Gordon Old Style? Size? Twin of tjulrich’s press?

I have what I believe to be a 7x11 Gordon Old Style Press. There is no throw-off and I am unsure about the size because when I received it, there were no chases. The inside of the chase bed measures 8.75”x12.75” and the platen measures 7.25”x13”. The ink disk (which is the split style) is 12.5” in diameter.

I would like to know if it is, in fact, a Gordon Old Style and if it is a 7x11. Knowing its approximate age would be a huge bonus.

The press looks identical to one that tjulrich posted four years ago at http://www.briarpress.org/15975 .

The chase hook is very old-fashioned. It is just a thumbscrew going through a small piece of cast metal with a groove that serves as a rocker to hold the chase. It is extremely awkward, as my hands are small and it is difficult to turn the thumb screw without banging my knuckles into the mechanism that rotates the ink disk, and the bottom of the ink disk itself. Also, like another press posted recently for identification, the only identification I have ben able to find is a number on the main horizontal shaft—the numeral “8” as shown in the photo.

My dad was a letterpress printer from the age of 13 (1937) until health forced him to close his shop in the mid-1990s. This was one of his first real presses, and I have never operated it. It sat in a corner of his shop for as long as I can remember, and probably since he returned from World War II. I learned from him how to set type and operate a platen press at the age of about 10 or 12 and worked at it part-time with him until I graduated from college. I remember him saying that he removed the name plate to clean the press and somehow never was able to find it again. One of the posted photos shows two holes where I believe the name plate was mounted.

I ran his Chandler and Price New Style, with a throw-off and electric motor, so operating a treadle press is going to be new to me. I haven’t printed since 1991. The press is missing a chase and has two nasty rollers with no trucks (Dad called them casters), but otherwise is in great shape. I am looking forward to re-entering the world of letterpress printing with it.

I would appreciate any info about this press that the more experienced members of this group can provide. Thanks in advance!

—Jim DiRisio
Fayetteville, NC (press came from Norlu Press, Fairport, NY)

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Log in to reply   7 replies so far

Yes, I believe your press is an original Phineas Gordon. I have one of these with the brass name plate still attached. I don’t think I have a chase for mine. It looks like it’s a 7 x 11. If you’ll be patient with me, I’ll dig the press out of the stacks, then I’ll be able to give you more details and maybe a photo or two.

John—Thanks for your post. I would greatly appreciate any information you can dig up, and I would be interested in seeing a photo of your press.

I finally had time to dig out my Geo. P. Gordon Press. It appears to be just like yours except mine is missing the main shaft and pinion gear. (So it’s essentially a parts press, unless I can find a press in worse shape, with the parts I need. [Dare we start an “Original Gordon Press Owners Club” (OGPOC)?])
 You will note that my press has the same weighted flywheel and interior bracing. Mine has an identical chase clamp to yours as well as a split ink plate. The gear that makes the ink plates counter-rotate is missing from mine.
 Attached is a photo of the beautiful, copper-plated, maker’s plate attached to the roller frame connecting plate. The maker’s plate has been abused but reads:

Geo. P. Gordon’s
Aug. 5th, 1851, Jan. 1st, 1856, Jan. 10th, 1860
Nov. 4, 1862, Sept. 29th, 1863

This would indicate that my press was made after 1863.

Ralph Green in his book, A History of the Platen Jobber, states that Gordon made this style of platen press from 18 55 until 1872.

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Interior bracing .JPG

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Flywheel .JPG

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Name plate .JPG

Thanks so much for the info and pix—they are extremely helpful in determining what I have. That name plate on yours is a beauty! Although mine is missing, I feel fortunate that every part works—even the intricate system for rotating the split ink disks.

I believe I have a line on rollers and trucks for mine, but am getting concerned about a chase—there don’t seem to be any out there.

Sign me up for the OGPOC!

You can make a chase out of wood, they work very good.

I seem to be in the OGPOC…I acquired a 7 x 11” Old Style Gordon last year from the county museum (unfortunately they had no documentation for it) and will include some photos. I’ve been able to get it running but in the process discovered many welds and some improvs of repair that make it hard to say exactly the model and year. Whoever repaired it repainted all the gold trim that the originals had from factory. But did not or could not save the name plate.
A few things stand out in your descriptions that may help narrow the identification problems: one is that my press does NOT have a dual ink disk & there is no evidence that the gearing was ever there. Another is that it DOES have a throw-off lever that pulls toward you to print. Also, it has that annoying little thumbscrew to hold the chase. I eliminated it and put in a wooden wedge to push manually under the back of the chase-gripper. My best guess is that this is what was called a Gordon Old Style or Challenge Gordon, by S. & Lee in the 1880s…and that many owners added and modified these things that were built after the expiration of the Gordon patent. That thumbscrew for example seems to me an obvious mistake that hundreds of printers must have complained about. So maybe my model(no serial number anywhere) was like a beta version, with changes coming frequently. S. & Lee were going through re-organisation too after the Chicago Fire. The Gordon nameplate settles that ID certainly, but I’m also looking at that old posting by tjulrich http://www.briarpress.org/15975 and wondering at the clues that would tell us with certainty: made by Gordon back in the 1860s…or by S. & Lee in the ’80s. For example, does that Gordon press have a thumbscrew for the chase?

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I have an 8 X 12 Gordon with split ink plate but missing the treadle. The connecting link between the bull gear and roller arm is a tapered rectangular shaped piece of steel, not cast iron. The brass nameplate is attached to this.