EORGE CLYMER (1752 – 1834), a Philadelphia mechanic invented the Columbian Press in 1813. Since 1800, Clymer had been building wooden presses and then came versions of the new iron hand presses from Europe. This Columbian Press was original, not only for its extravagant design but also for its levers, counter weights and ease of operations. These presses were well received in America. But at 400 USD it cost twice as much as the wooden press. The Americans found it too expensive. In 1818, he took his business to England and found success. In 1825, William Dixon joined his company. By 1840, several companies manufactured the press. The ‘Super Columbian Press’ was made by Ritchie & Sons, Edinburg in 1860.
Albion presses were made by Richard Whittaker Cope and that may have been as early as 1822. After Cope’s death a number of companies continued to make Albion presses. Harrild & Son’s of London made the press now in our listing that is showcased in the museum at our Mahabalipuram Hotel. Interestingly, like the one with us, the press in the Albion Harrild Museum is short of the original forestay (front foot). Possibly, Cope chose the name Albion, a poetic name for England in response to the Columbian press that came from America.
This ‘World Wonder’ Columbian Press built by Harrild and Sons, established in AD 1809, in Farringdon, sailed to India in a special consignment around 1830s when missionary work got formalized and many churches established by the Dutch. Until the late 1800s it was in the custody of the Diocesan press and later made way for the electrical ones in the 1920s. It is said to have landed on the shores of Pulicat near Madras and later went on a circuit. While in the custody of an Anglo-Indian Printer in Ooty, printing missionary propaganda material, this press was nearly destroyed by the locals in a 1946 riot against the British.
It is said, under the instruction of one Mr. Tate living in Yercaud and his German neighbour Mrs. Rahm, an artist, the press was purchased and restored by an English architect living in Madras working in the building of the Madras Presidency’s premier educational institutions.
The machine resurfaced in Ooty very recently and was in the custody of Bharath Printers Ltd., a private printer of repute in a condemned non-operative state, mildly damaged as well. The Columbian Press is said to be the most ornate press ever made. Renowned for aesthetics, beauty and ease of operation. An experienced Printer and helper can print up to 250 copies per hour. Very few Columbian Press exists. The last press on the e-bay was quoted around 50,000 USD in 2005. This Columbian Press has been listed in the collection of The STEVE BORGIA INDIAN HERITAGE MUSEUM at the INDeco Hotels Swamimalai since 2006. A centenary gift to this 1896 Tanjore village. The restoration work was carried out by Gangadharan of Kumbakonam town, a retired printing press mechanic. A similar model press features in the BRIAR PRESS Museum in the United States with the Serial No. Platen size: 24”X36” Circa: 1820s.