Few men have borne a more important relation to the wonderful progress made in this country, during the present century, in the improvement of printing presses, than Phineas Dow, of this city. Although now nearly ninety years of age, his mental and physical faculties are in a remarkably good state of preservation, and he affords a new illustration of the trite maxim that men are more apt to rust away, in idleness, than to wear out in good service. His career also illustrates not only mechanical genius of a high order, but extraordinary versatility and the happy faculty of turning a cunning hand to varied employments. Phineas Dow was born in November, 1780, in Londonderry, a town in New Hampshire, named after the famous Irish lo-calitywhich bears the same cognomen. His parents were both natives of this country,and he is, therefore, by descent, as well as by his own long-continued residence in the United States, truly " to the manor born." When but about a year old, his father died, and this misfortune imposed upon him the necessity of earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, from a very early period of his life. The surviving family consisted of his mother (who lived to reach a green old age), two sisters, and himself; and after various removals, from Londonderry to Wyndham, from Wyndham to Litchfield, and from Litch-ficld to New Boston (N. H.), young Dow, who, from the time he was six or seven years of age, was employed on such farm-work as best suited his strength and capacity,was apprenticed, in his fifteenth year, to a carpenter in New Boston,with whom he lemained, working steadily and skillfully during the ensuing three years,under the impression that his future life would be devoted to the trade of his early adoption. It so happened, however, that the talent he displayed in wood-work attracted the notice and commendation of a friend, through whose influence he secured, at the age of eighteen, a more lucrative situation as a coach maker,at Salem, Mass.,where he remained until he was about twenty-three years of age,employed mainly in making the bodies of the chaises, which were the fashionable vehicles of that period. About 1803 he went to Boston, where,after working some time as a journeyman coach-maker, he became the proprietor of a coach-making establishment, which he successfully conducted, until the war of 1813 prostrated that branch of industry, and compelled him to seek remunerative employment in a new field. His skill in woodwork well qualified him for the task he theju assumed, of making the elaborate cabinet carving which was then required for the decoration of the furniture used by the ?wealthier classes, and this business he continued up to the time the war closed. During this period,he was the intimate acquaintance.of Daniel Treadwell, who, as his next-door neighbor, was prosecuting his trade as a silversmith, under serious disadvantages, occasioned by the pressure and distress arising from the war. Dow and Treadwell, in conjunction, employed their leisure mo-1 msnts in efforts to construct a new machine for making iron screws, for which a great demand then existed, on account of the gradual consumption of the old supplies which had been received exclusively from England. Just as they were about perfecting their device, the sudden termination of the war overwhelmed their enterprise in the ruin which attended many similar efforts to supplant foreign products, for they were unable to compete with the British manufacturers, whose fabrics deluged the American market as soon as it was re-opened. Baffled in this direction, Mr. Dow, combining the knowledge he had acquired in their experiments with his previous acquaintance with various branches of mechanics, started a machine shop, where machinery of all kinds was repaired or manufactured, and it was as a machinist that he first established the connection with printing presses which has con-timied during the last fifty years of wondrous progress. Mr. Dow paid special attention, in his machine shop, to fire engines, and displayed such skill that ho received all the patronage in the gift of the city of Boston, together with the compliment of the Mayor that his improvements were worth far more than the amount of his bills, and the appointment of official inspector of all the fire and steam engines in the city While he wan repairing, making, and improving fire engines, he was equally ready to execute orders for other descriptions of machinery, and, as it fell within his province to repair old printing presses, his establishment became the head-quarters, in Boston, of this business. Fora time his efforts were confined mainly to various forms of the old-fashioned hand-press, and he also made and sold some ten or twelve hand-presses, called the Dow press, which embraced new devices, invented by one of his workmen, named Cooley (a half-breed Indian), as well as improvements suggested by himself. But not long after the close of the war, his friend Treadwell returned from a trip to Engl nd, with a firm conviction that the time had arrived for the construction of more rapid printing machinery than the old hand-press. His attention had probably been attracted to the improvements which were then still novelties in England, for the earnest prat tical efforts to construct a power type printing press, of any description, were made in the early part of the present century, and the London Times, of Nov. 28, 1814, truly announced that that journal was the first newspaper printed by steam-impelled machinery. From the plans and descriptions furnished by Mr.Treadwell.Phineas Dow made first a model, and, subsequently, a series of working power-presses, which, so far as is known, were the first ever made or used in the United States ; and, for Ihis service alone, he deserves an honorable niche in the history of American printing. We can scarcely realize that Mr. Treadwell was so far in advance of his time, that, after his power-press was completed, he could find no purchasers—no newspaper proprietor ready to venture upon the doubtful experiment of printing more than a few hundred copies per hour—no book printer anxious to secure such facilities ! Undaunted by this difficulty, Treadwell commenced the printing business himself, running his presses by horse power, but as soon as he was fairly at work issuing, with unprecedented rapidity, various popular books, his establishment was burned to the ground. The origin of the fire is not positively known, but the hand-pressmen of that day were intensely hostile to the new-fangled labor-saving invention, which threatened, in their judgment, the annihilation of their craft, and it was generally believed that this feeling had finally culminated in the destruction of the first power-press printing establishment of this country by an act of incendiarism. Thus the dawn of a great mechanical revolution was hailed by the indifference of employing printers and the deadly hostility of pressmen. Mr. Troadwell, still undaunted, had other presses made, and for greater security, as well as to gain less expensive power, he established another printing office on the mill-dam, in or near Boston, where his presses were run by water-power. Mr. Dow subsequently made for Mr. Isaac Ashmead, of this city, two of the Treadwell presses ; and Mr. Ashmead was so well pleased with their operation that he had six other presses of the same pattern made by other machinists. Mr. Treadwell's inventive genius was not confined t' power presses or screw machines. He claims to have been the originator of the Armstrong gun, and Mr. Dow still remembers that, in 1814, Treadwell asked him what he thought of making a gun of " staves" of iron, and binding it together with iron hoops. Troadwell also invented, some years ago, a type-setting and type-distributing machine, as well as wrought nail and inking machines, which were made by Mr. Dow. Information in regard to the type-sotting machine was surreptitiously given by one of Mr. Dow's blacksmiths to a man who went to England and had it patented there so promptly, that the real inventor, Treadwell, who had been tardy in his application, was denied a patent in this country. While the Treadwell presses were being manufactured, Mr. Dow had in Ms employment, as journeymen, two men, who have since won imperishable renown, as well as a more substantial reward, for their useful improvements in printing presses—Seth and Isaac Adams—the inventors and patentees of the Adams press. They were originally cabinet carvers, and they were useful in the machine shop in making patterns, as well as in various other affairs requiring superior skill. Isaac Adams possessed great fertility of invention, while his brother Seth was a shrewd business manager ; and this combination of talents secured their joint success in realizing large profits from the Adams press. Prior to their famous invention, and while they were still working for Mr. Dow, they invented a power press which was also called the Adams press, and which attracted considerable attention. Mr. Dow made a number of these machines, and among other sales, he effected several in Philadelphia, including one to Samuel Coates Atkinson, of the Post and Gasket; one to Joseph R. Chandler, proprietor of tlio United States Gazette; and one to Jasper Harding, proprietor of the Inquirer ; and while he was putting up thse threo presses, he effected sales to other Philadelphia printers and publishers. Mr. Tufts, who subsequently invented and manufactured ssveral presses of novel construction, was also one of the journeymen engaged in Mr. Dow's machine shop at the period when these important improvements were gradually being perfected. While the journeymen of the establishment were busily engaged in preparing for the transition from hand to power labor, the inventive genius of the proprietor was not idle. In addition to his constant efforts to put into working order the models of other men, he labored steadily during his leisure moments, in conjunction with Mr. Sawyer, a cabinet maker, to perfect a power press that would make a simultaneous impression on both sides of the sheet; and after spending several thousand dollars and much time in completing a machine of this description, his efforts were apparently about to be rewarded with success, when a destructive fire consumed his whole establishment, and as it was totally uninsured, all the fruits of years of hard labor were suddenly swept away. Immediate necessities compelled Mr. Dow to turn his energies in a new direction. For a time he was in doubt how to make his new start in life, and while he ivas gaining a temporary support at his former trade of cabinet carver, he made a piano which, after more than thirty years of hard service, is still in good condition, and it affords one of many existing proofs of the versatility of his mechanical genius. After spending several years subsequent to the destruction of his machine shop in several places, Mr. Dow permanently established himself, in 1841 or 1842, partly at the solicitation of Mr. Isaac Ashmead, as a machinist, in Philadelphia, his shop being located in a part of the building now occupied exclusively by King & Baird's printing office. His superior knowledge of the machinery connected with power presses, which were then rapidly coming into general use, gave him, for a time, a, monopoly of this branch of his business in Philadelphia, and made him " the doctor" of all the sick power presses of the city. After remaining in the King & Baird building for five or six years, he removed his establishment near Sixth and Arch streets, where, up to a very recent period, he continued his active business career, astonishing his numerous acquaintances by the unremitting intellectual and physical vigor displayed despite his near approach to the green old ag'c of fourscore and ten.—Printers' Circular. Syeinj nml Printing. At the present time, sumac is much used in dyeing and printing, in order to cause othor dyes to take better on the fabrics or fibers of materials to be dyed or printed. According to an in veni ion lately patented by Mr. J. L. Norton, of Boll Sauvage Yard, Ludgate Hill (whose name is well known in connection with the Abyssinian tube well), an extract of the bark of the hemlock true is substituted for the sumac, the desired result being thus more effectually and. economically attained. The following are the details of the methods by which Mr. Norton operates in order to obtain a number of different colors: To dye 20 lbs. weight of cotton a magenta color, take 3 lbs. of Miller's extract of hemlock bark as imported from Canada, and boil it with 20 gallons of water, and then lay the cotton in the liquid for a night. In the morning, add 3 pints of red cotton spirits diluted with 20 gallons of warm water, and work afterward the cotton in this for 50 minutes. Then bring it out and wash twice with cold water, and afterward with warm water. Then take 20 gallons of fresh water heated to 160 and put two pints roseine solution into it, and work the cotton in this liquor till the color is full enough. Wash the cotton and dry it. To dye a primula color, proceed as before, only using a solution of Hoffman's violet instead of roseine, and work at the same temperature (160). A bluer tint may be obtained by increasing the heat, or a redder by lessening it. To dye a lavender color, take of extract of hemlock bark 1J lbs. to 20 lbs. of cotton, and work the cotton in the extract diluted with 20 gallons of water for half an hour. Rinse and wash in cold water, and then in warm. Take of red cotton spirits 1 pint, diluted with 20 gallons of warm water, and work the cotton in it for 15 minutes, then wash in two warm waters. Afterward work the material in a bath consisting of 1 pint of Nicholson's No. 2 blue solution, with 1 gill, of nitric acid at about 100. Wash the cotton and dry it. To dye a green color, prepare with 4 lbs. of extract of hemlock bark mixed with 20 gallons of water. Lay the cotton in this for 1 hour at a boiling heat; then prepare a bath with 20 gallons of cold water and 2 pints of double muriate of tin, and work in this half an hour. Wring the cotton out and wash off well to kill the strong acid. Afterward take 20 gallons of water at a temperature of 170 or 180, and put into it 1 pint, or nearly so, of iodine green paste diluted with 1 gill ot methylated spirits ; if a yellow shade is required add a little picric acid. Work the materials in this for about 30 minutes, then wasli and dry it. To dye a gold color, prepare with i lb. of extract and 1 lb. turmeric dissolved in 2 gallons of water. Work at a heat of about 90, then cool down and add J gill nitric acid. If the color is not red enough, add a little annatto; if not deep enough, repeat until the shade required is obtained. To dye black, take 4 lbs. of extract of hemlock bark and boil it with 20 gallons of water, and then lay the cotton in this liquid for a night. In the morning take it out and put it into a cold lime water bath of 4, and work in this lor 10 minutes. Wring out and sodden with 15 gallons of old sumac liquor, li lb. of copperas, and 2 gallons of urine. Work it in this for 15 minutes, wring out, and again put. it into the limo liquor and work in it for 10 minutes, and then wring out. Afterward scald 6 lbs. of chipped logwood with 15 gallons of boiling water, and work in this for 20 minutes, and then give the cotton 3 turns in 15 gallons of cold water, in which 1 lb. of copperas has been dissolved. Soap it with 1 lb. of soap in 20 gallons of warm water, and wash off in cold water and dry. To dye brown, proceed as above, only with 4 lbs. of the extract, and in the morning take the cotton out and work it for 30 minutes in 20 gallons of cold water, to which add 2J pints of red cotton spirits. Then wash off in two cold and one warm waters. Then scald 7 lbs. chipped logwood with 15 gallons of boiling water, and let it cool a little, and then work the cotton in it for 30 minutes. Take the cotton out and add 1 lb of alum to the bath and work the cotton again for the shade required. Wash off in cold water, and dry. By red cotton spirits is meant a compound of about 2 parts of aquafortis to 1 pint of spirit of salts, to which block tin is added for the purpose of killing it before using. The quantities directed to be used of the several aniline dyes are applicable to the usual commercial strengths.—European News.
This article was originally published with the title "The Early American Improvements in Printing Presses"