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Articles and Knowledge Centre at Howard Iron Works Printing Museum and Restoration

1893 World's Columbian Exposition
   
The Big Strike
   
The Genius of
Friedrich Köenig
   
Deception In
Philadelphia
   
Sticks, Lies, and
Movable Type
   
Mummy Rags At A
Yankee Paper Mill
   
How A Printer Is Managed
   
Heidelberg's Greatest Gift
   
Development Of The
Heidelberg T Platen
Howard Iron Works Glimpses into the Past - C. Potter Jr. History



Charles Potter Jr. was born in Madison County, NY in 1824. At the age of 22, Potter accepted a temporary teaching job in Rhode Island, with a plan to further his education in the agricultural field at Yale University after a couple of years. His best-laid plan did not work out as he had planned. Instead of heading to Yale to study, in 1848, he joined a local firm managing the company's new foundry in Westerly, RI. The foundry business flourished under his management, and Potter saw an opportunity to start his own business.

In 1854, Nathan Babcock, and Calvert B. Cottrell, armed with machine drawings, entered into an agreement for Potter to build their presses. Meanwhile, Mervin Davis, an inventor from New York, had also assigned Potter to manufacture his presses. The Davis presses received great success and many accolades, even won a gold medal in 1855.

Charles Potter Jr. opened a sales office on Spruce Street, NY, while maintaining a factory at Hope Valley, RI. All the while he was busy building and delivering presses for others, Potter had never let go of his dream of developing his press. Recognizing the high demand for cylinder press for printing newspapers, he would concentrate his efforts into building one in his factory in RI. In spring 1858, Potter completed his first press.

In the subsequent years, Potter was fully occupied in the marketing, producing and selling his own presses, as well as Babcock & Cottrell presses and Davis’ jobbers – with some success.

But, the good time didn't last long for Potter. In 1861, the outbreak of the Civil War took a terrible toll on his business and canceled orders from his Southern customers dealt him a massive financial blow. He lost all of the fortunes he had accumulated in the last several years and was now in debt. It was also reported that Potter lost a foot by amputation during this period, but it was not clear whether it happened as a result of an accident or a casualty of war.

Nothing would keep Charles Potter Jr. down for long - not a dire financial situation nor personal misfortune – nothing in the world would deny Potter from building a “Potter Printing Press” that would be second to none. He would continue working to realize his dream and found a measure of success in designing and building his machines in his RI factory. This time, As featured in the September 1864 issue of the Scientific American Journal, Potter designed and constructed not only a superior press in the technical sense, but also possibly the most beautiful of its kind - with its fluted columns.

In the meantime, Potter was still building and marketing presses for Babcock & Cottrell, and being the consummate salesman Charles Potter Jr. was, he was able to convince the two partners that their presses would sell better with Potter's name on them. The partners agreed and went along with this arrangement until 1867 when Babcock & Cottrell opened up their own sales office in New York. Babcock and Cottrell went on to become successful machine makers, together and later on as separate businesses.

At this juncture, in 1865, Potter entered into a partnership with J. F. Hubbard, of Plainfield, NJ, and formed C. Potter Jr. & Co., and sent the manufacturing activities to J.M. Huntington & Co., a foundry in Norwich, CT. The manufacturing arrangement ceased in 1877 when Huntington died.

The Potter Press Works in Hope Valley, RI


Scientific American Journal - September 3, 1864

Keeping it in the family, after Hubbard’s retirement in 1879, Potter brought his son-in-law J. M. Titsworth into the business. In the same year, C. Potter Jr. & Co. built a new and massive state-of-the-art manufacturing factory in Plainfield, NJ, to accommodate the ever-increasing demands from his customers for better and faster machines. The company continued to flourish - C. Potter Jr. & Co. was reported to have been valued at half a million dollars in 1881. All the success somehow irked Potter's competitors, but he continued to do business with some of them, including reaching an agreement with Walter Scott for Potter to manufacture Scott's presses.

The ensuing years proved to be a hugely productive and financially rewarding time for C. Potter Jr. & Co. as the company had become one of the major press makers with a broadening product line which now included high-speed rotary newspaper presses rivaling the likes of Hoe, Scott and Goss presses. Potter’s newspaper presses were in use in many large newspaper plants throughout the country, such as The Chicago Times-Herald, St. Louis Chronicles, St. Paul Dispatch, The Hustlers (Indiana), The Press (Cleveland), and even The Globe in Toronto, Canada. At the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, C. Potter Jr. & Co. and his machines stood tall amongst the giants in the field.

In 1893, Potter closed C. Potter Jr. & Co. and transferred all its business and assets to the Potter Printing Press Co. The new company would continue to be managed by Potter and Titsworth. On May 1, 1894, the NY sales office relocated from its long-time address on Spruce Street to the Potter Building on Park Street. In 1896, an agreement was struck between the Campbell Printing Press & Manufacturing Company and the Potter Printing Press Co., whereby Potter would be manufacturing Campbell presses under Campbell's name.

Charles Potter Jr. died in 1899 at the age of 75, survived by his wife and three of their four daughters. The community well respected him for his involvement and generosity, and so did his business friends and foes alike. As a pressmaker, the Potter presses were very well received and had a sterling reputation internationally for speed, reliability, and durability. Through many rounds of mergers and acquisitions in the century after his death, Charles Potter Jr.'s legacy can be traced all the way to today's Harris Corporation - a multi-billion dollar company responsible for many "firsts" in the communication technology.

Howard Iron Works Printing Museum is proud to have in our collection a C. Potter Jr. Country Newspaper Press, built in Rhode Island in 1865 or earlier. The restoration work is finally complete, and we're excited to say that the 153-year old beauty still prints.

Our restoration work is chronicled HERE.

   




 
 

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