Most of the time, when we’re talking about the process of letterpress printing great show posters, what we share are the results of that process – the colorful posters. But an important part of getting those results, and nearly as rare as the incredible collection of wood type and image blocks that we have here at Hatch Show Print, are the printing presses we use to print the posters.
For most of the 20th century, the presses that the shop used to print the billboards and banners and show posters were massive cylinder presses that are often recognized as newspaper presses. [Any small items, such as handbills, dodgers, or stationery, would fit on a floor model platen press, like a Chandler & Price or C&P.] For a while, it was a Babcock Optimus press, circa 1906, and later on, a Miehle 29 built in 1946, was added to the lineup. Post World War II, when the demand for window cards (approximately 14” x 22”) over one sheet (approx. 26” x 40”) or half sheet (approx. 20” x 26”) posters increased, smaller auto-fed cylinder presses were added to the shop’s stable too.
When Jim Sherraden started working at Hatch Show Print in 1984, one of our Vandercook proof presses was in the shop, to, as the name implies, proof the incredible photoplates in the archive. That’s how Jim used it at first, spending large portions of the day proofing prints in the basement of the shop on 4th Avenue. [You can see Jim working above, with the Miehle 29 in the background, right.] At some point, tired of having to turn on our large Miehle 29 auto feed press to run 25 or 50 posters for a client, Jim tried and tested the Vandercook proof press to print a batch of posters, and it worked!
Since then, the shop has acquired three more Vandercook presses, and they are the workhorses for all of our small run (up to about 500 posters) poster jobs in the shop, and our largest Vandercook is used to make the restrikes of the classic one, two and three sheet posters available in the gallery. [We do also use platen presses and large cylinder presses, depending on the needs of the job. We’ll talk more about those in future stories.]
Because these presses are working so hard, maintenance and tune ups are part of the workaday life at Hatch Show Print, and this month we had Paul Moxon (of Vanderblog fame) come in to put us and the presses through our paces. Everyone on staff at the shop spent two days absorbing and putting into practice all the great information Paul has gathered in his 25 years of printing on Vandercook presses.
Paul’s first tip? Make sure you have all the right tools to do the job right. And we could not agree more!