Complete Multigraph?

I just acquired this Multigraph 60 at an estate sale and have no idea how to ink it and thus was wondering if it is missing something in that regard. It has two rubber rollers and two metal rollers in addition to the main cylinder as shown in pics. Thinking maybe ink was applied to the uppermost metal roller?

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Looks like a nice clean Multigraph! Yes, it’s best to apply ink to the upper metal (oscillating) roller, much like you would to the ink disk of a platen press. The roller immediately beneath the oscillator is the form roller, and inks the type; it’s on an eccentric shaft and is brought into contact with the type by moving the handle on the chrome quadrant at the left in your photo 1386.

The other (red) “rubber roller” down under the cylinder is the hard rubber impression platen, adjusted using the chrome disk (under the crank handle) in your photo 1389. The small quadrant with pointer, above the “nameplate” decal, is only for adjusting the platen parallel to the cylinder (for even impression across the page). Once set, you shouldn’t have to change that.

Although the Model No. 60 is a fairly basic Multigraph without too many features, that makes it a very easy to use, long-lasting, sturdy machine, and a surprisingly capable “tabletop” 8x12 press. Yours was probably built in the early 1920s and fortunately looks to be complete and ready to go.

If you (or anyone else) have questions or need assistance (or some supplies) for using your Multigraph, please feel free to contact me.


Thanks for the info Dave. You may have noticed the custom “type block”? on the cylinder. This was used to print subscription fee letters for someone selling the Kansas City Star and Times in the early 70s. Would I find more information on this topic, in manuals that are available for purchase online? Also curious about registration. Assume it was done by eye while hand feeding sheets individually.

There’s not too much info online about Multigraphs, unfortunately. I have some manuals, etc. that I should scan or copy someday. Very interesting that yours was used as recently as the ’70s!

I did notice that the type on your Multigraph looked like either slugs and/or plates, not hand-set. While a lot of work was done on Multigraphs using hand-set (short T-base type to fit in the grooves), things like forms were often made as a plate, curved to fit the cylinder.

The Model No. 60 was hand-fed only, and register was by pushing each sheet against the side guide(s) and (front) paper stop fingers; then the feed rollers automatically pulled the single sheet into the press. Sideways register was pretty decent due to the side guide, but vertical position tends to bounce a bit (at least on mine). A really good cleaning and deglazing of the lower paper feed roller (rubber) might help with that.


Dave, I recently purchased a Multigraph 59 Typesetter complete with type/carrier. It’s clean, but I’ve been unable to find any information on line to help me determine how to use it. Any chance you have a manual to help me get started? It appears that it has a “ribbon” ? Would you know anything about this one? Made by The American Multigraph Co., Cleveland.

Also, ps……….new to the site, so appologize to post onto this chain. I will learn how to find you. Thanks!

The “typesetter” and the “ribbon” are not specifically related. A composing stick is used to lift the type out of the typesetter. The term “typesetter” is a bit misleading as it is only a means to contain the type, you and the stick is/are the typesetter. When the type is set in the stick it is then transferred to the cylinder in to the groves. There is a notch in the casting to complete the transfer. If you rotate the cylinder so that the underside is up you will see a mechanisum where the ribbon is attached. The ribbon is streached around the cylinder and held fairly firm against the type. The impression prints through the treated ribbon and the ribbon advances accordingly. The ribbon is inlieu of using ink for limited runs where quality is of limited concern. The machine I have also has a complete automatic inking system, so I can use option A or B. also Dave

The ribbon wasn’t just a substitute for inking, but an important part of the marketing strategy for the machine. When combined with a signature plate, it allowed you to mass-produce letters which appeared to be individually typed on a typewriter. When combined with the Addressograph/Graphotype system of maintaining mailing lists and printing mailing labels, this allowed “personalized” direct marketing. (The Addressograph and Multigraph firms merged in 1930, and by the 1950s were well up in the Fortune 500 list.) I’ll attach two page scans from the 1933 A-M book “Selling Tactics that Win Business” which address this (well, one addresses it; the other is just a nice cut of the machine in use).

It is a mistake, I think, to view the Multigraph as just a low-end printing press (with concomitant flaws). It was a part of an entirely different tradition - one of office automation and direct marketing. Sadly, these machines (especially the Addressograph) have been and are being scrapped at a great rate, and we are losing yet another part of the history of our business technologies.

David M.

image: a-m-selling-tactics-1933-p26-600y.jpg


image: a-m-selling-tactics-1933-p27-600y.jpg


David M has this absolutely right.
Another comment about the pre-digital world from a surviving observer: Most communication now comes from a computer or smaller device connected to the internet. (Even most printers get all their working files this way now.)
It wasn’t that long ago that it all used to come in as paper “copy” produced on a typewriter (only amateurs gave handwritten copy). This was immediate, and relatively personal. A typewriter using carbon paper could only prodiuce a few copies per typing. So, for anyone to receive a genuine typewritten letter, even a carbon copy, was to be one of a very few, not a mass recipient. The Marketing Department liked that peception but wanted greater efficiency, so printers used silk to mimic the appearance of typewriting; silk was stretched over a typemetal form and once it was printed it looked like original typewriting through a silk ribbon. I have much old furniture from a financial printer that was used this way, the tacks that held down the silk still in the wood. (There were also hot-metal typefaces that had the pattern of silk in the face.)
Today, marketers use handwriting fonts, as if anybody would mistake it for human, and Courier is just another font, not a nod at Remington or Smith.

Ink in Tubes will be at the L.A. Printers Fair this Saturday, and I’ll take one of my Multigraphs there and be printing with it. After I get back, I’ll add more comments, but it’s worth noting that the Multigraph was indeed designed as a “multiple typewriter” for turning out form letters virtually indistinguishable from hand-typed letters (after all, they were printed with typewriter type through an inked ribbon against a platen, just like a typewriter). And at 2,000 or more letters per hour, as early as 1903! The “printing” aspect of the Multigraph was sort of an afterthought that gradually evolved to make the machine a rather effective 8x12” press (although larger models were also made). Certainly the Multigraph has limitations, like any press, things it doesn’t do well or just can’t do (die-cutting, for instance), but it also has some advantages over other presses, and generally does a pretty good job of most things a typical small press might be expected to do. I set some type and printed a variety of ink tube labels & boxes on a Multigraph today, and quite honestly it was easier and quicker than it would have been on a platen press.

Dave R.

Dave R when you goto the fair is your machine going to be turned by hand or electric motor? Very interesting history, I started in a print shop when I was14 and had never seen one of those machines until about 15 years ago, I’m 73 now. I would like to restore this multigraph, basically clean it up, as most everything is there, auto paper feed, delivery table, table with provision for an electric motor, three speed pullys, complete inking system and two spare ribbon spools, type setter, composing tube, steel straps to hold cuts in place, hundreds of small square and round tubes for setting type in, and lots of pied type. I would like to display the machine I just have to get my wife on board as to what room. The only part missing is the small ink delivery roller that osolates back and forth. Dave

The L.A. Printers Fair went very well, quite a few people got ink from me. Even more got handed a little Ink in Tubes promo freebie that I printed on the Multigraph for them if they paused for a moment while walking by my booth. Since the ink I was selling took most of the table space, I only brought the Multigraph itself, no stand, accessories, etc., and cranked it by hand as folks wandered by (and there’s no electricity available for the outdoor booths even if I had taken a stand & motor).

Often for a show I’ll take a simple, early No. 40 Multigraph Junior, while this time I took a Model 36 “Senior” but with the most basic hand feed table and only the 2-roll inking attachment. (Note that the Multigraph illustrated in “Selling Tactics”, posted by David M., above, is a No. 66 or 200, with mid-range inking system & auto paper feed, on a stand with motor.) Now that it’s back home my No. 36 is back on its stand, but I do normally hand feed, crank by hand, and use the 2-roll inker (even though I also have both the auto feeder and better ink system); that works fine for the short-run ink tube labels & boxes I usually print.

I was lucky that I got a very complete Multigraph setup (the first Multigraph I’d ever seen except in a book) about 35 years ago when I was just getting into printing, and I’ve been using it (and acquiring more) ever since. But since the things were intended as “office” equipment (and primarily sold into offices and businesses, not print shops), they’re unfamiliar to many printers who are otherwise very knowledgeable about letterpress machines.

Dave, I see from the other thread that your Multigraph is a No. 3, but which ink setup does it have? (How many rollers?) I may be able to find an ink roller for you, but I need to know exactly which one.

Dave (the Ink in Tubes guy)

Dave Robinson my model #3 ink delivery assembly serial no A15939 the assembly has a 1” steel ink delivery roller directly from the ink trough that would transfer to the small missing resiprocating roler with a 1/8 or 3/16 shaft (very small), that would transfer to a 1” osolating steel roller, then on to a 11/2” steel osolating roller which is transferred to a hard 11/2” rubber roller on the upper side and then on to a 2” soft rubber roller on the lower side. There should be a total of 6 rollers. There is a spring loaded thumb push gear at the paper delivery end and I am unsure of its function, it appears intent is to disengage the delivery rollers however it does not fully clear the gear, should it be adjusted to clear and disengage the paper delivery rollers? There two shaft size holes in the frame opposite the crank handle in the area of the paper delivery, the upper hole has a knurled turning screw however there is nothing in there. The holes are only on one side and wouldn’t support any kind of a shaft or roller, it doesn’t appear that there ever was anything in the holes, any ideas? thanks Dave ( I am also David R and David M but I am left handed).

Our museum has recently acquired the same model of MultiGraph printer and the Typesetter as well. What ink should we use? What is the value of these machines?
I would appreciate any information that you could give me. Thank you.

Donna, although all Multigraphs can use a ribbon to produce “typewritten” letters (as mentioned above) for regular printing you use regular printing ink. Despite the unusual configuration (for a small press) of being a rotary press, and using short T-base hand-set type and/or curved plates, it’s really a rather typical letterpress in function. If your museum has other presses in use, you can use the same ink on the Multigraph (if you don’t, you can use modern offset ink or I’ll be happy to sell you tubes of ink).

As David MacMillan mentions, the real value in these machines is that they are a relatively unique piece of history. It’s difficult to establish a dollar value since they’re uncommon enough (and the demand is low enough) that they aren’t sold regularly, but if your Multigraph is also a model No. 60 (as at the top of this thread), that seems to be the most common model and could probably be valued at something like $100 to $250. It originally sold new in the 1920s for $200 with the optional ink rollers, and I think the No. 59 Typesetter (full of type) was an extra $50.

picaDave, I’ve been out of town so haven’t yet looked up things on your No. 3, sorry. It sounds like you need the ductor roller that transfers ink from the fountain roller to the rest of the ink system, right? I’m pretty sure the spring-loaded gear thingy is part of the drive for an optional signature attachment, but I’m not sure about the holes you ask about.

Either of you (or others) please feel free to contact me directly (maybe with photos) for more info or with questions (or for a list of ink colors available in “quarter pound” tubes e-mail “Ink (at)”).

Dave R. (the Ink in Tubes [and Multigraph] guy)