“Cropper” became a generic term for all jobbing platen presses in the UK. The man who gave his name to these presses was Henry Smith Cropper, born in Radford, Nottinghamshire in 1839. He was a successful businessman and also a pillar of the local community. He was elected to a School Board, which built local schools, was Sheriff of Nottingham from 1880–1881, and he was also a magistrate.
His company, H.S. Cropper and Co. Ltd. made two well known presses,
This was based on the Gordon Franklin press and H.S. Cropper and Co. began its manufacture in 1867. Adverts said it was better known as “The Cropper”. In 1879 an advertisement claimed that 9,000 were in use, and by 1891, 14,000. The same adverts include a testimonial that one owner employed a boy who could produce 2,000 impressions per hour. However, James Moran thinks that even the more modest claim of 1,000 — 1,250iph was an exaggeration.
It was available in the following sizes; 7″ x 11″, 9″ x 14″, 10″ x 15″, 11″ x 17″, 13″ x 19″.
The Minerva was famously used by Virginia and Leonard Woolf, to produce Hogarth Press books. There is a drawing of Leonard at the press with Virginia in the background composing here. The Woolfs gave the press to Vita Sackville-West and it is still at Sissinghurst.
This was based on the Pearl platen.
Cropper, Charlton and Co.
Henry Cropper died in 1893, and the company then became The Cropper Machines Co. trading from Parkinson Street Mills, Nottingham. Shortly afterwards, Henry’s son Sydney went into partnership with Charles Charlton and the name of the company changed to Cropper, Charlton and Co. trading from Franklin Works, New Basford, Nottingham. Sadly Sydney Cropper died aged only 36 in 1901, just two years after his marriage. Charlton continued to run the company with his two sons, Reginald and Charles Cedric, not surprisingly they kept the Cropper name in their company title. The last patent that they applied for was in 1939.
Cropper, Charlton and Co. manufactured and imported a number of presses, these included –
Clamshell Platen in 8″ x 5″, 7″ x 11″, 10″ x 15″. The Peerless No.2 (7″ x 11″) weighs approx 550lb. The 8″ x 5″ model was sold through H.W. Caslon and an early advert claimed its unique selling points were that it ” runs as easy as a sewing machine” and that the Peerless was operated by “.. a novel method, the dwell on the press is long.”
Although bearing the same name as an American press, the design seemed closer to the Cropperette than the Peerless Platen manufactured in the States by the Globe Manufacturing Co., which was another Gordon copy.
More information on Bill Elligett’s site.
As the Peerless appears to be a development of the Cropperette, so the Acme seems to have evolved from the Minerva.
The Kovo (aka Adast) Grafopress
This was a 10″ x 15″. automatic platen imported from Czechoslovakia capable of 5,000 iph. It was presumably meant to compete with the Heidelberg and Thompson platens.
In addition to this they cast type, as shown in this listing from a book sale –
Printing Types. Cropper, Charlton & Co., Nottingham, [c1938] Pp.78;
Includes: Chatton, Gretna, Ilford, Tynedale, Mainland, Carter, &c.;
various borders & ornaments and Logotypes for Jockeys & Football Clubs.
They also made large nipping presses, including one 14″ x 22″. with an opening of 13″.
- Jacobi, C. T. (1904) Printing. George Bell and Sons.
- Moran, J. (1973) Printing Presses. Faber and Faber
- Place, J.A. and Clunes, E. (1932) — The Art & Practice of Printing, Vol. 2, Atkins, W. (Ed.) Pitman
- Census Records 1871,1881,1891, 1901. (see Fordred, D.(2006), Cropper, Charlton and Co. Small Printer Vol 42, No.2)
- Online Patent Records. (see Richardson, R (2006)., Patent Blether Small Printer Vol 42, No.10)
- Sneinton School Board
- List of Sheriffs
- The Grafopress — Print’s Past, The Grafopress, Print Week. September 2002.
This article written by Jonathan Cooper of the River Seven Press