 1960’s movie “The Odessa File” with John Voigt. There is a series of scenes set in the passport forger’s office, which is equipped with very nice windmill presses.

SPOILER ALERT: After a lot of drama, a hitman falls through the roof and lands right onto the paper feed arm of one of the presses! Yikes! Not to worry though, the press is not too badly damaged.

This is an old but interesting steam. I’m glad I found it.

I looked the stream over for one movie I know about. I didn’t find it but may have overlooked it.

It was Oliver Stone’s 1993 movie “JFK.”

In it, Lee Harvey Oswald is shown working in the darkroom of what is supposed to be a type-setter’s shop in Dallas. He actually worked at Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall, which was one of the better type-setters in the city. (Oddly enough, he worked there on the films taken during the U2 flights over Cuba.) Anyway, the scene was actually filmed at City Printing Co, on Dragon Street, where I worked as the only stripper in the department. We were still old looking in ‘93, not having updated for decades, so the place stood in well for 1963. It has been a long time since I saw the movie so I cannot say if a press is shown. All I remember seeing now is red lights and film strips (yeah, film strips in an offset printer’s…they don’t get it totally right very often). But maybe it was sheet film they showed, I just cannot remember.

In 1937 Gene Autry made a film titled Public Cowboy Number One, his co-star was Ann Rutherford, who owned newspaper.nd a few scenes were shot in the shop that had what looked like a C&P press. In one scene Autry pis a large galley of type, upsetting Miss Rutherford. but, as in all his movies everything works out for the best.a

There was a movie about Harriet Tubman filmed last year in Petersburg, VA. I believe they are calling it “Harriet”. There is a small printshop in the movie (unless it ends up on the cutting room floor) with a Washington hand press, some cabinets, and a few bookpresses. It was nice to have everything out of my living room at least for a couple months. Everything is back now, except for the hand press which has found a new home (and I’m sure will be much happier there).

ok… Just when we all thought we’d identified all of the movies with presses in them…. another one pops up! This one is named “He Walked By Night”, which is a film-noir classic from 1948. It’s Jack Webb’s third movie, made long before Dragnet was ever thought up.

There is a long montage scene where the police are printing up flyers and wanted posters on a C&P…. and the press is moving FAST! I guess they had to get those posters out there.

“Hue and Cry,” 1947. A gang of street boys (and one girl) figures out that criminals are using a weekly comic book, published by, ahem, “The Trump,” to provide intel on upcoming robberies. Unbeknownst to the author, either the comps or someone in the publishing office is making changes to the copy, according to a code. A lot of the action takes place in the bleak environs of barely post-war London. Not much press action but kind of great that the central plot mechanism depends on the integrity, or otherwise, of the comps. A sheetfed Hoe press is seen briefly at 33:30 and 1:03.

The new Little Women features a nice scene at the printshop towards the end

Going back to what Franklincreations mentioned right at the beginning of this. Here in the UK there was a Beatrix Potter film (with a US lady playing the part!!) and theres a good clear shot of a Wharfedale LETTERPRESS machine seemingly producing proofs for her to examine. Now the minder was one Frank Millington, and he only just beat me to the part!!. The press was in the press hall adjacent to the type museum here in London and had only been got running again a few weeks before.