The Pearl—
a Jewel of a Press

Published Fall 1998

Small table-top hand presses (Pilot, Sigwalt, Official, etc.) are ideal presses for the novice or private Letterpressman. They are light weight and can do reasonably satisfactory short run work. It's when a printer is forced to pull 1,000 or more copies of a job, that he starts dreaming of acquiring a large motorized press.

The novice may know about larger presses such as the Chandler & Price, Colt's Armory, Heidelberg and others. These are commercial types of presses and can often be acquired quite reasonably or maybe as gifts if you can haul 'em away. If the novice is not equipped to handle a ton or two of cast-iron he may have a deplete his wallet and employ a high-wage crew of riggers to do the transfer. This is especially true if the machine must be manipulated up or down a stair way or into an attic.

But wait, don't give up! There is a small press that can print most Letterpress jobs. It was made by one of America's premier press builders. Some are still serving after 120 years! It's so light two printers can easily carry it and put it in a car trunk without getting a hernia. This little wonder is the Pearl—a jewel of a press!

The Pearl is a simple clamshell type of press. The impressional force is imparted by a toggle or double lever. Golding advertisements claimed that a pressman operating it could feed better than 3000 i.p.h. This figure is probably inflated. It was also said that the platen had an extra long dwell to simplify makeready and feeding.

Billed as a quiet, fast runner, and for printing envelopes it has no equal. It is an ideal press for short runs of light forms.

This little "jewel" was introduced around 1876. Its originator was Boston printer William Hughson Golding who started the Golding & Co. in the Fort Hill area of Boston about 1869. It was first made in two sizes. It had no throw-off or depressible grippers and two ink rollers.

The serial number of a Pearl can be located at the top center of the bed of the press just below the lower rim of the ink disk. This number is only the sequence of manufacturing in that year. Improved Pearls had the year made cast into the side of the base. Later this practice was stopped.

Although sales of the Pearl were substantial, competition from many other press builders was keen. It was said that often Golding & Company had difficulty in meeting its payroll.

Subsequently Golding & Company hired the printing scholar Henry Lewis Bullen to print their house organ. Bullen's salesmanship and keen writing resulted in increased sales of the little Pearl press.

One of Bullen's first jobs was to overcome the resentment of commercial printers against the Boston company because it had sold equipment to amateur printers. Editor Bullen assured the trade that the company was no longer catering to these "bedroom printers."

In 1895 the Improved Pearl was put on the market. It used some of the features of the Golding Jobber. This new model was heavier than Originals and were equipped with a throw-off and three rollers for improved ink distribution. The Originals were continued to be assembled.

There may be some confusion as to the difference between the two lines. Original Pearls are the #1 and #3. The early models were packed in a wood box that becomes the base. Later the base was made of cast-iron and the Pearl was bolted to it. The press is easy to dismantle and can be lifted without strain. The base has three wood drawers on the #1 and two on the #3. The drawers in the first model are narrow and wide in the other model. Both came with a treadle embossed with a heart design in the pedal part.

The Improved Pearls have a single door in the base for storing rollers. The ink disc can be set to revolve clock-wise or counter clock-wise. The treadle on the #8 and #11 have a rectangular plate with the raised lettering "Pearl" on it. Both came with a treadle embossed with a heart design on the pedal part.

In addition to the Pearl, Golding also made a complete line of presses including the Official, the Golding Jobber and sold the Fairhaven newspaper cylinder. The firm also stocked type, composing sticks, rule and lead cutters, etc.

The factories housing the Golding & Co. eventually became too small for the rapidly expanding business and in 1906 it moved to Frankliln, Mass., about 30 miles away. Showrooms were still maintained in Boston.

The success of the Pearl press has brought imitatiors and in 1902 Frederick Ulmer Ltd., of England, introduced the Little Standard press. It was a copy of the old-style Pearl, but with a throw-off.

William Golding died in 1916, a wealthy man. His two sons continued the enterprise but two years later they sold the company to ATF. The Pearl continued to be made and sold by the Golding Press Division of the American Type Founders.

But within nine years all production of Golding products came to an end when the inventory was taken over by the Thompson National Co., who manufactured the famous Colt's Armory Press. Eventually they sold off the remainder of Golding's inventory including the Pearls.

But this still wasn't the end of the line for the merry little Pearl. In 1936 the Craftsmen Machinery Company of Dedham, Mass., somehow acquired jigs/patterns for the 7x11 Improved Pearl. Offering them for $495 as the CMC Jobber, they sold them up until 1955. But now this company no longer offers the press. But as far as is known, they still have the materials so the Pearl could be remanufactured. Is there any chance the merry little Pearl could be offered to pressmen again?—Very unlikely.

    Weight Original Current
Model Size (Boxed) Price Price
#1 5x8 400 lbs. $70 $350-$500
#3 7x11 350 lbs. $110 $350-$400
#5 9x14 1100 lbs. $180 $450-$500
#8 5x8 500 lbs. $95 $450-$500
#11 7x11 730 lbs. $135 $400-$500
#14 9x14 1100 lbs. $200 $500

(Thanks to the following readers who supplied information for this Pearl article. Harold Bacon, Mike Anton, Duane Scott, Dave Churchman and Steve Saxe.)