The Automatic

I just acquired this neat little press called “The Automatic”. When I say little, it’s a tabletop model, only 18-20” long, (including anything that sticks out — the base is 16 1/2” x 11”).

Instead of the clamshell design of most letterpress, this uses an up/down ram motion to accomplish the imprint.

An ingenious horizontal stock feeder passes the (cardstock) under the platen and delivers it out the other end of the press (below the ink plate). The machine has built in grippers, guages, etc, eliminating the need for a lot of job setup, (and even better — it has many fine, but heavy-duty adjustments to nearly every one of it’s motions).

I was able to find (3) advertisements for the press in 1910, 1911 and 1912 Popular Mechanics magazine, but haven’t found any other images or information about it.

I put a 2 minute video on YouTube showing the press in motion :

Anyone ever seen one or own one?

I got it feeding stock after I made the video — will post more photos and videos if anyone is interested in seeing them.

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: ''The Automatic''

''The Automatic''

image: 1910 Ad for ''The Automatic''

1910 Ad for ''The Automatic''

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I’ve seen this kind of press several times, in London, Amsterdam and Paris. The ones I did see were manufactured by a French company, and called ‘presse pour cartes de visite’. I tried to get hold of the one that was sitting in a shopwindow in London, but the owner didn’t want to part with it. Last time I was in London, it (and the printshop) had gone.

And I forgot to tell, it came with a small weight to hold the stack of cards down.

I, too, have seen several of these presses. I think another name associated with them is “Buffum”. I have not, however, seen one as complete as this one, with rollers and all the operating hardware.

John Henry

There were two major manufacturers in the U.S. of this style of card press.

One such press was the Feuerstein Automatic Card Printing Press, manufactured by S.B. Feuerstein & Co., 542 Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL

The other was the Buffum Automatic Card Press manufactured by the Buffum Tool Co. at 900 Georgia Street, Louisiana, MO

Both look pretty much identicle. I suspect that your press from the “Automatic Printing Press Company” is probably a Feuerstein because of the Chicago connection or perhaps they started making them independently when the patents had expired (?).

This presses are cute as can be, BUT will only print on small sized card stock.

They are fairly rare and expensive. I tried to get one once or twice over the years, but the cost was too prohibitive at the time.


The French press was called la Magand, which was the press in the window in London. The printers was in Cecil Court, amongst the many secondhand bookshops. I guess the rent and rates killed them off being in the heart of Theatreland. I went round that printers with my Dad years ago (probably late 80s) when I was at the London College of Printing.
Even then the owner wanted a substantial amount for the press.

I can see where you put the paper to feed it into the press. Where does the paper go after it is printed? What kind of delivery is there? Thanks for sharing. I wonder if they cost as much as a vandercook?

Please post a video that shows how this ingenious little bugger is fed!

Adding some more press adds from various google books, along with a snippet from Personal Impressions by E.Harris.

image: Buffum3.jpg


image: Buffum2.jpg


image: Buffum1.gif


image: Harris.gif


Albion_Press, that’s right Cecil Court it was, right in the heart of theatre land. I worked at The Bodley Head and later at Thames&Hudson and would spend my lunchtime on Charing Cross Road looking for books on typography. Shipley was a good address!

I bought one of these presses probably near fifty years ago. It is a fun press to own, I still use it once in a while for the fun of it! Chase size is: 3-1/8” x 5-7/16”.I’ve fed 3x5 file cards through it. Three rollers fit in an assembly over the ink disk. Serial number 221. Inscription on nameplate above disk: S. B. FEUERSTEIN CO./100 PRINTS/50 SECONDS/
MANUFACTURERS/CHICAGO, U. S. I read somewhere that this press was responsible for smashing much type in its day, by double-sheeting, mainly due to the inability of operator to set up the feeder. It was used in many S. S. Kresge Co. Dime Stores (later Kmart) to print 50 business card for 49c for con artists (lightning-rod salesmen) to hit the locals, get deposits and run. After all he’s got to be legitimate, as his business card says his office is in the bank building in the next block! Be careful, don’t rub the ink of the freshly-printed card!
I have some spare parts, roller assembly and chase, and chase bed.
It’s up for bids, and it’s HEAVY.
If you want more info, email me, and we can get in touch by phone.
It’s time for someone else to take custody of this piece of history for the next fifty years

Kluge Girl:
The card is ejected unto/into a sloped assembly under the ink disk. I would compare this to a chute delivery on the small offset presses as the multi or the AB Dick. The platen has bales as on a 3x5 Kelsey with impression adjusted by sheets of bond or tissue.

Foolproof546 wrote — “….two major manufacturers…. Feuerstein Automatic Card Printing Press …. Buffum Automatic Card Press”…

Interesting. I see they are very similar. They may have shared some parts, or one or the other may have been an “agent” or reseller for the other.

I wonder who was first, and who really “invented” it.


Foolproof546 also wrote — “This presses are cute as can be, BUT will only print on small sized card stock.”

It will run 2x3.5” up to 3.5” x 5.5” card stock.

I was looking at some of the 1910’s ads — and in the one I posted it say “press size 12x12x21”, (mine is 16+ inches long at base)… also the lettering of “The Automatic” in the ad is different — mine has what I call “baseball pennant style” lettering with the banner-like underline — the one in the ad doesn’t. So, I assume even within those made by “Automatic Printing Press Company” there are more than one model.


Girl with a kluge — “I can see where you put the paper to feed it into the press. Where does the paper go after it is printed? What kind of delivery is there?”

Much like the “feed dogs” on a sewing machine, the press has a pair or dogs that rise up slightly and catch the edge of the bottom card in the stack, the card is then driven through an adjustable gate, (set for thickness of one card), and through what look like a pair of tongs that guide the stock in between thin metal strips I’ll call side gauges… the next card push the one before it out. Final delivery is via a semi-circular opening below the inking plate.

I’ll shoot some more video of it with stock feeding.

It’s fast —- the cards literally “shoot” out if everything is running well.

image: "feed dogs" are visible below feed, "tongs" I described and gaages visible in top right of photo.

"feed dogs" are visible below feed, "tongs" I described and gaages visible in top right of photo.

image: manufacturer's ''speed'' rating

manufacturer's ''speed'' rating

image: where cards exits press

where cards exits press

This shows exit better… and a few more photos.

image: better view of underside of "exit" end.

better view of underside of "exit" end.

image: underside of stock feeder end of press

underside of stock feeder end of press

A quick search of the patent record for the Buffum Tool Company indicates that a US patent for something quite close to this press was issued Aug. 11, 1908 to Miles H. Mann. Subsequent patents by Mann on improvements to this press were assigned to the Buffum Tool Co. For convenience, I’ve put PDFs of these *temporarily* (grab them if you want to save them) online at:

Of course, the fact of a US patent in this period does not mean that it wasn’t first invented elsewhere.

David M.


Stanislaus Pekala wrote: I bought one of these presses probably near fifty years ago……….up for bids and it’s HEAVY.

The one I’ve posted here weight 103 lbs.

I just spent a little more time researching “The Automatic”, and found an ad for one more like mine… The 1906-1907 ads in Inland Printer and The American Stationer, show the same lettering style for “The Automatic” as mine, and the dimensions are closer: 12” x 21” x 24”, (those would have to be overall dimensions not just the base and height).

Fun what a little reading can do — the older ads say the press can handle stock as small as 1” x 2”, (I checked and mine, in-fact will run that small).

Now I’m looking for patents.

In comparing the text in the ads from the various manufacturers, I note that only “Automatic Printing Press Company” writes “Originators and Manufacturers” — and none of the companies say “patented” or “invented” which were hot marketing words at that time.

US Patent No. 807,705 seems to describe the feed part of the press… but that’s my first hit in the patent search… I’d say if there is a patent, it’s going to be 1905 or earlier.

Also looking into “R. A. FREEMAN”, something I found in a geneology website —- “R. A. Freeman attended the public schools, but at the age of twelve years he entered a printing office to learn the trade. He became an expert printer and followed that line of work in Grand Rapids and Chicago until 1890. He then went on the road as a salesman of printing presses, confining his efforts mainly to Chicago and New York city. He had been interested in various phases of printing and met a long felt need when he invented and put on the market the first automatic printing press which came into extensive use. He entered the employ of the Harper Publishing Company, of New York, as master mechanic and remained with them ten years. He then went to Chicago, where he worked for the Miehle Printing Press Company and was later sent to New York city as their representative. During these years his inventive genius was actively at work and he designed—several special machines for different printing houses.” (from: )

that’s all for now.

image: 1907 American Stationer article about "new press"... this one looks like mine more than any other ad or image so far.

1907 American Stationer article about "new press"... this one looks like mine more than any other ad or image so far.

…and this is the oldest ad, (1906, Inland Printer — mentions closer dimensions and 1” x 2” size).

image: 1906-inland-printer-ad_vol-41.jpg


re: David M MacMillan posted patents — the earliest one has an application date in November of 1907.

“Automatic Printing Press Company” had their press in productions, advertised for sale in printing trade magazines and shown in public for over a year before that.

A great big “Thank You” to everyone who posted ads and/or photos of “The Automatic.”

Also “Thank You” to Dr. David M. MacMillan, for sharing the patent records of the card presses!

The claims of “Invented by” and “originated” etc. are all to be taken with a grain of salt. This could well have been a European invention and the design simply stolen and patented by Buffum. Not an uncommon thing at all in the late 19th and arly 20th centuries. The Europeans stole our designs and we stole theirs. This ran rampant in typeface designs for example.

There are many European examples of this style of press as mentioned above by Albion Prress and Thomas Gravemaker.


It’s adorable. Somewhat shaped like an anvil, but it looks like quite a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing the photos and the videos.

I am very late reading this post and feed but wanted to say thank you. The video you shared is wonderful and held me captivated with a feeling of awe for such simole genious of machine. You mentioned your intent to shoot a video of it printing, but I didn’t see a link to another video than the first. Is it still available to share? I am enamored :D

One more question for the sages:
Any quesses why this same design was not utilized to make a press for larger prints? (the aforementioned difficulty with double feed and smashing?)

I have a press like this. What is it worth?

double post sorry

double post