Babcock Optimus

Does anyone know where to begin dating / identifying Babcock presses?

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tell them they look beautiful, buy them flowers, take them to dinner. It works on women should work for dating a press, although I try to stick to my species.

He he, thanks for the advice.

My suggestion would be to look for a library that has a good collection of printing trade magazines, which would carry ads for Babcock Company, and leaf through looking for ads for your model. The date of the earliest ads in those magazines would give a pretty good idea of the intro date of the press. You might also find information about setup and operation, as many times the ads went into some detail. You don’t say where you are, but the NYPL and Newberry are good places to start, as would be the Cary Collection at RIT.


I am not near any of my reference materials right now, but I believe that the Optimus is definetely and early 20th century press, and not a 19th century press. We have a working Bacock Reliance at Printers’ Hall in Mt. Pleasant, IA. Have seen an Optimus in the basement of a building in central Iowa, but extraction would be near impossible. When these presses were first installed in the early 20th century the normal practice was to dig a hole with a ramp next to the building and the take out a portion of the basement wall/foundation and slide it into the building. Repair the wall and then fill in the hole. Good luck trying to do that in a commercial downtown area in the 21st century.


Good idea on the trade magazines

Good news for me the press is on ground level

There are random issues of Inland Printer and also American Printer, among others, at the Hathi Trust website. They seem to peter out in the ’20s. This press is certainly among the ads I saw there. Unfortunately, you can’t do a complete download of a document, you just have to search a title, load it, and then look at it page by page. You can search for specific words and get links to specific pages within a document.

The Optimus dates to 1883 and the Babcock company survived until the early 1950s when it became part of Harris-Seybold. The Optimus was heavily advertised in the Inland Printer for years. Here is a typical ad from an 1892 Inland Printer:[email protected]/26309811176/in/dateposted-pub...

Thanks Fritz for dating the Optimus dates. Our Reliance (built in 1900) is considerably lighter in makeup and was designed for country newpapers. The Optimus is defineteley a much heavier-built machine.

I just looked in Hal Sterne’s Catalogue of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses and there were apparently two different Babcock Optimus styles. The ironwork under the feed table is the easiest recognizable difference.