Clymer, George E.

Clymer, George E.
SUBJECT AREA: Paper and printing
b. 1754 Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA
d. 27 August 1834 London, England
American inventor of the Columbian printing press.
Clymer was born on his father's farm, of a family that emigrated from Switzerland in the early eighteenth century. He attended local schools, helping out on the farm in his spare time, and he showed a particular talent for maintaining farm machinery. At the age of 16 he learned the trade of carpenter and joiner, which he followed in the same district for over twenty-five years. During that time, he showed his talent for mechanical invention in many ways, including the invention of a plough specially adapted to the local soils. Around 1800, he moved to Philadelphia, where his interest was aroused by the erection of the first bridge over the Schuylkill River. He devised a pump to remove water from the cofferdams at a rate of 500 gallons per day, superior to any other pumps then in use. He obtained a US patent for this in 1801, and a British one soon after.
Clymer then turned his attention to the improvement of the printing press. For three and a half centuries after its invention, the old wooden-framed press had remained virtually unchanged except in detail. The first real change came in 1800 with the introduction of the iron press by Earl Stanhope. Modified versions were developed by other inventors, notably George Clymer, who after more than ten years' effort achieved his Columbian press. With its new system of levers, it enabled perfect impressions to be obtained with far less effort by the pressman. The Columbian was also notable for its distinctive cast-iron ornamentation, including a Hermes on each pillar and alligators and other reptiles on the levers. Most spectacular, it was surmounted by an American spread eagle, usually covered in gilt, which also served as a counterweight to raise the platen. The earliest known Columbian, surviving only in an illustration, bears the inscription Columbian Press/No.25/invented by George Clymer/Anno Domini 1813/Made in Philadelphia 1816. Few American printers could afford the US$400 selling price, so in 1817 Clymer went to England, where it was taken up enthusiastically. He obtained a British patent for it the same year, and by the following March it was being manufactured by the engineering firm R.W.Cope, although Clymer was probably making it on his own account soon afterwards. The Columbian was widely used for many years and continued to be made even into the twentieth century. The King of the Netherlands awarded Clymer a gold medal for his invention and the Tsar of Russia gave him a present for installing the press in Russia. Doubtless for business reasons, Clymer spent most of his remaining years in England and Europe.
Further Reading
J.Moran, 1973, Printing Presses, London: Faber \& Faber.
—1969, contributed a thorough survey of the press in J. Printing Hist. Soc., no. 3.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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