R Hoe & Co NY press

I am a member of the .918 Club in Lancaster, PA (www.918club.org) and a retired educator. In the early 80’s, I placed my pilot presses in storage and the school district had a sale and I did not know about it. I recently came upon a table top press that has the name of R.Hoe & Co. NY. I would like to know more about this press. Year that it was make, etc. I have a few photos of the press. If anyone could help, please let me know.

image: R Hoe.jpg

R Hoe.jpg

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R. Hoe & Co., New York, was probably the major builder of newspaper presses (and other presses and printing materials) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. An interesting 846 page book about the company is “Chronicles of Genius and Folly R. Hoe & Company and the Printing Press as a Service to Humanity” by Frank E. Comparato. It is available for a reasonable price on used book sites like Alibris.

I doubt if there is anything specific about your press in the book, but there is a list of references and a bibliography. The book does not contain a list of press serial numbers and dates or anything like that.

If you read it, you will learn a lot about the company which made your press, and to me it is fascinating.

This type of small hand press was sometimes called a “hat-tip” press, because apparently it was meant to be used to either print on hats or to print liner labels for hats. Or perhaps the name comes from the unique toggle action. Hal Sterne’s Catalog of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses shows a somewhat later version made by Hoe and labeled “New Hand-Lever Printing Press”. Given the illustration in Sterne’s book and this press’s acorn frame, I’d say it’s an early one, but I don’t know of any way to get a manufacturing date unless the press is marked with one.

I spoke to a family print shop a while back that started with one of these. They too are in PA.


Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

image: WH Varcoe with first printing press

WH Varcoe with first printing press

Here is a close up of that same press from a higher resolution file. It looks like the handle on yours might be reversed.


image: Varcoe Hoe press close-up

Varcoe Hoe press close-up

This brings to mind a story I’ve told too many times to everyone I know who would understand, so I’ll try it out here. Several years ago when I was a new printer I took a broken part of a Craftsman Superior to a local welder. One of the locals, a wizened old Adirondacker in overalls who hangs out there from time to time was sitting in the office. I showed the part to the welder and asked him if he could fix it. He said he could and inquired about what it was. I said “It’s part of a printing press”. Up speaks the hanger-on and says “Is it a Hoe?” “No, it’s a printing press” says I. “But is it a Hoe” says he.” “No. A printing press” says I, having never heard of R. Hoe & Co. and all the while thinking to myself “You ignoramus, who ever heard of a 25 pound hoe made of cast iron.” After a few more back and forths like this he finally said, “I mean an R. Hoe, they made presses here in New York.” I left, humbled, and thinking that I’d been reminded once again to never judge what a person might know by their appearance.

Hey Bob,
I had a similar experience while looking for a spring for a C&P Pilot in a NYC Home Depot. The guy at the hardware counter said, “Its for a printing press? Oh, I know. One of those hand lever C&Ps! I know that spring— we don’t have it!”


Any chance that is a serial number at the very bottom of the blue area. There seems to be a number of some sort in that place in the Varcoe photo.

In later years Hoe did a good job of putting a number on every press.

Will yours lever from either side? It seems that the drive mechanism in yours is also opposite the Varcoe photo. Does it automatically move with the handle?

WOW!!!!!!! This knocks me out! I also have a very similar press with the same toggle action. My press is about the same size, BUT my press is not the acorn-shape but more like a traditional squared Washington handpress in body style. The name of the maker on the head of my press is W.S ROWLAND, N.Y.

The platen on mine is constructed in such a way that there is an onsert that appears to have been gas-heated, so I had always assumed that mine was for foil-stamping.

Other than that, I have never found out any information at all about my little jewel.

That sounds like a tabletop blocking press. It would be handy in a small bindery. Maybe you could rig it up with electric heat and one of those Robotemp controllers…