Brian Noel's "Favorite" platen press
The Favorite Press
circa 1890
Produced by Damon & Peets as well as
many other companies over the years.
Brian Noel's "Favorite" platen press


The "Favorite" Press - & Mystery

I first saw one of these when I was about 14. Brian Noel's "Favorite" platen pressI'd always thought that old Mr Ishill's 'Favorite' press was just his favorite printing press...  It wasn't until 40 years later that I began to unravel the story of "The Favorite". Yes, they were made with no markings - and were sold by many dealers around the country. I found a number of adverts in old printing magazines - same press, minor variations, but always called "The Favorite", and sold by many different people - and hardly ever with any foundry markings. Curious, but that was during a time (yes, late 1800's) when everyone was making presses, copying presses, stealing each others' designs, etc. Lots of law suits among press manufacturers in those days.

We have one in the collection, however it has a strong spring supporting a rod that appears to help the platen open. That spring is missing on this model.

The one shown here is owned by Brian Noel and his wife, and is currently in Lowell, Mass, although it had been used for many years in Portland Maine.

As Brian explains:
"We purchased it from someone in Maine, who used to work for a printer in Portland. When the shop switched to newer presses, he purchased the press from the shop, and used it a few times. It had sat in his garage for a while until he sold it to us a few years ago.  We moved it to the Western Ave Studios in Lowell and my wife has since opened up a small press/art shop there.  It works extremely well, and we're very happy with it."

"(We went to) Tarheel Roller to get new trucks and rollers cast.  It was also a very interesting experience. Mr. Hauser told us that he had previously made rollers for a Favorite in Maine, which we're assuming is the one we currently have.  A really strange coincidence, but maybe not so strange if you consider the number of roller casters still around.  You'll also be interested to know that Dave also knew of one other Favorite, located at a museum in Florida.  He actually called them to compare measurements with what I had given him, and said they matched."

Damon & Peets -aka "Damon & Sons" was a large printing supplier on Varick Street in Manhattan in the 1800's. Later, I believe they moved to Jersey City. I have one of the presses they sold - an old Gordon (pre-cursor to the Chandler & Price). This is another press which has shown up all over the world with little traceable history. I know that Schniedewand & Lee made one in Chicago, some one made one in San Francisco (saw it at a print shop in the California desert around 1972) and I also saw one in Saigon in 1970. That one was made in Japan. Same press, at  least 3 named manufacturers... This may parallel the story of the Favorite.

Around 1885, Chandler & Price bought the rights of the larger Gordon press from George Phineas Gordon and started C&P Company. They improved the design - but still called their press "The Gordon" for quite a few years. In then end, they and Kluge were the only two companies left standing, and C&P continued to make open-feed hand presses into the mid 1960's.

But the "Favorite" story is still a bit more obscure. There were lots of folks duplicating others' designs - or at least stealing ideas from one another during the turbulent times of platen press development which lasted from about 1870 through 1915. After then, things calmed down quite a bit; Golding was sold to American Type Founders and their presses left the scene; Gordon had sold his patents to Chandler & Price and their presses began to dominate the field.

The Craftsmen Company in Boston made all of their presses using patterns from defunct competitors. They may have made one of these as well. I'll have to check. I know they copied the Golding Pearl. (ref the "CMC Jobber") -  But one thing very interesting about the Craftsmen copies is that they are so obvious. We have an old 4x6 Victor - which was copied and sold as the Craftsmen "Victory" model. I had both of these presses in my shop a few years ago - helping a student restore hers and casting rollers and making a chase-base for it. Everything looked identical, but my parts wouldn't fit hers exactly.

As it turns out, hers was about 1% smaller in all ways than mine.... 1% is the amount of shrinkage expected when casting iron from a pattern. This confirmed that Craftsmen used original Victor parts as the patterns for making molds to cast their presses. Curious tidbit, but proven by the realities of metallurgy...

If I'm not mistaken, the Favorite will take a Kelsey 6x10 Chase I will check it out and confirm this soon.

- AR 12/05/2012

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  page last updated December 5, 2012