George E. Clymer

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George E. Clymer (1754–1834) from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was an American statesman, mechanic and inventor. In 1813 he invented the Columbian Printing Press. This was an iron, lever-operated replacement for the wooden screw presses based on Gutenberg's design.

Clymer began making wooden presses of the Gutenberg model around 1790. He switched to exclusively making the Columbian Press in 1816. His improvement still printed a page at a time but could be operated with less effort and more certain results. A similar press was invented around the same time by Lord Stanhope in England, and was called the Stanhope Press. Another model developed in America was known as the Washington Press. Clymer found a limited market for his press in the U.S., so in 1818 he moved to England to compete directly with the Stanhope Press.

A few years before the invention of the Stanhope and the Columbian, Friedrich Koenig of Germany invented a steam-powered continuous press using rollers. This was much larger than other presses, and could produce much higher volumes. Koenig made his first sale to The Times, which could afford the press and take advantage of its high-volume output. The Columbian, Stanhope, and Washington presses enabled smaller printers to remain somewhat competitive, and all continued to be manufactured until late in the century. Eventually the rotary press and offset lithography made obsolete all of these presses.

Examples

Surviving examples of the Columbian Press can be found in many museums:

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