An 'Amateur' Press for the Professional
The Official Press
By Fred Williams
Editor & Publisher
Published Spring 1982
Professional printers are apt think all table-top lever presses are no more than toys. They believe they are capable of only the crudest of printing.
But the Official Press is a long way from being considered a toy. Built to exacting specifications by one of America's master press builders' the Official is capable of upholding the finest traditions of the Letterpress Art. A number of famous printers, including Will Bradley, Frederic W. Goudy and Carl Rudge printed on this press.
About 20 years after George P. Gordon introduced his successful jobber, several manufacturers began working on a scaled down version of the Gordon job press.
Gordon's principle was a reciprocating bed atop two long legs fixed at the rear of the press near its base and a platen which rotated within a given are between the plane of impression and feeding.
But due to the limitations imposed by their size, most tabletoppers were of the clam-shell variety. Instead of the long legs as used on Gordon's press, the Platen rocked back and forth on hinges attached to its lower side.
William H. Golding of Fort Hill Square, in Boston, who had been selling printers' supplies since 1869, undoubtedly surmised that the time was ripe for his firm to design a small hand press that would appeal to the amateur printer.
Golding historian Steve Saxe of New York presents strong evidence that Golding's first press was a double side lever model with a connecting bar, similar to the present Kelsey presses.
This press probably evolved into the treadle version of the Pearl, a press so eagerly sought after by private pressmen.
To differentiate between the treadle and hand models, the side lever version was named the Official. Historian Saxe's research gives strong support to the theory that the Official could have been built as early as 1872. It previously was believed that it hadn't made its appearance prior to 1881.
The Golding catalogue of 1881 showed the Official available in the following sizes with listed prices: The Junior, 2x3," $5; No. 1, 3x4l/2," $10; No. 2, 4x6," $16; No. 3, 5x7l/2," $25; No. 4, 6x9," $35; No. 6, 8 1/4x121/2," $60 and No. 7, 10x15," $100. The three smallest sizes were available as hand inkers for $2, $4 and $5 less than the listed automatics.
Steve Saxe writes further: "In about 1887, Golding & Co. realized that the amateur market had been outgrown and there was more room to expand in the professional trade. But commercial printers in the 1880s considered the amateur printes to be stealing business from them unfairly, and would have little to do with a company that was amateur-oriented. So it was necessary for Golding, in his promotional literature . . . to repudiate the amateur market and state that henceforth they would sell only to professionals."
A pedestal mounted version of The Official was also available. Powered with a treadle and a flywheel, it featured some characteristics of the Pearl. Called the Rotary, it had a rocker movement with no side arms, the platen being balanced by the working connections, enabling it to be operated quietly and rapidly without friction. Regarding the differences in the Official Rotary and the Pearl, Historian Saxe wrote:
"I speak from experience as I have printed with both of them. They are not exactly the same, but are essentially the same, both having evolved from an earlier Press, William Golding's original press patent."
The frame and bed of the hand lever Official are of one casting, being designed so that the bed is centrally supported by its frame. The bed (with four impression screws) and platen are supported by cross braces. Golding claimed that 1,000 impressions per hour were possible.
The Official proved to be ideal as an auxiliary press and many commercial shops used them for short run jobs,
Without side rods, the Official can print on any size sheet. It can accept sheets with wide margins without soiling them. Often utilized in imprinting, sign and menu work, this table topper can turn out work comparable to that printed on large jobbers.
A variant model of the Official was made for imprinting maps, blueprints and on large sheets. The platen was stationary and remained horizontal. The bed and form moved from a vertical to a horizontal position for the impression. Models were made for either lever or treadle operation.
In the early part of this century the company moved from Boston to Franklin, Mass. and became known as the Golding Manufacturing Co. In 1916, William Golding died. The sales of his well-built presses and printers 'supplies had made him a millionaire.
Two years later the company was sold to the American Type Founders Co. who continued the sale of the Golding presses. The Franklin plant was sold to the Thompson Printing Press Company, builders of the Colt's Armory and other presses. They still maintain this plant, building special die cutting presses.
Although ATF stopped selling all Golding presses in 1927, the Official is still very much in demand by private pressmen who need a small compact press that is capable of achieving the finest of impressions.
Unlike many of the large Gordon and clam-shell platens which have been sledge-hammered by scrap dealers over the years, the Official has had a long and useful life. Small and compact, it's easy to store or move. Hopefully, most will be around for another hundred years!
Many of today's printshop proprietors will fondly recall how they, as youths, with presses such as The Official and a "shirt-tail of type," started their printing enterprises.