The first iron printing press was built in England around 1800 by Lord Stanhope. George Clymer built the second in Philadelphia in 1813. The Columbian was not very well received in America, probably because of its great weight. So Clymer went to England where he manufactured and sold his press successfully. The massive cross beam, advantageously linked to the operating handle, is the principle unique to the Columbian. After pulling the impression, the counter-weighted lever (most often weighted with an iron eagle) returns the platen to open position.
The fantastic decoration peculiar to the Columbian was not a reflection of the taste of the times, but an intentional effort on the part of Clymer to make the press unforgettable. The serpents, eagle, caduceus, etc. were a sales technique. Lord Stanhope’s press has an extremely austere and modern appearance compared to the Columbian.
Decoration aside, the Columbian was a fine press and was held in such high regard by pressmen that its manufacture continued for a century. As late as 1913 Harrild’s still listed new Columbian presses in their catalog.
This press was manufactured by Clymer’s first competitor, Wood & Sharwoods of Aldersgate Street, London. (90 inches high)