Presses used during the war of 1812?

I teach Graphic Communications At the Forrest Tech Center in St. Mary’s County. My students are designing the exhibit for the White House Visitors Center. I would like to include a printing press. I found this article on the mob and freedom of the press. It would be cool to have a press in the exhibit. The newspaper company the federal republican was destroyed by a mob but I can’t seem to find out what type of printing presses they were using at the time. After the mob violence they continued printing in a friends home.

Log in to reply   7 replies so far

The kind of press used at that time was a wooden Common Press or another wooden press style called a Ramage, named after it’s maker. Both were made of wood with some metal parts. Cast iron printing presses were about to break on the American scene, and there might have been a few in the country, a Stanhope imported from England, but the first American iron press was not yet introduced.

According to Ralph Polk’s book, Elementary Platen Presswork (1931), The Columbian, an all-iron press, was built by George Clymer in Philadelphia in around 1800.

Polk was wrong if he said that — Clymer invented the Columbian press in 1813 according to all accounts but it didn’t really become available until 1814 and was 3 times as expensive as the common press. Ramage at that time was building conventional, though somewhat improved, common presses as well — he didn’t come up with his “screw” presses until the 1820s. Most likely the Federal Republican was printed with either an older English common press or a Ramage-built common press — there were other common press builders then in the USA but their production was much less than Ramage’s.


Perhaps a quick trawl of the Web, may be interesting, I.E. *CLYMER & DIXON* “profile” and which technology, went in which direction, e.g. from? Yankee land to Limey land or Vice Versa. or both.?

As has been said by others, the type of press used by any of the newspapers of the day would have almost certainly been the same basic style as that used by Benjamin Franklin; a wooden-framed common press. The specifics may have differed from press to press, but the basics would have been the same. It isn’t until a bit later in the century that the explosion of press development really takes off.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Mick, the first hand presses in the North American English colonies were English common presses imported, mostly used. Around 1765 the earliest recorded American-made common presses were built, but the press-building industry in the US didn’t really take off until Ramage began repairing, and then building, common presses about 1800. The Americans made an open “box” hose rather than the wooden box hose of the British presses, so it’s pretty easy to tell the American presses. There are quite a few surviving common presses in the USA, both English and American, and there are more by Ramage than all others combined.


A.L.P. Sir, Thank you, extra info always appreciated. S. A. P. I will fire of an E mail via B.P. to yourself, with hopefully some interesting rubbish/info, East to West rather than Vice Versa.?? Mick.