cylinder press.jpg
Hoe's Cylinder Press
“New technologies alter the structure of our interests: the things we think about. They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with. And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop.” (Postman: 20)

The early 19th century witnessed the introduction of steam power. Steam began to permeate all industries from transportation to printing production. Steam drove men to invent tools that were capable of working faster and more efficiently.

In the printing industry presses changed significantly in the 1830s and 1840s. The printing presses, as we know them today, are modeled on the inventions introduced during this period. In addition to the changes to the printing presses, the manufacturing of paper also underwent significant changes during this period. The new paper production processes created a demand for new presses, and new presses created opportunity for greater numbers of copies to be printed. The speed of the presses along with the affordability of the new paper created a new medium for public consumption on a scale that had never been seen before.

Cylinder Presses = Speed
In 1812 the steam driven press was invented and radically transformed the industry of printing. Hand presses could simply not compete with the power of steam. It was said that a steam driven press could perform the work of 8 hand presses. A mere 20 years later, in 1832, an American by the name of Richard Hoe furthered the original steam press design by creating the Single Small Cylinder Press (see image above). Later, in 1844, Hoe created the rotary press which passed the paper directly between two cylinders rather than using a single cylinder against a set type frame. This further increased the speed of paper production.


Hand Press(video)
Steam Driven Printing Press
Single Cylinder Press (above)
Type Revolving Rotary Press
10 Cylinder Rotary Press

Benjamin Day, founder of the first penny press in New York made note to his readers of the need to upgrade his presses to keep up with public demand; in his December 17, 1833 edition he notes: "We have procured a machine press, on which one thousand impressions can be taken in an hour." He continued to note the upgrades to his presses over the years and each time noted the volume capacities that each new upgrade would afford.

It was the speed with which these new presses could produce newspapers that made it possible for newspapermen like Day to offer a new newspaper, on a daily basis, to a much broader audience. The technological advances in printing made it possible to change the means by which information was dispensed to the public. The more copies that could be printed, the more copies could be sold. But, as Day was well aware, the flocking masses to New York, were not interested in reading the current content available in the 6 cent papers, nor could they afford them. Day would have to find a way to redefine the message in order to attract the masses to his medium.

For a comprehensive timeline of print technologies including images of the various presses discussed above you can visit the Printing Yesterday and Today site provided by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas Austin.

Paper Production = Affordability

The first paper mills originated in the 14th and 15th century. The traditional paper milling process involved 4 men and "was capable of producing up to nine reams of paper (3500 sheets) in an average 13 hour work day" (History of Paper).

In 1798 the first "papermaking machine" was invented by J.N.L. Robert. After that men across the globe continued to modify and refine paper manufacturing. As was the case with presses, the cylinder proved critical in the advancements of paper making as well. Dickinson was credited with creating the cylinder machine; this machine "could continuously fill wire moulds and couch the sheets of paper on felt" (History of Paper). This process not only sped up paper manufacturing but drove the price of paper down as well. This allowed for many more newspapers to spring up across America that had never existed before.

In his work on publishing in the 19th century, Peter Hutchinson, quotes advertising historian, Frank Presbrey: "A ream of newsprint cost $5.00 in 1827, but by 1832 improvements in paper making had been so great that a sheet a quarter larger cost 25% less" (Hutchinson: 4).

Further developments in manufacturing lowered the costs of paper; also enabling mass exchange of information, and contributing to significant cultural shifts in readership. For instance, in 1844, Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty and German F.G. Keller, independently developed processes for pulping wood fibres. This further changed the way paper was manufactured and also impacted the size of the newspapers being printed.

In an 1835 edition of The Sun, under the heading "Our Presses", Benjamin Day noted this change in newspaper size but insisted the change was about providing more news to his readers and more advertising space to his loyal advertising friends. "On the 1st day of June last we enlarged our sheet so that it would contain about two columns of extra matter." He goes on to say that he has done this to accomodate for the ever growing demand of advertisers as well as to provide more space for information for his readers. In reality, it was the printing presses and the new paper production technologies that were changing the size of papers available to newspaper men like Day.

For a comprehensive timeline of the history of paper and paper manufacturing visit the paper online site.