Old Economy Village

Old Economy-Harmony Society (Mechanics Building): 270 16th St, Ambridge, PA 15003.

Gaskell (1970, page 32, USA20) notes: “built c. 1822; Probably not a ramage. In working order.”

Website: “Today, the print shop features the oldest flat-bed printing press in the country, recently returned to its original location. Beside it is an antique composing desk, made by Harmonists.”

Facebook (Old Economy Village): “George Rapp and the 1822 printing press. This press was known for many years as the “1822” Harmonist press. We don’t actually know if the press was purchased by the society or whether it was built or retrofitted from another existing press. We do know that there is not a bill of purchase for it among the Harmonists ledgers. They began buying typeset and other printing equipment in 1823. The press is made of oak with four legs, the rails rest on two more legs with a stone platen(the plate pressed against the paper to cause the impression). The press also has roman numerals carved into many of the pieces suggesting that it was marked for assembly and/or reassembly. The society printer was Christoph Mueller (also the doctor) and his first printed piece was produced in 1824. Between 1824 and 1828 he printed seven different pieces and/or books on the press. After 1828 printing was done, but mostly single hymns and programs for community events. After the departure of Mueller in 1832, printing was contracted out to print shops in Pittsburgh as needed.”

Reference: Harris (1972, page 46-47) states: “The Ambridge press (USA20) was used in 1822 by the German Harmonists, a religious community which had moved from Pennsylvania to Indiana in 1815. Tradition has it that the press was built by the Harmonists themselves. Certainly there were the necessary skills within the community, and the press, which is not quite like any other, supports the story. It has a hose and spindle that are typically American but its cheeks and iron base for the platen stud, shaped like two Cs back to back, are much more reminiscent of German presses. It is a combination one might expect from German settlers who have recently come from the Philadelphia area, where they must have seen American-built presses.”