March 2

Treadwell’s Wooden-Frame Bed-and-Platen Power Press of 1822

Treadwell’s Wooden-Frame Bed-and-Platen Power Press of 1822

The first United States patent for a power printing press was awarded on this date in 1826 to a silversmith turned inventor named Daniel Treadwell. This press, a bed-and-platen machine, was first produced about 1822 and was an improvement over the hand presses of the period, supplying as it did, power to make the impression in the place of the pressman’s muscle. Both bed and platen were horizontal, making contact for the impression by the turning crank or by the use of horse power, or even as the inventor himself did, by water power.

Treadwell had earlier automated the hand press of the period by supplying a treadle to bring the platen down upon the form of type. He had built, in England, a number of such machines, one of which was owned by T.C. Hansard, who enthusiastically endorsed the press in his famous work, Typographia, published in London in 1825.

When the inventor found that printers in the United States were not receptive to his power machine, he established his own printing firm to put his presses to work. A short time later, the plant burned down, an act of sabotage, according to Ringwalt in his Encyclopedia of Printing, by “hand-pressmen, who were intensely hostile to his invention.”

Probably Treadwell’s most important contribution to printing was the invention of the revolving ink-disc, without which the later development of the platen press would have been delayed. This disc was included in the inking mechanism for his power press. The revolving principle was responsible for the higher speed and efficiency of the Gordon platen press over the earlier platens with a fixed ink plate. It was Gordon who added the additional feature of the disc within a disc which is still an important part of the inking mechanism of the standard platen presses.

Treadwell’s inventive genius, however, soon removed him from most contacts with printers. The rest of his long and productive life was devoted to other industries. He patented a hemp-spinning machine which was used all over the world; later he developed a procedure for manufacturing that important 19th century instrument, the military can-non. Internationally honored as a man of science, he died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1872.

One Comment

  1. doug charles says:

    The “Treadwell” illustration is actually of an 1830 Adams double-feeder. For a collection of correct information about Treadwell please refer to my website,

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