1900 - 1949 | The history of printing during the 20th century

1900 - 1949 | The history of printing during the 20th century

Tthe first half of the twentieth century is the era of mass media. Several magazines such as ‘the National Geographic Magazine’ (1888), ‘Life’ (1883, but focussing on photojournalism from 1936), ‘Time’ (1923), ‘Vogue’ (1892) and ‘The Reader’s Digest’ (1920) starting reaching millions of readers. Newspaper sales also grow and in book publishing the paperback is introduced. Part of the growth of print media is due to the increase in advertising revenue. In 1901 the advertising budget of  Coca-Cola is $100,000 – a large part of which goes to advertising in these new magazines and newspapers.

Four color lithography is by now an established production technique. Jules Chéret, who is often called the father of the modern poster, is one of its early adopters. The poster below is a typical example of one of his Belle Époque masterpieces. Offset lithography is a further evolution that takes full-color printing to new quality and affordability levels. During this era the first Japanese press manufacturers also emerge.

1900 – Kolbus starts producing bindery machines

The KOLBUS ‘Rupert’ is a book spine rounding and surface pressing machine that will remain in production for 55 years. It is the first in a long line of KOLBUS book bindery machines.Below are some examples of bindery machines from this era.

1902 – Global advertising agencies

The advertising agency McCann Erickson is established in New York City. By opening offices in Europe in 1927, South America in 1935 and Australia in 1959 it becomes one of the first global advertising agencies.

1903 – Offset lithography is born

Two years earlier American printer Ira Washington Rubel accidentally discovers that printing from the rubber impression roller instead of the stone plate of his lithographic press produces a clearer and sharper printed page. Based on this finding and after further refinement, the Potter Press Printing Company in New York produces the first lithographic offset press for paper.

1906 – Petit Larousse

Le Petit Larousse Illustré, a single-volume encyclopedia, is published for the first time.

1907 – Using silk for screen printing

The Englishman Samuel Simon is awarded a patent for the process of using silk fabric as a printing screen. Screen printing quickly becomes popular for producing expensive wallpaper and printing on fabrics such as linen and silk. Screen printing had first appeared in China during the Shang Dynasty (960–1279 AD).

1911 – Roland presses and Intertype typesetters

The first offset press to bear the name Roland appears on the market. It is manufactured in Offenbach, Germany by Faber & Schleicher AG. The company had been founded in 1871 and started shipping its first Albatros press 4 years later. Their 1922 single-color Klein-Roland 00 offset press can print up to 5000 sheets per hour.

US newspaperman Hermann Ridder founds the International Typesetting Machine Company which manufactures the Intertype. This typesetter has a simpler design than the Linotype. Late 1912 the first machine is installed at the New York Journal of Commerce. It costs $2150 which is over $53000 in today’s currency.

1912 – Offset printing takes off

There are already 560 offset presses in operation in the United States. By the 1930s it is the dominant form of lithography.

1914 – Early graphic arts trade shows

The Bugra trade show takes place in Leipzig, Germany. Bugra stands for ‘Internationale Ausstellung für Buchgewerbe und Graphik’. Around 2.3  million people visit the show which sees its visitor count reduced dramatically after the outbreak of the first World War. This is the precursor to the drupa trade shows that take place in Düsseldorf after Leipzig becomes part of East Germany after the second World War.

Model 14 of the Linotype hot metal typesetter can be equipped with one, two or three full-size magazines containing typefaces, like Model 8. What is new is the inclusion of an auxiliary magazine that does not interfere with the shifting or removal of the main magazines. To shift from one face and size to another the operator simply turns a handle without having to rise from his chair.

1915 – First Hallmark Christmas cards

Hallmark, founded in 1910, creates its first Christmas card. The example below is from that era. Forty years earlier Boston printer Louis Prang had been the first to offer a line of Christmas cards in the USA.

1921 – Pearson moves into publishing

Pearson, formerly a building and engineering company, purchases a number of local daily and weekly newspapers in the United Kingdom. The group gradually evolves into one of the largest educational publishers and book printers in the world. Its subsidiaries include Prentice Hall, Longman, Peachpit and Addison-Wesley.

1922 – Graphic design becomes a term

Book and type designer William Addison Dwiggins coins the term ‘graphic designer’ to describe his activities as an individual who brings structural order and visual form to printed communications. The term only achieves widespread usage after the Second World War.

1923 – KBA prints banknotes & Komori is founded

The four-color Iris press from Koenig & Bauer can be used for printing banknotes. Over time security printing becomes one of the main focus points of the company.

1932 – AMC

Addressograph International merges with American Multigraph to form the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation. For decades this company will dominate the market for addressing and duplicating machines. The image below shows a tin holding ribbons for an Addressograph machine used for labeling envelopes.

1934 – Bobst Autovariable

The Autovariable is a press for cutting and printing cardboard boxes. It is a hit at the Foire de Paris, saving the Swiss company that was founded in 1890 from bankruptcy. Their next major success will be the Bobst AP 900 automatic die-cutter, launched in 1940.

1935 – First paperbacks and adhesive labels

The first commercially successful series of paperback books is published by Penguin Books in the UK. Earlier in 1931 German publisher Albatross Books had already tried to market a series of lower-priced books with a paper cover and glue binding. Penguin copied many of the concepts of their failed attempt, such as the use of color-coded covers. The books cost sixpence each – the same price as a packet of cigarettes.

1938 – Xerography is invented

Xerography, a dry photocopying technique, is invented by Chester F. Carlson. In 1947 Haloid Company, now known as Xerox, obtains a license to commercialize the technology.

In 1938 the Dresden-Leipziger Schnellpressenfabrik AG changes its name to Planeta. Six years earlier the company had introduced the world’s first four-color web offset press. After World War II Planeta becomes the largest press manufacturer of the DDR. It is acquired by Koenig & Bauer (KBA) in 1991.

1939 – Cold-glueing takes off

Emil Lumbeck is the first one to successfully use cold-glue binding for books (Lumbeck-Kaltklebebindung).

1940 – Miehle MV-50

The V-50 is the latest in a series of vertical cylinder presses that combine easy access and convenience with a compact footprint. It can print 5000 14×20″ sheets per hour. Miehle’s letterpresses will still be produced until 1978, gradually losing market share to offset lithography presses. Of the 25000 that were built thousands are still in use today for die cutting or scoring (adding a mechanical crease to sheets so they can be folded more easily).

1942 – Documenting printing during the war

Marjory Collins photographs the production of the New York Times in order to document home front activities for the U.S. Office of War Information. Pictures from the prepress departments can be found on the history of prepress page. In the image below you see the plates being loaded on the press.

1947 – Polar starts building electrically powered cutters

Polar build the Einmesser-Schnellschneider, their first electrically powered cutting machine. In 1954 they build the first cutters with an optical cutting line indicator and air cushion table.

1948 – Shinohara

Shinohara Machinery Company, the Japanese machine tool manufacturer which had been established in 1919, begins manufacturing flatbed letterpress machines.

1949 – First scans of color images

The July issue of Fortune magazine contains the first commercial scanned color image. It is produced using a scanner built by the Austin Company.

Offset lithography continues to grow in the second half of the twentieth century. The last years of the century see a new competing technology come to market in the form of the first digital presses. Simultaneously the desktop publishing revolution tales place. The latter is documented in much more detail in yearly overviews, starting from 1984 and the launch of the Apple Macintosh.

1951 – Heidelberg Tiegel is the star of the first drupa show

The first drupa trade show is held in Dusseldorf, Germany. drupa, which stands for ‘Druck und Paper’ (print & paper), is a specialist trade fair for the printing industry. The image below shows the Heidelberg Tiegel press being demonstrated to German finance minister Ludwig Erhard.

1952 – Security printing

In Lausanne, Switzerland, Gualtiero Giori founds Organisation Giori to develop and sell technology, equipment and services for printing banknotes. This includes a center to train state printing plant staff in the best practices in banknote design and production.

1953 – Playboy magazine

The first issue of Playboy has Marilyn Monroe on its cover and centerfold. Nearly 54000 copies are printed and sold for 50¢. Mint copies now sell for over  $5000.

1954 – drupa

The second drupa fair is a major success with 226388 visitors. The show highlights are engraving machines for letterpress printing. Grapha, which gets renamed to Grapha Maschinenfabrik Hans Müller A. G a year later, exhibits the BSV, its first fully automatic saddle stitcher with in-line trimmer, as well as its adhesive binder.

1957 – First Komori four-color press

Komori develops its first four-color offset press, the UM-4C.

1959 – Xerox plain-paper copier

The Xerox 914 is the first successful plain paper copier. It can make six copies per minute and had been preceded in 1949 by the ‘Model A’, the first commercial xerographic copier.

1962 – Hell HelioKlischograph

Dr. Ing. Rudolf Hell introduces the HelioKlischograph K190 – the first in a series of systems for gravure printing. Subsequent models have separate scanning and engraving units ( the 1965 HelioKlischograph K193) or digital electronics (the 1974 HelioKlischograph K200). The product family still exists today – the K500 model is shown below.

1965 – Vickers Crabtree

In the UK Vickers acquires the press manufacturer R.W. Crabtree. The press shown below is a 5-color Crabtree Sovereign perfector from 1969.

1967 – ISBN

Océ enters the office printing market with an electro-photographic process for copying documents using a special chemically-treated type of paper. Its first plain-paper office copier follows in 1973. Instead of a xerographic process, this copier uses a developer free technology that later on will also be used in Océ’s high volume printers.

ISBN is started in Britain. The International Standard Book Number is a unique numeric identifier for commercial books.

Japanese press manufacturer Sakurai exhibits for the first time at drupa, showing off their Monarch full-automatic screen press.

1968 – Using silicone for pad printing

Tampoprint in Germany replace the low-endurance gelatine pads used in pad printing presses by silicone pads. This allows such presses to print much longer runs on an industrial scale. The image below shows a prototype of such a press.

1969 – Muller Martini is founded

Grapha Maschinenfabrik Hans Müller A. G and Martini merge and become Muller Martini.

1970 – Xerox plain-paper color copier

Xerox patents expire, allowing other manufacturers such as Canon to create xerographic copiers. Xerox does, however, continue to dominate the market and launches its first plain paper color copier, the Xerox 6500, in 1973.

The same year water-based inks are introduced.

In London Saatchi & Saatchi is founded. It will become a major communications and advertising agency network, operating in 76 countries.

1971 – Quad/Graphics

This American printing company is founded by Harry and Elizabeth Quadracci in Sussex, Wisconsin. It will become one of the largest magazine printers in the world, with production facilities in the United States, Canada, Europe and Latin America.

1972 – Presses with an integrated ink control system

The ROLAND 800 is the first sheetfed offset press with an integrated ink control system. It can print up to 10000 sheets per hour. It is one of the highlights of the drupa 1972 show.

1973 – All time high newspaper readership

Newspaper circulation reaches its highest level ever in the US. It will remain fairly steady until a gradual decline sets in during the mid-’80s. The graph below is from the Editor And Publisher International Yearbook.

1974 – First Shinohara offset press & Lonely Planet guide

Shinohara Machinery Company builds its first offset press, the Fuji 58.

The first Lonely Planet travel guide is published. Below it is shown next to the 2016 edition.

1975 – IBM & Xerox laser printers

The first laser printers, such as the IBM 3800 (shown below) and Xerox 9700, hit the market. They are prohibitively expensive but useful for applications such as cheque printing.1977 – Indigo is founded

Benny Landa founds Indigo, initially a research company that licenses its technology to other manufacturers. This changes in the mid-80’s when the company develops ElectroInk, a liquid ink that the company uses in the E-Print 1000 digital press from 1993.

1979 – MAN Roland Druckmaschinen

MAN Roland Druckmaschinen AG is formed as a result of the merger of the printing press division of Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg and Roland Offsetmaschinenfabrik Faber & Schleicher. In 2008 the company will be renamed to manroland.

1982 – Plastic banknotes

The American Bank Note Company prints the first plastic banknotes using DuPont’s Tyvek polymers.  Australia is the first country to use polymer banknotes for general circulation from 1992 onwards.

1984 – The Mac is born

The Apple Macintosh is a ground-breaking computer which for the first time combines a graphical user interface and a mouse with a ‘reasonable’ price tag of $2490 (taking inflation into account that is over $5000 today).

1985 – Desktop publishing takes off

Steve Jobs convinces John Warnock from Adobe to create a PostScript controller for their Apple LaserWriter, allowing it to output ‘typesetter quality’ pages. Apple and Adobe are fortunate enough to stumble upon a small start-up that has created an application to utilize the Mac and LaserWriter to their full extent. That company is called Aldus and their software product is PageMaker.

1986 – Wapping dispute

5500 employees of News International go on strike in a dispute over new working conditions and the proposed move from Fleet Street to new premises in the London Docklands. Despite a long and bitter battle between the strikers and the police, The Times, the Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World get published every single day. This Wapping dispute is a key event in the development of the British newspaper industry.

At drupa 1986 MAN Roland Druckmaschinen AG introduces its LITHOMAN commercial web offset printing press. Polar show off the POLAR Compucut, a system for computer-assisted, external generation of cutting programs with automatic transfer to the cutting machine.

1990 – Xerox Docutech

Xerox launches its first DocuTech system, known as the DocuTech Production Publisher. The system is based on a 135 page-per-minute black & white 600 dpi xerographic print engine with attached scanner and finisher modules. It is arguably the first affordable ‘print-on-demand’ publishing system.

1991 – On-press imaging

The Heidelberg GTO-DI uses Presstek plates which are imaged on the press itself. This direct imaging technology looks promising but even though other vendors start offering similar solutions it never really catches on. In 2006 Heidelberg abandons the technology.

1993 – First digital presses

The Indigo E-Print 100 (shown below) is a digital press that uses ElectroInk, a kind of fluid ink which in its first incarnation can actually be rubbed off the paper. Competing systems such as the Xeikon DCP-1, introduced the same year, rely on toner. In 2002 Indigo is acquired by HP while Punch Graphix buys Xeikon.

1995 – ROLAND 900, Craigslist & Vistaprint

At drupa MAN Roland Druckmaschinen AG launches the ROLAND 900, an innovative large format sheetfed offset press.

The very first post appears on Craigslist. Within a few years, this web service has an enormous impact on US newspapers because they lose a major part of their classified ads income to the site.

Vistaprint is founded in Paris, France by Robert Keane who believes in the potential of offering short run, high-quality printing to small businesses.

What is CMYK?

What is CMYK?