Campbell Century Pony Press
a step toward printing

August 21, 2013

Today, I decided to implement an idea suggested by Don H. It is, perhaps, a step towards full motorized printing with the Campbell. Or it may simply be the way that posters and other things are printed - hand-inked and hand-cranked. No motors, no rollers. It's quite simple. The wooden feed board can be raised, giving access to the bed at the back of the press. The design (the form) can be assembled on the spot, or locked in place after the chase is designed elsewhere.

The form can then be hand inked, in one color or in multiple colors. The parent sheets are 23" x 34". That's the absolute maximum size of the design. I have a concept for two side-by-side designs, printed at the same time, each being about 23" x 17". The sheets are hand fed on the top of the wooden feedboards.

There is a foot pedal used to engage and disengage the cylinder impression. The up position is the engaged position. On the motor side (or gear side) of the press, the pulley wheel can be rotated clockwise to move the bed through a complete printing cycle. The next sheet needs to be placed at the paper guides before the paper grippers pull the sheet into the press. Of course, this is a slow process because the form will need to be re-inked after each impression.

I was happy that my test form printed so well on the first try. I placed cuts in the corners and down the center of the design.

I can see that this is a step toward understanding how this press functions. The next step would be to set up one roller and hand ink the metal ink plate, see if that works okay. Then two rollers. Then, I may connect the motor and belt. I'd have to lower the press to the concrete floor and stabilize the corners. It wouldn't take long.

The Campbell Century Pony Press, ca. 1898
see also:

See what Hatch Show Print does:


The Campbell Century Pony Press,
Restoration Saga --- continued
April 3, 2014

I've returned again to the periodic but long overdue restoration, or resurrection, of a beautful piece of antique printng machinery, the Campbell "Century Pony" flatbed cylinder press. It is a two-revolution press which, unlike the larger "drum cylinder" presses, uses a smaller cylinder that makes two revolutions for each impression on the horizontal bed that moves back and forth underneath. On the bed's return under the cylinder, impression is avoided by a slight upward movement of the cylinder.

The Campbell Century Pony presses were a great success and were made between 1895 and 1906, being developed out of Campbell's earlier "Economic" model. My Campbell came with a counter that was dated 1897. This could be a good clue as to its production year. Moreover, during the life-span of a press's production the number produced is usually weighted toward the beginning. (Yearly production numbers usually tailed off sharply in the final years; for example, only a dozen or so Kelly A presses were produced in the final few years of its offical production run, after 1930.) The "Century" was marketed to the approaching new century, and most of the advertisements are seen in the mid-to-late 90s. For example, the picture in this article of 1896 depicts my press very accurately (From Printer's Ink, Vol. 18).

The Campbell Century Pony press from an 1896 article in Printer's Ink

The article states that the press weighs over 8600 pounds and is valued at $1600 --- a pretty penny back then! One online source states that the average wage earner in 1890 made $1.53 a day and worked 279 days a year, thus making about $480 for the year. The Campbell is 3.33 years of wages for the average worker of the time. A low wage today ($10 / hr), at 5 days a week for 52 weeks gets you about $20,800 for the year. We might say that the Campbell would be valued at $70,000 in today's dollars. It's probable that my press dates to before 1900; if the counter's patent date is any indication, we might say 1898 or 1899. In any case, the design and castings were of the 1895 vintage of press design. It's a high-end "19th century flatbed cylinder press" in design and spirit.

A write-up in a 1916 periodical discusses the Campbell presses: That same periodical, now in the public domain, has a ten-page guide to operating these types of flatbed cylinder presses: This will be essential as I revive the Campbell, and my efforts have recently reached a new plateau. For three years the Campbell sat with the motor detached. I finally reattached it and fired it up, but the motor was loud --- bearings and brushes shot. Luckily, I located another motor at a salvage store in Fort Collins. It was only 1 hp, compared to the 1.5 hp of the previous motor. However, I wanted to use a smaller pulley anyway to make the press run slower, and this effectively reduced the load on the motor by a factor of 2.

Consequently, after much back and forth to the shop, moving of heavy motors, locating a new belt, and other head-scratching details, the Campbell came alive on April 2, 2014: Here we see it running at about 20 impressions per minute (i.p.m), which is 1200 per hour. A nice, leisurely pace. The 1 hp Howells motor is wired for 220 v and can run at 1760 rpm. The press can be run up to 3600 i.p.h., or more, which seems insanely fast, especially when the operator needs to feed each sheet into the press manually. As it is, a hand-fed run of 300 parent sheets (23 x 35) for a one-sheet newspaper would take about 15 minutes to print (without stops).

I return to my earlier dream of producing a quarterly letterpress newspaper for the Northern Colorado / Fort Collins community. This was the plan with acquiring the press back in early 2011, which I shared with local community members in the publishing / bookstore world. I was going to name it the Fort Collins New Courier, but now since that name has been taken (for a non-letterpress old-style newspaper imitation), I will choose another that reflects the early newspaper history of Fort Collins.


2011 and 2012 were very busy years in my career as a writer and tour guide. Despite helping a local non-profit raise $25,000 for their new "letterpress Publick House" I was unable to raise any funds for my Campbell press restoration. During a year of great financial straits, I returned to the Campbell project last summer (2013) and was able to hand pull a news-sheet-sized test page, with cuts and letters I set into the bed by hand (see section 1 above). Now, as the new year warms up (2014), I've gotten to the next level with the Campbell restoration, and am preparing to fix the paper delivery ribbons, clean the press up some more, test out the rollers, and do a test run. This will require inking up the press and rollers (a great use of ink, which will have to be cleaned up immediately before drying). There are some other details, but it's exciting to have overcome the unexpected motor issue in good time. This added expense was not expected. As I've planned all along, the Campbell will print a quarterly newspaper and I'll offer subscriptions to it which will go toward supporting the Traditional Book Arts Museum and Printing Office which houses the Campbell and other printing equipment. A run of 300 copies is hoped to generate $3000.

Origins of my Campbell Printing Press

A little research has revealed that the Campbell Printing Press and Manufacturing Company originally built its own presses in Brooklyn but in 1879 the patent owners contracted with Mason Machine Works in Taunton, Massachusetts, to build the presses. It was a windfall for that company, and they expanded their operations. By 1893 some 950 people were employed.

Foundry within the Mason Machine Works, 1898

A 1904 article in the Iron Age, Vol. 74, proves that Mason Machine works was still building the presses in 1904. Consequently, its almost completely certain that my Campbell was forged and built in this facility in Taunton, Massachusetts:

This is from an 1899 publication of the company. Shipping of presses west probably routed through Illinois. More research in Leadville might uncover its arrival and presence there. It's curious to wonder how and when my Campbell press made it to Colorado. There are several scenarios. It may have shipped new to the printing operation in Leadville, sometime between 1895 and 1906. It may have begun its work in some other town, and was purchased used at some later date. It went from Leadville to Arvada in the 1970s, where Mr Stoddardt printed posters with it. It supposedly hadn't been run for 20 years by the time I heard of it in 2010. It was moved to my shop in Fort Collins in March, 2011.

Update November 1, 2014. I had some wiring difficulties, and after some good test runs in October the 1 hp Howells motor I'd bought used earlier this year for $85 was failing, so I mobilized and found a new 1.5 hp Dayton motor for $150. Had to find a different pulley as the bore on this motor was 5/8". Found it at Uncle Benny's for $3. That pulley was not the smallest possible, and thus the press was running too fast for me to feed in the newsprint. So I went to the hardware store in Windsor and found the smallest possible pulley. My friend Don helped with a wiring problem, and today it is a running and printing press. With the 1725 rpm Dayton motor, and the 2" pulley, it's running at about 960 iph (impressions per hour). That makes for smooth and easy hand-feed of the paper --- a 320-sheet quarterly newspaper run completed in 20 minutes (one side) and 20 minutes (the other side).


The other Campbell page: