News of Yore 1893: The Chicago Inter Ocean Tells How It Prints the Color Supplement

[In 1892 the Chicago Inter Ocean became the first U.S. newspaper to print a color section using a high-speed press. It was a watershed event that soon led to a golden age for newspapers, including the invention of the Sunday funnies.

My thanks to Guy Lawley who has given me permission to run this very interesting article from his personal archives. It originally ran in the Inter Ocean illustrated supplement of March 25 1893.]


First Perfecting Press with Color


A Great Advance Made in Printing to Meet the Demands of The Inter Ocean.


The illustrated supplement of THE INTER OCEAN is the first successful attempt in America to print in colors on a perfecting press. Until THE INTER OCEAN began the publication of this supplement last June all color work of this character was done on slow presses, running, perhaps, 930 to 1,230 sheets a day. On the other hand THE INTER OCEAN press, which is a new invention, prints 7,503 perfect papers per hour. The Petit Journal of Paris publishes a supplement in colors, for which it also uses a perfecting press, but it has a capacity of only about 3,500 copies per hour.

In explanation, a perfecting press is one that completes its work by one continuous operation. The white paper enters the press at one end from a continuous roll and leaves it at the other end a complete paper, printed, folded, and ready for delivery. This supplement, as offered to the readers of THE INTER OCEAN, leaves the press just as it is delivered to subscribers. The perfecting press superseded the old rotary press in daily newspaper work many years ago, but color work was never attempted on such presses until THE INTER OCEAN undertook it.

THE INTER OCEAN press is the invention of Walter Scott, who was formerly foreman of the press-room of THE INTER OCEAN. and who is now the famous press-builder of Plainfield, N. J. When the proprietors of THE INTER OCEAN desired to publish a paper in color after the manner of the supplement of the Petit Journal, they looked around to find where they could secure a Press that would do such work. Mr. Scott undertook the job of inventing and building such a machine as was desired, and within six months of the time he received the order the press was running in THE INTER OCEAN press-room. It has been at work steadily and without need of repair since June 20, 1892.

The weight of this press is about 18 tons. It is 6 feet wide, 7 feet 5 inches high, and, including folder and roller-stand, about 16 feet from end to end. The heart of the press is the offset cylinder in the center. This cylinder is 48 inches in diameter. About this cylinder are four traveling cylinders, each 14 5/8 inches in diameter. These cylinders carry the plates that impinge with every revolution upon the impression cylinder.

The paper, starting from a continuous roll, gets the first impression from the lower cylinder, which is belted with four stereotyped plates for the four inside pages of the paper, and is printed in black ink. The paper sheet then passes to the cylinder directly above, belted with electrotyped plates for illustration. These plates are inked with yellow, the first color for ground work, and are for the color pages of the paper. The sheet passes directly over the offset cylinder to the top impression cylinder for other plates, which are inked with red, and furnishes the second color. The sheet having received its impress passes directly to the cylinder below, where the ink is blue. From there the sheet passes to another cylinder, and gets its finishing impression of black. The press is so arranged as to print either four or two pages in colors. After leaving the last cylinder the paper enters the folding part of the machine.

The machine is one of the perfections of mechanical ingenuity and construction, and its operations have been viewed with wonder and surprise by many thousands. We give this description of its operations because of the frequent inquiries from readers asking how it is that such color work is done for a daily newspaper.

One comment on “News of Yore 1893: The Chicago Inter Ocean Tells How It Prints the Color Supplement

  1. Fascinating! I've been involved in printing and publishing for my entire life, and only recently have been delving back into earlier years. Well, earlier than my lifetime, I guess is what I mean. The revolutionary period of the 1890s is like a magic time, in which colour printing suddenly made great leaps forward. Not only gorgeous printing like Chromolith arose, but also — Hooray! — the four-colour processes which led to — Three Cheers! — the colour comics! Some of the most beautiful (to me) art that I have ever seen rolled off a giant web press. Do I prefer 4-colour printing to The Mona Lisa, or to Cezanne? Yes, I honestly do.

    And in closing (as they say) I wonder if I am the only Stripper's Guide reader who was taught, in high school, how to hand-set type using a pica stick and the upper cased and the lower case. This was in the 60s. I went on to working professionally with hot lead (linotype), then early computer type, which we had to slice up and paste up, and on into today's world of digital everything. From moveable type to Adobe inDesign in one lifetime! It's been very exciting to be there to participate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.