Things to do at Gray’s Printing Press
Gray’s Printing Press is the only National Trust property in West Tyrone. Behind its shop-front façade is an 18th-century printer’s workshop that, until only 70 years ago, was a hive of activity. Step back in time on a pre-arranged guided tour and discover tales of skilled printers, ink, galleys, shooters and a collection of 19th-century hand printing presses.
Local volunteer guides offer guided tours by appointment only. To find out more about making a private booking, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Gray’s Printing Press Tour
A tour around Gray’s Printers makes for a fascinating visit, whether you have an interest in history or heritage. Hear the many stories connected to the once vibrant printing industry in the Strabane area including:
- A short history of the Strabane area and especially its prominence in printing
- The USA's connections to Strabane, including the Fourth of July
- Famous people connected to Gray’s Printing
- Current sayings that originated from printing
- The story of how someone made a fortune by discovering the 25th copy of the Dunlap Broadside at a flea market
The printing presses at Gray’s
The Columbian press was invented by George Clymer of Philadelphia in about 1813. This was brought to England in 1817. This highly decorative press became the best-known press in Europe. A lateral movement of the ‘bar’ or hand lever moved the platen downwards. The large eagle on top of the press acts as a counter weight.
The Albion press
The Albion press was invented by R.W. Cope in or before 1822. It worked by a simple toggle action, unlike the complex lever mechanism of the Columbian press. Both Albion and Columbian presses were used well into the 20th century.
The American George P. Gordon realised that there was a demand for small, versatile presses in his country to deal with the variety of small printing jobs that needed to be done. In 1856 he built the platen press. The first of Gordon’s machines to be seen on these shores was at an exhibition in 1862. It was produced in England as the ‘Minerva’.
The Minerva is a type of light running machine where the roller acts as a distributor and an inker at the same time. This is the original machine invented by Gordon and introduced into this country by Messrs Cropper. Most machines like this are named ‘Cropper’ machines. It’s a bit like calling all vacuum cleaners ‘hoovers’, as we know Hoover is a brand name.
They could attain a speed of about 1,000 impressions an hour. The popular presses at Gray’s such as the Columbian and the Albion lost some ground with this new and fast-moving press.
Gray’s Printing Press is a treasure trove of history. Discover how the printing press trade in Strabane helped a local man to rub shoulders with America's famous founding fathers.