at the Harris Brothers and their Press.
1976 the predecessor of Harris Automatic Press Co. of Niles, Ohio,
Harris Intertype Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, donated the first automatic
feeding press designed and built in 1896 by Charles and
Alfred Harris to the Graphic Arts Gallery of the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington, D.C. Most Nilesites have heard about
Alfred and Charles Harris and their invention of the first offset
printing press; but the story, as written by a family member,
In 1931 A.F. Harris, son of Alfred
F. Harris, then president of Harris Seybold-Potter Co. of
Cleveland, wrote a story for Graphic Arts, a monthly magazine,
which I'd like to quote:
"Many people recently by reason of the fact that this is
the twenty-fifth anniversary of the building of the first commercially
successful offset printing press, have asked me to tell them the
story of the discovery of the offset by my father, A.F. Harris,
and his brother, Chas. G. Harris."
"In 1870 when father was eleven years old, his first job
was in a shoe store in Niles, Ohio. Back of the shoe store was
a work shop equipped with tools which exercised a strange fascination
upon him . When four years later his brother Charles came into
the store, the two boys began in earnest to experiment in making
things in their spare time. They next worked for Thad Ackley,
a jeweler in Warren, Ohio, who possessed an experimental turn
of mind and encouraged their mechanical ingenuity."
"Father then became a watch inspector for
a railway company. During this time he worked with Charles on
developing s twenty-four hour clock. Next they made a nail feeder.
In 1889 they became Niles' only jeweler, but the business was
too small to take the full time of both of them. Consequently,
they had ample opportunity for research and invention, The jewelry
store had a back room, which they quickly converted into a work
"One day Charles Harris watched the installation
of a new platen press in the shop of a local printer named Smith.
Smith was very proud of his new press. Charles remarked that it
was fed by hand, Smith, quick to defend his press, challenged
Charles to perfect an automatic feeder."
"Shortly after this, a wagon drove up before the jewelry
store with a device that looked like a clothes wringer. When father
saw this unloaded, he protested, saying that it was certainly
The driver, however, insisted on leaving it.
Later Charles came into the shop, and rather sheepishly told of
his talk with Smith some time before, and said that he had built
an automatic feeder. The two brothers laughed heartily "at
the joke on Smith"."
"One day while Charles was out, father had an inspiration,
and with a yardstick, a saw blade, and a rubber blanket, made
a contrivance that completed the invention Soon sheets were running
through at 15,000 per hour."
"Their first press was a wooden model. During
the winter of 1890 they built an iron model in the machine shop
of a friend, who was located close to the jewelry store. Whenever
some part of the equipment in the machine shop was not busy, the
brothers were permitted to use it. The two worked busily. In the
summer of 1892 Charles, and later Father, went to see the printing
exhibits at the World's Fair in Chicago. Examination of the equipment
there convinced them that they were far ahead of anything so far
developed; so they decided to go into business."
"Their first press of the new company, which
was incorporated in 1895, proved a failure, and so they started
all over again. In 1896 another machine was completed. When it
was offered for sale, no one believed the story they told-- the
speed was so much greater than any press had ever been able to
run. When they offered it to the next man, they made more modest
claims with the result that they sold it."
"Their first job was postcards. They ran
12,500 postcards in fifty minutes. An all-tine record up to then.
Their second job was an envelope one, and this required four months
in order to perfect the machine so that it would feed them. But,
at last the difficulty was solved and the press accepted. Press
then followed press, in quick succession."
"One day while erecting one of their new
automatic presses in a Cleveland plant, father heard a pressman
become very indignant at one of his operators. The girl had neglected
to trip the press when failing to feed a sheet. The result was
an impression on the rubber blanket. The next sheet through was
offset in reverse. Father and the pressman examined the sheet
closely and were particularly interested in the sharp clear reproduction.
Finally the pressman turned to him and said, 'If we could only
print like that!' "
"The result was that Father and his brother
set to work to make it possible to print like that. First, they
built a press with a plate cylinder, impression cylinder, and
two offset cylinders.This press proved that offset printing was
possible; but there were a good many things to learn about it.
Experiment followed experiment until finally the first successful
offset press was a reality. Each succeeding press has been an
"During the twenty-five years since the
installation of the first commercially successful offset press
in Pittsburgh, the offset process has come to play an ever-increasing
part in the graphic arts, The printers of America contributed
immeasurable to putting the offset process over."
The late Clifton A. Bostwick, who at one time resided
at 136 Salt Springs Road, Niles, worked for Harris Automatic as
an erector and trouble shooter in 1912. At that time Harris Automatic
Press Co. sold a press to Kline, Linderman and Bauer on New York
City and Bostwick was sent to setup the new press before a designated
The press was shipped to Hoboken, New Jersey
and ferried across to New York City on the day the longshoremen
went on a one-day strike. The next day the longshoremen unloaded
the press, but that day the riggers went on strike and another
day of the delivery schedule was lost.
The press was finally delivered to a passenger elevator at Kline,
Linderman and Bauer Co. on Pearl St., near Wall St., in New York
City, where the elevator operator refused to transport it to the
17th floor destination.
After two days of coaxing, with a bribe to make
things legal, the elevator operator relented and the delivery
men and Bostwick proceeded to load the press on the elevator.
To erect the press, they had to use a 12-foot long I-beam. The
only way to get the I-beam to the 17th floor was to drop the elevator
to the basement and then tie the I-beam to the elevator cable.
Guess who rode on top of the elevator to steady the I-beam? Well
it wasn't one of the delivery boys. It was Clifton Bostwick!
There were also several crates of press parts,
but one crate in particular created a real problem. The crate
was larger than the elevator but smaller than the elevator shaft.
So, the delivery men ran wooden timbers across the elevator shaft.
Then, after moving the elevator up ten feet, they rolled the crate
onto the timbers; and, after dropping the elevator down, used
large ropes to secure the crate to the bottom of the elevator.
Then they took the crate up to the 17th floor.
The accomplishments of Charles and Alfred Harris
and the inequity of Clifton Bostwick are excellent examples of
Nilesites and their spirit "Where there's a will, there's