The early history of these presses is complicated and acrimonious. It was tied up with the manufacturing by the Colt's Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company of presses for Merritt Gally. Later presses were designed for Colt's by John Thomson (no relation to the John Thompson who designed the Thompson Type-Caster) and produced by Colt's initially under the name Colt's Armory Press (from 1885). Thomson later (1902) set up on his own making these presses. They are massive, rigid machines; I'd love to have one.
In The Heritage of the Printer, Volume 1 (Philadelphia, PA: North American Publishing Company, 1965), Dr. James Eckman has a short, but good, chapter on "John Thomson and His Colt's Armory Press." This is probably the best place to start.
( The Heritage of the Printer was published in two volumes. The first volume was by Dr. James Eckman and was issued in 1965 as " The Heritage of the Printer, Volume 1." The second volume was by Alexander S. Lawson and was issued in 1966 as " A Printer's Almanac: The Heritage of the Printer, Volume 2.")
Daniel Petrzelka has several documents related to the Colt's Armory and Colt's Laureate presses on his website, http://www.petrzelka.com/
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