Richard M. Hoe: Celebrated Inventor



A Name That Will Remain Inseparably Connected with the Development of the Printing Press — The Simple Device Which Brought Him Fame.

The recent death of Col., Richard M. Hoe in Florence, Italy, closes the career of one whose name is known wherever the newspaper is used to spread intelligence. He was senior member of the firm of printing press makers, and one of the leading inventors and developers of that great lever of public opinion.

Col. Hoe’s father was the founder of the firm. He came to this country from England in 1803, and worked at his trade of carpentry. Through his skill as a workman he was sought out by a maker of printer’s material named Smith. He married Smith’s sister, and went into partnership with Smith and brother. The printing presses of those days were made chiefly of wood, and Hoe’s skill as a wood worker was valuable to the firm. In 1822 Peter Smith invented the hand press, of which we give an illustration, and which will be recognized by many an old printer, though many are in use to this day.


This press was finally supplanted by the Washington press, invented by Samuel Rust in 1829. From the manufacture of the Smith presses, Hoe made a fortune, as the inventor died a year after securing his patent, and the firm name was changed to R. Hoe & Co. The demand for hand presses increased so that then years later it was suggested that steam power might be utilized in some way to do the pulling and tugging necessary in getting an impression. At this time the late Col. Hoe, one of the sons of the founder of the house, was an attentive listener to the discussions in regard to the possibility of bringing steam power to aid the press. Young Richard M. Hoe was born in 1812. He had the advantage of an excellent education, but his father’s business possessed such a fascination for him that it was with difficulty he was kept at school. He was a young man of 20 before his father allowed him to work regularly in the shop. He  had already become expert in handling tools, so that he soon became one of the best workmen. He joined with his father in the belief that steam would yet be applied to the printing press, and the numerous models and experiments they made to that end would, in the light of the present day, appear extremely ridiculous. In 1825-30 Napier had constructed a steam printing press, and in 1830 Isaac Adams, of Boston, secured a patent for a power press. These inventions were kept very secret, the factories in which they were made being guarded jealously. In 1830 a Napier press was imported into this country for use on The National Intelligencer. Old Maj Noah, editor of Noah’s Sunday Times and Messenger, was collector of the port of New York in those days, and being desirous of seeing how the Napier press would work, sent for Mr. Hoe to put it up. He and Richard succeeded in setting up the press, and worked it successfully.

The success of the Napier press set the Hoes to thinking. They had made models of its peculiar parts and studied them carefully. Then, in pursuance of a plan suggested by Richard, his father sent his partner, Mr. Newton, to England for the purpose of examining new machinery there and to secure models for future use. On his return with ideas Mr. Newton and the Hoes projected and turned out for sale a novel two cylinder press, which became universally popular and soon superseded all others, the Napier included.

Thus was steam at last harnessed to the press, but the demand of the daily papers for their increasing editions spurred the press makers to devise machines that would be worked at higher speed than was found possible with the presses which the type was secured to a flat bed which was moved backward and forward under a revolving cylinder. It was seen then that if type could be secured to the surface of a cylinder, great speed could be attained.


The above diagrams illustrate Sir Rowland Hill‘s method of accomplishing this. The type was cast wedge-shaped; that is, narrower at the bottom. A broad “nick” was cut into its side, into which a “lead” fitted. The ends of the “lead” in turn, fitted into a slot in the column rules and these latter were bolted to the cylinder. Anyone who knows anything about type will see the difficulty of using such a system. The inventor, Sir Rowland Hill, the father of penny postage in England, sunk, it is said, L80,000 in the endeavor to introduce his method.

In the meantime, Col. Hoe had succeeded to his father’s business and was giving his attention largely to solving this problem of holding type on a revolving cylinder. It was ??? ???? 18?? that he hit on the method of doing it.

After a dozen years of thought the idea came upon him unexpectedly, and was startling in its simplicity. It was simply to make the column rules wedged-shaped instead of the type.


The above diagram furnished by Mr. S.D. Tucer, the surviving head of the firm of Hoe & Co., is a facsimile of the original drawing in their office. It was this simple device, by the introduction of “lightning presses,” that revolutionized the newspaper business of the world, and made the press the power it is. It brought Hoe fame and put him at the head of press makers. His business grew to such dimensions that he has in his employ in his New York factory from 800 to 1,500 hands, varying with the state of trade. His London factory employs from 150 to 200 hands.

And yet the great daily presses craved still faster presses. The result was the development of the web press, in which the paper is drawn into the press from a continuous roll at a speed of twelve miles an hour. The very latest is a machine called the supplement press, capable of printing complete a paper of from eight to twelve pages, depending on the demand of the day, so that the papers slide out of the machine with the supplements gummed in and the paper folded ready for delivery.

Of late years many other remarkably ingenious presses of other makers have come into market, but still the genius of R.M. Hoe has left an indelible mark in the development of the printing press.

The News (Frederick, Maryland) Jun 19, 1886

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One Response to “Richard M. Hoe: Celebrated Inventor”

  1. Printing Press Trivia « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] related topics. Previous related posts :  The Poetic Printers, Robert Hoe of R. Hoe & Co., and Richard M. Hoe: Celebrated Inventor. A citizen of Connecticut has invented a printing press, which he claims will strike off four […]

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