A Kelsey Press Miscellany

(Brief and Incomplete!)

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1. Introduction

Kelsey made and sold a number of different presses over the long history of the firm. The majority of these were various versions of the "Excelsior" tabletop press. For a historical survey of these, see the "Find Your Kelsey" chart.

The present miscellaneous collection of information does not attempt to document the entire range of Kelsey presses. It just highlights a few - starting with a number of presses which might seem to be "Excelsiors" but which really are not.

Note: All of the accurate information on this page is from Stephen O. Saxe and Paul Fallert. Thanks! All of the mistakes are my own.

2. When is an Excelsior not an Excelsior?

For the most part, the Kelsey trade name "Excelsior" refers more or less unambiguously to any of a long series of similar tabletop presses. As noted above, see the "Find Your Kelsey" chart for a survey of these. There were, however, a number of less common presses/situations which might potentially cause confusion.

2.1. The Kelsey "Junior Excelsior" Press

No doubt capitalizing on the fame of the Excelsior, Kelsey also sold a lower-priced "Junior Excelsior."

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(This image is from p. 14 of a 1950 (presumed) edition of Kelsey's Do your Own Printing (code: "50 1/4 Y"). This is online in the CircuitousRoot Kelsey Press Notebook. Thanks are due to Jenny Addison, Proprietor of Lock and Key Press, for making the original booklet available.)

2.2. The Kelsey 11x16 Floor-Standing Excelsior Press

In at least 1904, Kelsey sold a floor-standing oversized 11x16 Excelsior press:

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(The image above comes from a Kelsey catalog datable on internal evidence to about 1904 or not long after. It is from the collection of David Greer, who owns the T. J. Lyons type collection. It is used here by permission, but may not be reproduced further. For the a complete photographic record of this catalog, see David Greer's presentation of it at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/39182740@N04/sets/72157623770704347 )

2.3. The Kelsey Excelsior as a Victor

The article "Kelsey: A Brief History of Kelsey & Co." {Saxe 2007}, gives a short overview of the "Victor" tabletop press. This was a press which originated not with Kelsey but with his former landlord, James Cook, in 1876. Cook & Co. failed, and Kelsey acquired them. Kelsey later made the Victor under their own name (that is, as a Kelsey), still calling it a "Victor." Unlike the front-lever Excelsior, the Victor was a side-lever press.

Here, for example, is a Kelsey Victor side-lever press in an image taken from a 1936 Kelsey catalogue:

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But in later years (ca. 1949 through at least 1965) Kelsey used the name "Victor" for a different press. It appears to be an Excelsior press fitted with a side lever instead of the usual front lever, and it has the name "Excelsior" on the side.

Here is an image of it from a photocopy from a 1949 Kelsey catalogue:

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Here is a full entry on it from a 1965 Kelsey catalogue:

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2.4. Non-Kelsey Excelsior Clones

There are three known non-Kelsey "clones" of the Kelsey Excelsior. All three are documented in "Kelsey: A Brief History of Kelsey & Co." {Saxe 2007}

2.4.1. A Japanese Clone (by 1909)

According to Saxe, based on the papers of Glover Snow (Kelsey's successor), "William Kelsey found copies of his press in Japan in 1909, on one of his many trips." (p. 19)

2.4.2. The Peiffer (1930s)

A copy of the Excelsior was manufactured by P. Peiffer & Co. [n.b., not Pfeiffer] of Newark, NJ. Paul Fallert has found an advertisement for them in a 1934 issue of Popular Science, which gives an approximate date. He also says that they "violated a 1920s era Kelsey patent on the gripper bar" and were then sold without gripper bars.

The following two pages from a Peiffer catalog and photographs of a Peiffer press appear here through the courtesy of Paul Fallert. (The catalog pages are in the public domain, but please do not reproduce Paul's photographs further without his permission.)

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These are photographs of a Peiffer press owned and restored by Paul Fallert:

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My thanks to Paul Fallert for volunteering these images and allowing their use here.

2.4.3. The O.S.S. Covert Operations Press

Saxe (in the GalleyGab article cited above) also notes that the O.S.S. for clandestine use behind enemy lines in Europe during the Second World War (the O.S.S. was the Office of Strategic Services, an indirect precursor of the CIA). This was manufactured for them by a machine shop in New York City, although he notes that this machine shop actually had to contact the Kelsey company for assistance.

3. Bibliography

Saxe, Stephen O. "Kelsey: A Brief History of Kelsey & Co." In [Mike O'Connor, ed.] Galley Gab, No. 5 (May 2007): 11-19

The various issues of Galley Gab have been archived at: http://www.metaltype.co.uk/galleygab.shtml

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