The history of print from 1900 to 1949

During the first half of the twentieth century the paperback is introduced and Japanese press manufacturers start to emerge.

1900 – Kolbus starts producing bindery machines

The KOLBUS ‘Rupert’ is a book spine rounding and surface pressing machine that will remain in production for 55 years. It is the first in a long line of KOLBUS book bindery machines.

1903 – Offset lithography is born

Two years earlier American printer Ira Washington Rubel accidentally discovers that printing from the rubber impression roller instead of the stone plate of his lithographic press produces a clearer and sharper printed page. Based on this finding and after further refinement, the Potter Press Printing Company in New York produces the first lithographic offset press for paper.

1906 – Petit Larousse

Le Petit Larousse Illustré, a single-volume encyclopedia, is published for the first time.

1907 – Using silk for screen printing

The Englishman Samuel Simon is awarded a patent for the process of using silk fabric as a printing screen. Screen printing quickly becomes popular for producing expensive wallpaper and printing on fabrics such as linen and silk. Screen printing had first appeared in China during the Shang Dynasty (960–1279 AD).

1911 – Roland presses and Intertype typesetters

The first offset press to bear the name Roland appears on the market. It is manufactured in Offenbach, Germany by Faber & Schleicher AG. The company had been founded in 1871 and started shipping its first Albatros press 4 years later. Their 1922 single-color Klein-Roland 00 offset press can print up to 5000 sheets per hour.

US newspaperman Hermann Ridder founds the International Typesetting Machine Company which manufactures the Intertype. This typesetter has a simpler design than the Linotype. Late 1912 the first machine is installed at the New York Journal of Commerce. It costs $2150 which is over $50000 in today’s currency.

1912 – Offset printing takes off

There are already 560 offset presses in operation in the United States. By the 1930s it is the dominant form of lithography.

1914 – Early graphic arts trade shows

The Bugra trade show takes place in Leipzig, Germany. Bugra stands for ‘Internationale Ausstellung für Buchgewerbe und Graphik’. Around 2.3  million people visit the show which sees its visitor count reduced dramatically after the outbreak of the first World War. This is the precursor to the drupa trade shows that take place in Düsseldorf after Leipzig becomes part of East Germany after the second World War.

Bugra trade show

In the USA demand for coil stamps is so high that Benjamin R. Stickney designs a dedicated press for stamp production. Stickney presses are manually controlled, single-color, web-fed printing press and gumming machines. They remain in use at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing until 1957.

Stickney stamp printing press

1915 – First Hallmark Christmas cards

Hallmark, founded in 1910, creates its first Christmas card. The example below is from that era. Forty years earlier Boston printer Louis Prang had been the first to offer a line of Christmas cards in the USA.

Hallmark Christmas card from the early 1900s

1922 – Graphic design becomes a term

Book and type designer William Addison Dwiggins coins the term ‘graphic designer’ to describe his activities as an individual who brings structural order and visual form to printed communications. The term only achieves widespread usage after the Second World War.

1923 – KBA prints banknotes & Komori is founded

The four-color Iris press from Koenig & Bauer can be used for printing banknotes. Over time security printing becomes one of the main focus points of the company.

Koenig & Bauer Iris

Komori Machine Works is founded in Kitashinmachi, near Tokyo. Their first lithograph roll printing press is developed in 1925. A 32-inch manual sheetfed offset press follows in 1928.

1932 – AMC

Addressograph International merges with American Multigraph to form the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation. For decades this company will dominate the market for addressing and duplicating machines. The image below show a tin holding ribbons for an Addressograph machine used for labeling envelopes.

Addressograph tin

1935 – First paperbacks and adhesive labels

The first commercially successful series of paperback books is published by Penguin Books in the UK. Earlier in 1931 German publisher Albatross Books had already tried to market a series of lower-priced books with a paper cover and glue binding. Penguin copied many of the concepts of their failed attempt, such as the use of color-coded covers. The books cost sixpence each – the same price as a packet of cigarettes.

'Ariel' from Andre Maurois

Ray Stanton Avery invents the first self-adhesive label, meant to make it easier for stores to price their products. In 1990 his company, Avery International, will merge with Dennison Manufacturing to become Avery Dennison.

1938 – Xerography is invented

Xerography, a dry photocopying technique, is invented by Chester F. Carlson. In 1947 Haloid Company, now known as Xerox, obtains a license to commercialize the technology.

In 1938 the Dresden-Leipziger Schnellpressenfabrik AG changes its name to Planeta. Six years earlier the company had introduced the world’s first four-color web offset press. After World War II Planeta becomes the largest press manufacturer of the DDR. It is acquired by Koenig & Bauer (KBA) in 1991.

1939 – Cold-glueing takes off

Emil Lumbeck is the first one to successfully use cold-glue binding for books (Lumbeck-Kaltklebebindung).

1942 – Documenting printing during the war

Marjory Collins photographs the production of the New York Times in order to document home front activities for the U.S. Office of War Information. Pictures from the prepress departments can be found on the history of prepress page. In the image below you see the plates being loaded on the press.

The presses start rolling.

New York Times - running pressAs soon as the first copies come off the conveyor belt a pressman checks for press defects.

New York Times - 1942-pressman checking newspaper for defectsIn the mailroom the finished papers are wrapped in bundles according to orders.

New York Times - 1942 mailroomFrom there those bundles are then carted to the delivery trucks.

New York Times - mailroom to truckYou can find the entire collection of 84 photographs here.

1947 – Polar starts building electrically powered cutters

Polar build the Einmesser-Schnellschneider, their first electrically powered cutting machine. In 1954 they build the first cutters with an optical cutting line indicator and air cushion table.

1948 – Shinohara

Shinohara Machinery Company, the Japanese machine tool manufacturer which had been established in 1919, begins manufacturing flatbed letterpress machines.

1949 – First scans of color images

The July issue of Fortune magazine contains the first commercial scanned color image. It is produced using a scanner built by the Austin Company.

<1850-1899 – 1950-1999>

16 July 2017

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