Arti­cle by Tony King

I bought a Had­don Gor­don 15 x 10 in 1985 after years of tread­ling a C & P, and was curi­ous to know the lin­eage of this par­tic­u­lar brand. I was famil­iar with Arabs, Crop­pers, and oth­er Gor­dons but not the name of Had­don.

My research found that Had­don was the lead­ing advo­cate for the adop­tion of the Amer­i­can point sys­tem in Eng­land which saw its pro­gres­sive intro­duc­tion at the turn of the 19th cen­tu­ry. Not only an advo­cate but the entre­pre­neur­ial flair of Wal­ter Had­don saw him over­whelm the mar­ket — and nat­u­ral­ly cause an uproar in the cast­ing indus­try.

My ear­ly research traced my press­es’ life in New Zealand to the New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tive for John Had­don & Co of Mar­ket Har­bor­ough, Eng­land. This was A. D. Willis a print­er and importer in Wan­ganui high­ly respect­ed in Aus­trala­sia in the 1880’s for his exquis­ite lith­o­graphed scenic post­cards of New Zealand. Short­ly after buy­ing the press I vis­it­ed Wan­ganui to buy cas­es of redun­dant type from a newspaper’s loft, and dis­cov­ered with some amaze­ment that the build­ing car­ried the foun­da­tion stone for A. D. Willis, Print­er.

Haddon Gordon Platen Press
Had­don Gor­don Plat­en Press

In 1989 I vis­it­ed the St Brides Library in Lon­don and start­ed my research in earnest, lat­er to be sup­ple­ment­ed by a great deal of infor­ma­tion from a 1914 issue of the British Print­er in which they were mark­ing the cen­te­nary of the estab­lish­ment of the Had­don busi­ness in 1814.

The record­ed Had­don dynasty which was based in Nase­by Northamp­ton­shire goes back beyond 1700, and the lin­eage fathered sev­er­al John Had­dons and the one that even­tu­al­ly start­ed the print­ing empire was one of 11 chil­dren and born in 1823.(1823 – 1904) The fam­i­ly were farm­ers but John born in 1784 (1784 – 1855) did not have farm­ing incli­na­tions “but was not­ed for his lit­er­ary tastes although it was as a busi­ness­man that he made his mark. He was appren­ticed to a print­er at the age of 15 (1801) and after a year went to Lon­don to seek his for­tune.” In 1814 he found­ed the print­ing busi­ness which cel­e­brat­ed its cen­te­nary in 1914. His ear­ly print­ing includ­ed much for Bap­tist mis­sion­ar­ies espe­cial­ly lit­er­a­ture for for­eign mis­sions in which his father was also par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed. They saw the poten­tial of spread­ing their busi­ness ambi­tions beyond print­ing and the British Isles and often had requests from mis­sion­ar­ies to be sent items in addi­tion to their books and pam­phlets. As a result they estab­lished a ‘gen­er­al com­mis­sion agency’ which gave them the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be in touch with all parts of the world.

The third John born in 1823 was also appren­ticed as a print­er and super­seded his old­er broth­er to become the sole pro­pri­etor in 1855. How­ev­er his pas­sion for print­ing was over­shad­owed by his inter­est in phil­an­thropy, reli­gion, music and gar­den­ing and the busi­ness suf­fered as a result. He bowed out of an active inter­est in the com­pa­ny when in 1888 cousin Wal­ter Had­don joined the firm as a part­ner and became the sole pro­pri­etor in 1890. At that time there were three employ­ees, by 1898 one hun­dred.

Wal­ter pos­sessed the qual­i­ties to turn the for­tunes of the com­pa­ny around and his entre­pre­neur­ial skill had him expand­ing the busi­ness, acquir­ing well estab­lished engi­neer­ing com­pa­nies that would com­pli­ment his future direc­tion. He estab­lished an adver­tis­ing agency, and devel­oped the skills of direct mar­ket­ing and mail order

In 1898 in an inter­view with The British & Colo­nial Print­er & Sta­tion­er he spoke of the frus­tra­tion of many print­ers in not hav­ing a uni­ver­sal type cast­ing stan­dard in Eng­land and he’d observed from his con­tacts in Amer­i­ca and from type that had been import­ed, the advan­tage of the stan­dard devel­oped in Amer­i­ca. The Amer­i­can sys­tem was the work of Nel­son Hawks a print­er in San Fran­cis­co when in 1871 he pro­posed the estab­lish­ment of uni­form body sizes, but it was not until 1886 that the Amer­i­can Sys­tem of Inter­change­able Type Bod­ies was accept­ed. Caslon were first of the mark in 1886 announc­ing a scheme for the new body mea­sure­ment and it was offi­cial­ly adopt­ed in Eng­land in 1889. Had­don came on the scene in 1897 with a vengeance:

For more than half a cen­tu­ry this reform has been dis­cussed, but per­sis­tent­ly and stub­born­ly resist­ed, if not ignored by type­founders. Repeat­ed­ly have print­ers com­plained of the incon­ve­nience, the annoy­ance, the expense, to which they have been need­less­ly put by the pol­i­cy of the founders in the mat­ter of each hav­ing dif­fer­ent stan­dards. No notice has been tak­en of their com­plaints, their rea­son­able­ness and grav­i­ty could not be denied, but no rem­e­dy was offered until type from Amer­i­ca and oth­er for­eign foundries found its way into this coun­try and was eager­ly pur­chased by print­ers.”

Behind the resis­tance was the cost of con­vert­ing to the new sys­tem and Had­don had his ene­mies. An Asso­ci­at­ed Type Founders lob­by group appeared attempt­ing to under­mine the momen­tum for the new point sys­tem. Known as “the Ring” by Had­don sup­port­ers, Wal­ter chose to use his Type Cat­a­logue of 1902 to chal­lenge them through­out his type sam­ple pages. In Had­don Old Style he says “The ‘Ring’ Founders cast type to indef­i­nite widths, and so jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of the larg­er types is again a mat­ter of odd­ments of lead, pieces of card or paper, spiked quads and much waste of time and mate­r­i­al.”
In 1898 Wal­ter estab­lished his mas­sive Cax­ton Type Foundry at Mar­ket Har­bor­ough in Leices­ter­shire, and trum­pet­ed the virtues of the sys­tem to the indus­try. His foundry cov­ered two and a half acres and includ­ed not only type cast­ing but the pro­duc­tion of a full range of print­ers’ tools, acces­sories, wood type and cab­i­nets and by now his work­force had reached 1500.

His brash adver­tis­ing and aggres­sive mar­ket­ing was com­ment­ed upon in The British Print­er: “Although the meth­ods of pro­mo­tion adopt­ed at the time were, to put it gen­tly, some­what of a shock to the estab­lished trade, and tru­ly were far from com­mend­ing them­selves to many mem­bers of the print­ing indus­try it will be accept­ed that the Had­don foundry had the courage of its con­vic­tions and cer­tain­ly did not mince mat­ters either in argu­ment, adver­tis­ing, in claims and in replies to oppo­nents.” Wal­ter trav­elled through­out Britain and to the Con­ti­nent extolling the virtues of the new point sys­tem and the supe­ri­or­i­ty of the type from his new foundry – and found will­ing con­verts wher­ev­er he went. Accord­ing to H.W. Larkin in ‘Com­pos­i­tors Work in Print­ing’ some print­ers were still using the old body type as late as 1935.  And while giv­ing pri­or­i­ty to the pros­per­i­ty of the Cax­ton Foundry, the com­pa­ny con­tin­ued to devel­op the Export and Buy­ing Depart­ment that had been the begin­nings of inter­na­tion­al trade back in the ear­li­est days of ‘mis­sion­ary trad­ing.’ Trade was exten­sive in both direc­tions act­ing as a buy­ing agency in Eng­land and Europe for the “Indi­an and Colo­nial cen­tres every­where in export­ing motor cars and motor cycles, cloth­ing, hard­ware, pro­vi­sions, and ammu­ni­tion” while sourc­ing buy­ers in Eng­land for prod­ucts from “planters and store­keep­ers in Asia, the West Indies, the South Sea Islands, Aus­tralia, New Zealand Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca and Con­go Belge”. In 1894 they struck a boom in the export of rub­ber plants, nur­tured from seedlings in Eng­land, to Cey­lon and the Malay States, and were the first to intro­duce and import crepe rub­ber into Eng­land. They also import­ed ele­phants and rhi­noc­er­os to order from Africa.

The man­u­fac­ture of zinc and cop­per plates for ‘process’ pur­pos­es had up until about 1914 been con­fined to Amer­i­can and Ger­man sources. Had­don acquired a cop­per and zinc plate fac­to­ry in Clapham and became the only works of its kind in the British Empire, and pro­duced a very high stan­dard of plate. Demand from Eng­lish print­ers and engravers was over­whelm­ing and fur­ther enhanced the rep­u­ta­tion of the Had­don brand.

Haddon Gordon Advert
Had­don Gor­don Advert

The Had­don-Cax­ton Types, Bor­ders, and Rules cat­a­logue on 1902 lists the press­es avail­able at that time as the Had­don High Speed Safe­ty Plat­en, the Bab­cock Stan­dard Drum Cylin­der press, The Bab­cock Opti­mus, The Art Cax­ton Platens and Swift Platens.

The trea­dle and lat­er motorised Gor­don platens appear to have been man­u­fac­tured from about 1861, the Min­er­va built by H S Crop­per appear­ing in 1867 and by 1894 no less than eleven firms were man­u­fac­tur­ing Gor­don press­es. This would sug­gest my favourite 15 x 10 Had­don Gor­don could be about 115 years old.

Ref­er­ences: The British Print­er (an issue of 1914)
British & Colo­nial Print­er & Sta­tion­er March 24 1898
Had­don the Head Hunter – A.Hingston-Quiggin 1914
His­to­ry of the Haddon’s of Nase­by – W. G. Croft 1915
Com­pos­i­tors Work in Print­ing – H. W Larkin 1961
Had­don-Cax­ton Types and Bor­ders Cat­a­logue 1902

The Dor­man Asso­ci­a­tion has doc­u­ment­ed more infor­ma­tion about the man­u­fac­tur­er of the Had­don Press.

This arti­cle and pho­tos cour­tesy of: Antho­ny R. King

Tony King start­ed let­ter­press print­ing as a school­boy on an Adana HS2 in 1953 print­ing just two issues of a four page “Third Forms Mini Mag” before resort­ing to adding pages dupli­cat­ed from an “Emgee Memo Stamp” dupli­ca­tor. Years lat­er – career and fam­i­ly inter­vened – he import­ed an Adana HQ and sub­se­quent­ly moved to a C & P 15 x 10, Pearl trea­dle, Kelsey 9 x 6, Adana 5 x 3, and Had­don Gor­don. Today at his home in Grey­town, north of Welling­ton N.Z. he oper­ates an Adana HQ, Adana 8 x 5, Adana HS2, a 1910 Sig­walt No 11, and Far­ley Proof press, and at the Grey­town Ear­ly Set­tlers Muse­um opened a print shop in July 2010 based around a Chal­lenge Gor­don 15 x 10 (1894) and T.C. Thomp­son (Man­ches­ter) Gem No 3 (1926); Pen­rose Proof press, and two Adana HS No 2. Tony is a foun­da­tion mem­ber of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Hand­craft Print­ers (New Zealand), and mod­er­a­tor of the Yahoo Group ‘let­ter­press­du’ (let­ter­press down under).