Stop the Presses!

Engraving of a Country Campbell Printing Press.

Engraving of a Campbell “Country” Press. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 12-12-1883, pg. 2.

Very brief post tonight to share something cool. I have long been curious about the day-to-day production of a nineteenth-century newspaper. I am somewhat familiar with letterpress printing, having taken a few classes over the years. But the mechanics of turning out The Wellington Enterprise on a weekly basis have always felt rather mysterious to me. In the course of doing research, I discovered an editorial in an 1883 issue of the paper, while John and Mary Houghton were still the publishers, announcing the installation of a “new improved Country Campbell Printing Press.”

It was, they bragged, “conceded to be one of the best, if not the very best, ever invented for job and newspaper offices where the circulation does not exceed a few thousand…These presses are the simplest built, give absolutely perfect register and are unequalled for strength and durability” (12-12-1883, pg. 2). The first commercial linotype machine, which would revolutionize print publication, would not be purchased by the New York Tribune for three more years, so this was state-of-the-art technology for a small-scale operation.

The costly capital investment was clearly preparation for a dramatic expansion of coverage at the Enterprise. Just three issues later, on January 2, 1884, the newspaper changed for the first time in its history from a four-page (folio) to an eight-page publication. It would remain eight pages for the rest of the century, with the exception of a brief “experiment” in printing a four-page issue twice each week, which lasted only from July to August of 1897.

I happened to run across a short video–less than one minute–of a “Campbell Country Cylinder Newspaper Press” in action. It appears identical to the engraving above. You can see the video here. Enjoy!

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