L.W. Claybourn

Claybourn_PB_0157-2Leslie William “Lex” Claybourn (1883–1956) was a printing process pioneer who was issued over 200 U.S. patents. Like Horace Hacker and R.O. Vandercook, Claybourn worked to improve photoengraving and process plates and to reduce makeready. In 1921, he established Claybourn Process Corp. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which made, among other machines, a multicolor press that printed from curved electrotype plates.

Relevant to our interests, his company also built proof presses with reciprocating beds and stationary carriages, comparable to Hacker presses, and also the first power carriage proof press in the U.S. circa 1926. (Vandercook introduced its first power carriage the 325A P in 1931.) CPC was bought by C.B. Cottrell & Sons in 1937*, which continued to used the Claybourn name but stopped the production of proof presses.

In 1932, Claybourn published the informative booklet, The Printer and the Future: All industry faced with demand for greater efficiency … New Standards of Printing Practice Inevitable. He also contributed to the 1933 Penrose Annual with the article “Operating Modern Machinery: Its Future and Advantages to Employer and Employee.” He was the 1952 Recipient of the Lewis Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award, which is still presented by the Printing Industries of America. Though born into a prominent family, Claybourn died in poverty.

See this previous post about a hand-cranked Claybourn at the Museum of Printing History in Houston, Texas.

*The same year Hacker Mfg. was acquired by Vandercook. Likely, both fell victim to the recession that erased the economic gains ushered in by the New Deal.


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Eric Holub
10 years ago

This direction in printing was moving away from original foms for short-run, and into duplicate and finished-composite forms for long runs: nothing at all to do with contemporary letterpress, whether hot-metal or photopolymer. I have a Claybourn catalog and the majority of the equipment is for preparation of electrotype and stereotype plates (flat and rotary), and for wet-proofing of multicolor forms. The few single-color presses are amazing, beyond Vandercook (at least until Vandercook got into four-color much later), and if any are left they are worth saving. Not the best design to revive, though, when you consider the most-desired model today seems to be the SP-15 (inexplicable that it would be the cheapest and weakest model).

John Henry
11 years ago

I should have mentioned that the little booklet was set in Goudy Kennerley type and printed …how… why letterpress, of course.

John Henry

John Henry
11 years ago

I took a look at Claybourn’s “The Printer and the Future” over the weekend. Written in 1932, it promotes more measured, scientific approaches to makeready and set-up, with an eye to making letterpress printing more capable of higher quality. His point being that a high-quality printer need not invest in new pritning technologies (I assume he is refering to offset-lithography), but rather can improve their efficiency by using processes that give higher quality and reduce makeready.

Looking back on that age, there was probably nothing that would stop the onslaught of Offset-litho, but it was the increases in quality control which made the products produced of greater quality. If the controls and scientific approach suggested by Claybourn were widely adopted, would the change have been slower or more measured, who knows?

John Henry

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