Vandercook Time Line

Harold E. Sterne, Fritz Klinke, Mark Wilden and Paul Moxon

 

   
   
   
   
 
   
   
   
 
 
                 

Introduction

In the early 20th century, printers were still pulling crude proofs from hand presses and simple galley roller presses that depended on gravity for the impression. In 1909, Robert O. Vandercook was the first to develop a geared, rigid-bed cylinder proof press, a machine capable of providing the industry with high-quality proofs from metal types and photoengravings. The company’s reputation was built on technical innovation and quality construction, and for the next fifty years Vandercook & Sons set the standard for subsequent manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe.

In the 1960s, when offset lithography eclipsed letterpress as the leading commercial printing method, printers began decommissioning their letterpress equipment (often giving it away). As a result, Vandercook presses began to be adopted by artists and hobbyists for short-run edition printing due to their ease of operation. Now widely found in art schools and book arts centers, Vandercooks are arguably the press of choice for fine press printers and book artists.

More images and data will be posted on this page over the next few months. If you do not see the information you are looking for please email webmaster. [P.M.]

 

 


1909

Robert O. Vandercook (1866-1951) began making presses in Chicago. The earliest known advertisement is a flyer for a company called The Vandercook Press, on West Lake Street in Chicago, boasting of its hundreds of users since the first press was sold in May 1909. Before this, Mr. Vandercook owned and operated the Evanston Press, a weekly newspaper.

Vandercook Press From March 1909 Inland Printer article and ad

Rocker IP ad
6" × 11" $50
8" × 14" $75
10" × 17" $115
12" × 21" $150

 

 

“It is better, quicker and cheaper to run limited editions on this press then to make ready a power press.”


Rocker photo
From The Vandercook Story, January 1964

The Smithsonian's Printing Presses in the Graphics Arts Collection,
p. 49, has a brief description of their rocker.
Height: 13" Width 13" Length 18½"
Images of Nels Johnson's rocker





1909
post-May 1909 flyer

Vandercook Trip Action Proof Press

Bed: 11" × 25½"

Price: $170

In addition to this press, there are four other sizes of "trip action high side arm" presses (11" × 17" for $140, 12" × 18" for $150, 12" × 25½" for $180, and 17" × 25½" for $200 — all except the 17" are $10 less without trip), two sizes of "low side arm" presses (12" × 18" for $160 and 17" × 25½ for $250), and two sizes of "roller press" (12" × 25" for $100, plus $15 for grippers and trip; and 25" × 25" for $150, plus $25 for grippers and trip and $125 for automatic inking).

 

 


 
1914    #1

Harold Sterne's serial number information notes that “from September 30, 1909, when the company was started, until June 1914 Vandercook manufactured about 280 presses without serial numbers. On June 23, 1914, they shipped a model 17 with serial #1.”
(On the other hand, the model number information shows the 17 as first manufactured in 1927.)

 
No. 15 Family: 1914-1956 15  20  16  21  32

20 or 21

From 1925 BB&S catalog

The Vandercook Rigid Bed Roller Series Proof Press is “The Speed Press of the Vandercook Line.” This family includes presses with three bed sizes, with and without an inking carriage that was separate from the impression cylinder. The 20 has a 10" bed; the 15 and 21 have 12" beds; and the 16 has a 14" bed. All are 24" long. The 15 and 16 are hand-inked. The 20 and 21 have the inking carriage. These presses were “pushers”— no crank. No grippers. Rubber blanket.

This is either a 20 or a 21


From 1934 Vandercook catalog
20  15  32  31
“The press has two ink plates, one at each end of the press.... Put the galley on the press. One swift motion inks the form—the rollers coming to rest on the other ink plate under the cylinder. Lay the sheet to be printed and give the handle on the cylinder
a little pull.”

From 1935 ATF catalog
Only the 20 and 32 are left. The rubber blanket has been replaced by Monocork.

The 15 itself clearly went through changes during its five decades of production.

  
Vandercook 15 Rigid Bed Roller Series Proof Press
10/22/14 #31 - 4/3/56 #18,117
The early model is part of the No. 15 family and apparently went out of production before 1935. Sometime before 1951 a new version was introduced.

From 1925 BB&S catalog
Maximum form: 12" × 24" Floor space: 22" × 48" Shipping weight: 600 lb (cabinet 60 lb).

#5739 (1931) appears to be an early 15 or 16, with a crank. It started at $250 on eBay in July 2004.

From 1934 Vandercook catalog
Hand inking. Monocork blanket. Galley height. Shipping weight: 775 lb (otherwise, as above).


15
Vandercook 15 Galley Proof Press
From late 1950 and 1957 Vandercook and 1953 WNU catalogs

Bed: 15" × 26"
Maximum sheet: 14¾" × 28"
Maximum form: 14" × 24"
Floor space: 1'11" × 6'2"
Weight: 1000 lb

“This new machine” is clearly quite different from the previous 15s - from its crank to the motor driven ink drum. Synthetic rubber drawsheet. Like a 05, but with powered inking and crank.

 

  
1915    #56

 
Vandercook 20 Rigid Bed Roller Series Proof Press
4/1/15 #71 - 11/11/38 #7884
Inking carriage. No grippers or crank. Optional cabinet and shelf. Part of the No. 15 family. See also 32.

From 1925 BB&S catalog
Maximum form: 10" × 24" Floor space: 22" × 48" Shipping weight: 650 lb (cabinet 60 lb).

20 1935From 1934 Vandercook and 1935 ATF catalogs

Maximum sheet: 12" × 26"
Maximum form: 10" × 24"
Floor space: 1'10" × 4'
Shipping weight: 775 lb (cabinet 60 lb, shelf 50 lb)
Price (1934): $275

Monocork blanket.



 
Vandercook No. 1 Proof Press 9/27/15 #101 - 9/8/66 #25,743
This press is different than the 01. See 1-14-2 Family.

No. 1 TrussVandercook No. 1 Rigid Bed Truss Proof Press
From 1925 BB&S catalog

Bed: 13" × 19¼"
Maximum form: 13" × 18"
Floor space: 30" [sic — actually 18"] × 30"
Shipping weight: 240 lb (cabinet 120 lb)

“Built for the Greatest Good to the Greatest Number”

Rubber blanket. No grippers. Hand inked.


Arie C. Koelewyn's  #2205 was delivered on 3/24/25, and the NA Graphics records describe it as
Bed: 14" × 19½" Maximum form: 14" × 18" Floor space: 18" × 30" Shipping weight: 260 lb (cabinet 120 lb) Price (1925): $120 f.o.b. Chicago, cabinet $40, register device $3.
More images

 

No. 1 1935Vandercook No. 1 Proof Press
From 1934 Vandercook and 1935 ATF catalogs

Bed: 14" × 1925½" (1934)
Maximum sheet: 14" × 20" (1935)
Maximum form: 14" × 18" (1934), 13" × 18" (1935)
Floor space: 1'6" × 2'6"
Shipping weight: 260 lb (cabinet 120 lb)
Price (1934): $120

No grippers. Hand inked. Tindeck blanket. Optional cabinet, register device.


The measurements in the 1935 ATF catalog are slightly different from the 1934 measurements and those of the 1920s-era No. 1 above.

 

No. 1 1950From 1946 ATF, 1950 and 1957 Vandercook, and 1953 WNU catalogs

Bed: 16" × 21"
Maximum sheet: 15¾" × 19"
Maximum form: 15" × 17¼"
Floor space: 2'4" × 2'8"
Weight: 410 lb
Price (1950): $525 (immediate shipment)

Grippers and crank, hand inked. Available without cabinet. See also the 14, which was the larger version.

More images

 

 

 

 
1916
    #124

  
1917    #332

 

Inland Printer
October 1918, p 98.

1918    #569

Company is incorporated as Vandercook & Sons.

 

1919    #652

 
1920    #1397

 
1921    #1472

 
1922    #1533

 
1923    #1649

Vandercook presses do not appear in the famous ATF catalog of this year, though there are plenty of proof presses by Challenge. Poco, Potter and Rouse advertised. See Other Brands.

 
Vandercook 21 Rigid Bed Roller Series Proof Press 3/12/23 #1666 - 6/2/27 #3154
From 1925 BB&S catalog
Maximum form: 12" × 24" Floor space: 33" × 50" Shipping weight: 775 lb (cabinet 60 lb). Part of the No. 15 family. Inking carriage.

 

 
Vandercook 16 Rigid Bed Roller Series Proof Press
5/24/23 #1724 - 4/22/27 #3093
From 1925 BB&S catalog
Maximum form: 14" × 24" Floor space: 33" × 50" Shipping weight: 700 lb (cabinet 60 lb). Part of the No. 15 family. Hand inked.

 

 
1924    #1838

 
No. 17 Family: 1925-1939 17  18  25  25A  26  26A

The Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Presses were "designed for printing large forms."
The 17 and 18 support a 17" form width — the 25, 25A, 26 and 26A handle 25". All five presses have a maximum form length of 25".
The 17, 25 and 25A have automatic inking — the 18, 26 and 26A don't.
The "A" suffix means the press includes "press transfer equipment." This seems to consist of a) iron blocks to put under the feet of the press to raise it to the height of a makeup truck, facilitating the transfer of a form between the truck and the press; and b) the curious foot-operated truck-tilter shown in the image of the 25A.
On the hand inked presses, there are no grippers—the paper is laid on the form. The automatic inking presses use composition rollers. Both types include rubber blankets.

 

 
1925    #2135 

The Vandercook Story (1964) mentions the first Vandercook “engravers test press” being produced in 1925, “a hand operated model with power driven ink distribution ... an important milestone in the history of the Vandercook company.” This might have been the 18, except that that family does not have power inking.

 

 
Vandercook 18 Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Press 2/6/25 #2168 - 11/5/29 #4811
From 1925 BB&S catalog
Bed: 17" × 31½" Maximum form: 17" × 25" Floor space: 40" × 60" Shipping weight: 900 lb (cabinet 75 lb).
Part of the No. 17 family. Hand inking. No grippers.

 
Vandercook 119 8/24/25 #2360 - 4/2/27 #3063

 

 
1926    #2492

 
Vandercook 32 Roller Series Proof Press 11/2/26 #2842 - 4/13/42 #9322
Part of the No. 15 family. Different than the 032.

32
From June 1928
Inland Printer ad


From 1934 Vandercook catalog
Maximum form: 13 3/8" × 26" Floor space: 34" × 53" Shipping weight: 900 lb Price (1934): $340
Inking carriage. No grippers. Optional shelf and cabinet.

From 1935 ATF catalog
Bed: 25" × 32½;" Maximum sheet: 15" × 28" Floor space: 2'10" × 4'5" Shipping weight: 900 lb (cabinet 60 lb, shelf 50 lb).

 

 
1927    #2926 RIP 119, 16, 21.

  
Vandercook 25 Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Press 12/3/27 #101A - 1/26/39 #7961
From 1925 BB&S catalog
Bed: 25" × 32½" Maximum form: 25" × 25" Floor space: 48" × 60" Shipping weight: 1450 lb (cabinet 100 lb).
Part of the No. 17 family. Automatic inking.

 

 
Vandercook 25A Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Press Dates and serial numbers unknown

25AFrom 1925 BB&S catalog

Bed: 25" × 32½"
Maximum form: 25" × 25"
Floor space: 48" × 60"
Shipping weight: 1550 lb (cabinet 100 lb).
Part of the No. 17 family. Automatic inking for page transfer (includes iron raising blocks and truck lift for moving forms to and from makeup trucks).

 

 

 
Vandercook 26 Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Press Dates and serial numbers unknown
From 1925 BB&S catalog
Bed: 25" × 32½" Maximum form: 25" × 25" Floor space: 48" × 60" Shipping weight: 1200 lb (cabinet 100 lb).
Part of the No. 17 family. Hand inking. No grippers.

 

 
Vandercook 26A Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Press Dates and serial numbers unknown
From 1925 BB&S catalog
Bed: 25" × 32½" Maximum form: 25" × 25" Floor space: 48" × 60" Shipping weight: 1300 lb (cabinet 100 lb).
Part of the No. 17 family. Hand inking for page transfer (includes iron raising blocks and truck lift for moving forms to and from makeup trucks). No grippers.

 

 
Vandercook 17 Rigid Bed Composing Room Cylinder Proof Press 12/19/27 #100A - 3/10/36 #6592

17From 1925 BB&S catalog
Bed: 17" × 31½ "
Maximum form: 17" × 25"
Floor space: 40" × 60"
Shipping weight: 1100 lb (cabinet 75 lb).
Part of the No. 17 family. Automatic inking.

Image From June 1928 Inland Printer ad

17 Henry
This press is shown in Frank S. Henry's Printing for School and Shop, 1917, 1944; and Ralph W. Polk's The Practice of Printing, 1926, 1937, 1945. It shares the name of the No. 17 family presses ("Composing Room Cylinder"), so I'm guessing it's a 17.[MW]


 

 

 

 
Vandercook 219 Old Style 12/17/27 #3429 - 11/20/47 #11,506

Achievement in Photo-engraving and
Letterpress Printing,
1927

219OS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bed: 19" × 42½"
Maximum sheet:19" × 26"
Maximum form: 18" × 24"
Floor space: 2'8" × 10'9"
Shipping weight: 2400 lbs.

The 219 family (and the 215) is distinguished by its swing-out shelves. Over 2000 of the old style were installed, according to a 1950 ad for the new style. There is a power switch in the middle of the base below the bed. Galley height.

#11,029 (1947) started at $850 on eBay in July 2004.
This one was offered for $1500-1800 in February 2004.

See also 219T Old Style, 219T New Style, 219AB, 219ABT, 219 Hand, 219 Power.

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