The latest project in the Red Onion’s restoration workshop is a 1902 old style Chandler & Price 10 x 15 platen press. The press was donated to the Red Onion last year by Betty Arnold and James Galloway, daughter and son of the late Sam Galloway, who lived and worked in this area for many years as a letterpress printer.
A 10 x 15 platen press is a big letterpress. The 10 x 15 refers to the area inside the square box, or “chase” as it’s called in the trade. The chase is where the printing plates and type fonts are locked in. The printing press actually weighs 1600 lbs. and is made of solid cast iron. Early last year, Hugh MacKay and I drove up to see the press in Summersville, Georgia and we saw how strong and massive the press was. It was sitting where it had been placed some 50 years ago, on the concrete floor of what was the front porch of James Galloway’s house where his Dad had operated it in his final days. Only the house was no more, and what was left of the roof had settled on the top of the press. The remains of a giant tree covered what was left of the building having toppled over during a thunderstorm years ago. Our job was to remove the press and bring it down to the shop in Kennesaw to restore it. To do that we had to tear down the roof using hammers and a crowbar to get it free, and then maneuver it onto a truck. Hugh MacKay, “Poppi” McClure and myself spent a good part of that day pulling the roof off board by board to get it free.
The press is special to our area and to the Red Onion. It was originally operated by Sam Galloway, who had a small grocery store, gas station and printshop on Old Highway 41, less than a block from where North Cobb High school stands today. Given it’s connection to the community and close proximity to the new North Cobb Library we hope to use the press to demonstrate the history of movable type, printing and publishing during the days of the industrial revolution, when model T Fords and horse drawn wagons shared the road.
But before we could start in on the press, we had a big freight scale to restore for the Acworth History Foundation. That project was completed late last year and soon the scale will be revealed in it’s new home in the Depot Museum in Acworth. For us the press restoration has now begun in earnest. The first step we took was to take careful close up photos and begin identifying the parts, including some that were no longer on the press, but important nevertheless. We had some information to go by. The press is very similar to the smaller Stilesboro press we restored and now have in operation the letterpress area in the shop. We also have a wealth of information on the internet and even a parts list for a later version of the same press. As we restore this press, we plan to photo document the whole process on our blog page and share it with our public. Below are photos from the first stage of the process: if you are in the area, stop by the Red Onion any Saturday, we’d love to show you our progress.