Haddon and the Introduction of the American Point System

Some back­ground to the name behind on of Bri­tain’s best-known job­bing platens

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).