Latest Red Onion restoration project! - Sold

Lightning Jobber press, before and after

Lightning Jobber press, before and after

And it’s a dandy!

As the Red Onion Press celebrates it’s first anniversary of the opening of the shop in Kennesaw, it also marks the beginning of it’s antique restoration services. Over the last year, we have worked on several floor model Chandler and Price printing presses, an antique freight scale and a number of desktop letterpresses that were donated to Kennesaw State University. This month, we completed the restoration of a unique press.


This rare Lightening Jobber was one of only 12 or 13 models built by John H. Jones of Palmyra New York between 1896 and 1903. very few of these presses are still around today. This platen press is a good bit lighter than the similar size Chandler and Price platen presses we have on the floor. The reconditioned press is complete and available for sale. Contact the Red Onion Press for information.

Scale unveiled at Acworth City Hall

Photography by Richard Searle

Red Onion Press completes Important Project

City of Acworth schedules unveiling for Thursday, July 19th at 5:30 in City Hall

City of Acworth schedules unveiling for Thursday, July 19th at 5:30 in City Hall

Restoring the Old Acworth Freight Scales:

a Five Month Project at the Red Onion Press

By Clemens Bak


  No one knew how old the freight scale was in the old shed.  The  Acworth railroad depot had been decomissioned for some time and removed from Main street in the late 1960's.  Just day's before that happened,  a group of young Acworth's finest, led by one "Moose" McCray, rescued the freight scale and moved it to a safe location in downtown Acworth.  The scales were already pretty old and missing a few pieces, but the main parts were still present and intact.  When Mr. McCray donated the scale to the Save Acworth History Foundation the Red Onion Press workshop was approached by the Foundation and asked if we thought the scale could be restored and if we could do it.  The Red Onion had just completed the restoration of a 1911 Chandler and Price Printing Press that had been found abandoned in a shed on Old Stilesboro Road, so the Foundation thought we might have the skills to restore the scale to it's original state and in working order.  The Red Onion Press is made up of a group of professional artists, educators, craftsmen and volunteer members who share a love of arts, a knowledge of history and above all, working with our hands. We said absolutely, just our kind of project!  Little did we know how much time and research it would take to find the information.  Where did it come from?  Who made it? When was it made? What did it look like?  How did it work? 

The first big breakthrough was when we started to carefully remove the top layer of dirt and old paint from the wooden crown section.  Underneath we could see a set of large gold letters that gave us the name of the manufacturer.  HOWE was a company located in Vermont that was founded in the late 1800's and went out of business in the 1950's. There were several historical records on the internet that gave us clues, and we found that the company archives had been preserved at the University of Vermont.  

We also learned of several other Howe Scales around including one at the Bullock Museum in Texas and even a smaller portable Howe scale in the Glover Machine Works exhibit at the Southern Museum down the street.  Our persistent researcher, Francine McEntyre was able to get a little information from the University of Vermont archives. We learned that a depot scale was referred to as a "dormant" platform scale. Dormant meant that the scale platform was at floor level, eliminating the need to hoist loads onto the scales.  The top section was called the cap and the columns were called pillars. We knew that the scale was considered a balance type scale and worked by comparing the unknown load with a set of known weights.  Unlike the original balance scales used since biblical days, 19th century scales used a set of specially designed levers and fulcrum points to enable the weight-master to compare the merchandise load to a set of much lighter official steel weights.  A page copied from the an 1888 Howe Scale catalog told us that this size scale was rated for 2500 lbs! 

Image from the 1888 Howe Scale Company Catalog

Image from the 1888 Howe Scale Company Catalog

Unfortunately the staff librarians at the University of Vermont were unable to find any operating instructions or specifications regarding the color or the way the scale looked when it was new.  There was no color photography in those days and no color drawings turned up in our research. 
We were able to find catalog model numbers, but there was no model number on the scale. We did get some parts lists from the archives to compare numbers cast on the frame, but these told us very little. We did find that the patent date of January 15, 1870 was stamped on the platform, which gave us a starting date, and the catalog showed that by 1888, the HOWE depot scale had been modified to incorporate a more precise measuring indicator that moved the connecting rod to the middle.  That gave us the knowledge that the Scale  was manufactured no later than 1888 and no older that 1870.

The blue paint above the pillar was the original color of the scale

The blue paint above the pillar was the original color of the scale

Megan Pace, Sculptor, also designed and fabricated park benches in the Kennesaw Depot Park

Megan Pace, Sculptor, also designed and fabricated park benches in the Kennesaw Depot Park

The only color image we had of a restored HOWE scale was the one at the Bulloch museum in Austin Texas.  That scale was heavily varnished and brown throughout.  The curatorial staff at the Southern Museum let us know that the vivid black and green colors of their scale was not based on anything historical.  However we found to our surprise that as got to the bottom layer of the paint on the cap of the scale that the original color of the paint under the pillar was a vivid royal blue.  That we were able to match easily with modern enamel paint.

The final task was to fabricate a connecting rod from the base of the scale to the balance beam.  We measured the scale once it was reassembled and then commissioned a local sculptor, KSU student and now alumni, Megan Pace to heat form the double hooked steel rod to the correct length. 

Others who worked on the project include Hugh McKay and Pappi who transported the scale to the shop, Rick Paller and Richard Searle who helped with the filming of the project and other tasks, David McEntyre who assisted with some of the welding and Valerie Dibble who was able to accurately recreate the original lettering used in the HOWE nameplate.

The crew at the Red Onion Press is proud of the work we did and look forward to new projects.  Our printing program continues and we have a full schedule of educational workshops scheduled for the Fall.  We are open during regular business hours when we are not away on deliveries (so call first), and the shop is always open to the public on Saturdays from 10 - 6 PM.  

Old Acworth Depot Freight Scale Unveiling scheduled at City Hall


The Acworth Board of Aldermen has scheduled an unveiling ceremony of the newly restored Old Acworth Depot Freight Scales on Thursday, July 19th at 5:30 PM in the Atrium of the Acworth City Hall, 4415 Senator Russell Avenue, Acworth, GA  30101. The public is invited to the event, featuring Mayor Tommy Allegood, Moose McCray, who rescued the scales fifty years ago and donated them to the Acworth Depot Museum,  and representatives of the Save Acworth History Foundation who financed the project.  Members of the Red Onion Press will be also honored for their work in restoring the Scale. The still functional depot scale is around 130 years old and a major artifact from the post civil war economy in Georgia.

Here is Alderman Tim Richardson, proudly standing by the newly restored scale.  The scale will be on display at City Hall until the new Acworth Depot Museum is completed.  Work is just starting on Depot park and scheduled to be completed in late December or January 2019. 

Progress on the Acworth Freight Scales

The restoration of the Acworth Depot freight scales has been a exciting project at the Red Onion Press.  We have learned a lot about the history of the scales, how it works and how old it is.  Even though the Acworth Depot had gone through a couple of major changes over the years, the Howe Scales were built sometime after 1870 and before 1888, when the depot scale went through a major design change.  See the transformation below:

Girl Scout Troop 16123 Workshop

Last Sunday a group of young Girl Scouts learned about the history of printing through the world of printmaking and letterpress at the Red Onion Press. Contact the Red Onion Press if you are interested in scheduling an afternoon or weeknight workshop for your group of youth or adults, artists or beginners.  All are welcome!

An interesting discovery...


In the process of cleaning the letterpress type drawers we received from the Galloway family, I noticed that the bottoms of several drawers had delaminated.  Looking underneath I discovered several eight legged critters hiding so I decided to check all the drawer bottoms.  A couple of the drawers had the legend Jackson G. Smith, Barnesville GA painted on them.  Since Sam Galloway's presses were nearly 50 years old by the time he had his shop on Main Street, we were curious where they had been before Sam started his letterpress business.  According to Betty, Sam's daughter he probably purchased his type and presses from a used equipment dealer in the area.  

Ad from the July 2 1891 News-Gazette

We did an internet search and found a wealth of information about Jackson G. Smith from the city of Barnesville website.  Jackson G. Smith is the name of one of Barnesville's leading citizens at the turn of the 20th Century and owner of the J.G. Smith Buggy factory.  During the late 19th and early 20th Century, Barnesville GA was known as the Buggy Capital of the South.  

Now doesn't it seem likely that a  factory in a town where over 9,000 buggies were produced annually in 1900 would have it's own printshop for business and marketing? While we don't know if Sam's press also came from Barnesville, it certainly is possible, since it was manufactured in 1902.  The heyday of buggy manufacturing ended as the automobile replaced the horse and buggy and that would explain why the type and presses ended up in Sam's shop in Kennesaw years later.  The Jackson G. Smith Factory and commissary building still stands in downtown Barnesville according to the City of Barnesville Website.

Restoring the Acworth depot's 19th Century platform scales

(The Red Onion Press has been commissioned by the Save Acworth History Foundation to restore the old Acworth Depot Scales.  Follow the progress on our Blog News  or Facebook Page.)

In 1969, shortly before the old Acworth depot, long abandoned by the railroad, was cut in half and discarded on the other side of Main Street, Moose McCray and a few friends rescued the old depot platform scales and moved it into a shed nearby where it languished for nearly 50 years.  Despite the ravages of time, the well built frame and solid steel castings have held up well.  The history of these scales tell a lot about innovation, history and the lives of the people who used them. 

In the 19th Century railroads were the major arteries of commerce in our young nation.  And every manufacturing center was connected to this network by their local freight depot.

As goods were transported through the depot, the weighmaster was as important as the engineer and conductor to trade.  Most freight depot's had a platform scale large and sensitive enough to establish a weight and value to the goods in transit.  One of the most celebrated manufacturer in the late 1900's was the Howe Scale Company of Rutland Vermont.  Their workshop stretched nearly as long as the entire town and was the largest employer in the area.  

The depot platform scale was a simple mechanical marvel, a system of levers and fulcrums that allowed the device to compare a known weight to shipping container hundreds of pounds heavier and accurately measure it.  The Howe scale was celebrated in the 1850's as one of the best and most accurate scales on the market. 

Winning the Grand prize among worldwide manufacturers at the Paris Exposition in 1857, the scale benefited from a unique patented device, a ball and socket joint above each corner of the platform plate which absorbed and cushioned the effects of loading and unloading the scale on the bearings. 

To minimize friction, the load bearings were made from hardened steel rods ground to a knife edge. 

The knife edge bearings or pivot bearings as they were called allowed the scale to handle the sizable loads that were necessary.  Howe scales were used to weigh everything from railroad cars, canal boats to cotton bales and tobacco crops in the south.  

The image below is a cutaway drawing of a Howe Railcar Scale from the late 19 hundreds.   Note the ball sockets and large levers.