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Series I: Cataloged correspondence and documents
Series II: Incoming letters and accounts, 1833-1901
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in five series. Selected materials cataloged; remainder listed and arranged.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains records of the American printing machine manufacturing company R. Hoe and Company, which was in operation from circa 1805 until 1969. The records were salvaged from the vacant offices of the R. Hoe and Company factory in the Bronx, New York, shortly before its demolition. As such, there are many gaps.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
Boxes 20-45 are located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); R. Hoe and Company Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
R. Hoe & Company records, 1831-1948 (bulk 1855-1870): a collection of Hoe family letters and business records. At the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.
R. Hoe & Company records, 1858-1878: primarily composed of incoming letters from customers for the company's extensive line of printing presses and associated equipment. It derives from a series of three or more letter books for 1858, 1873 and 1877-1878. At the Newberry Library, Chicago.
Ownership and Custodial History
Just before the wrecking balls were due to swirl, Roger Campbell, curator of the Bowne and Co. printing museum at the South Street Seaport, and Stephen O. Saxe, a trustee of the American Printing History Association, learned of the plans. They "hurried uptown and were allowed to look through the cavernous old building for historic material. The heat [had] already been turned off and the building was cold and bleak. At first they found little, outside of some company correspondence dating back to the early years of the twentieth century. They were almost ready to give up when the caretaker offered to open the company vault for them. It was there they found treasures that made them forget they were tired and cold and hungry. There were boxes of photographs, with many showing installations of Hoe presses in various locations around the country. There were two original portraits of Richard and Robert Hoe, circa 1887. That day they carried away as much as they could manage...What other things were lost they hate to contemplate. The junk dealers had been there before them" (American Printing History Association Letter No. 14 [November-December 1976], pp. 1-2). The items had been piled into a weak-springed station wagon and driven from 138th Street in the Bronx down to South Street, where they were heaped in the little "office" in the back of the second floor of the Bowne and Co. museum.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 07/--/89.
Materials were intellectually arranged into series and subseries at the same time the finding aid was converted to EAD. Nothing in the collection was physically rearranged.
The archivist who originally processed portions of the collection in 1977, Andrea Tucher, arranged the contract files in Boxes 37 and 38 in chronological order. She then created a geographical index for locating materials from each company which had ordered Hoe printing presses between 1894 and 1919. Tucher also wrote the collection's historical note and custodial history.
This collection was formerly called the Richard M. Hoe and Company Records. Its title was changed in May 2020 to reflect the fact that, while Richard March Hoe was perhaps the company's most notable owner, it was never named after him.
2020-05-19 PDF finding aid converted to EAD and collection title changed by CLB.
History / Biographical Note
R. Hoe and Company, which operated from circa 1805 until 1969, was an American firm of printing machine manufacturers located in the Bronx, New York, whose rotary press became important in the field of newspaper printing. Richard March Hoe (1812-1886) took over the firm in 1833 and was especially interested in experimental and manufacturing phases of the business.
The R. Hoe Company was, for 164 years, one of the country's leading manufacturers of printing presses and similar equipment, and in the nineteenth century in particular there was scarcely any innovation in the printing processes that did not originate from, or at least stand considerable improvement by, the company. In 1969, however, financial troubles forced the plant to close, and some of its business records were rescued in a last-minute raid before the building was demolished.
In 1805 Robert Hoe, a recent emigrant from Leistershire, England, formed a partnership with his brothers-in-law Peter and Matthew Smith to manufacture printing presses under the name Smith, Hoe & Co. At that point, very little progress or improvement in the printing processes had been made since Gutenberg's time. Hoe and the Smiths, however, set to work, and through a combination of their own mechanical ingenuity and their talent for recognizing marketable ideas of others, they developed a number of important improvements. A patent purchased from Samuel Rust was the basis of the Washington Hand Press, a landmark press that utilized a more efficient toggle-joint instead of a platen screw, which was first produced in 1827. In 1832 the company (by now renamed, after the death of both Smith brothers, R. Hoe and Co.) produced the first cylinder press in America, a marked improvement over the European model by Napier.
Richard March Hoe, Robert's son, assumed the presidency of the company on his father's death in 1833, and under his leadership a number of significant changes in the newspaper press were made. There appeared in 1846 the Type Revolving Machine, a forerunner of the modern rotary press, and in 1871 the first web press; but perhaps the flashiest accomplishments of the company were its continual increases in the size of its presses. In 1887 the first quadruple press was marketed, capable of printing 48,000 eight-page papers in one hour. Four years later, Hoe produced a sextuple press that could print 72,000 papers in an hour. Four years after that, the octuple press was developed, which printed sixty-four pages in a single manoeuvre. In 1901 the imaginatively-named double sextuple press was perfected. And in 1907, the company dazzled the industry with a double octuple press.
By the early years of the twentieth century, however, the era of great accomplishments seemed to be waning. The second Robert Hoe, nephew of Richard March and a prominent figure in the elite world of the great book collectors, died in 1909, and from then on the company seemed important more for its large size than its innovativeness. It continued to manufacture presses throughout the twentieth century until 1969, when to the great surprise of most observers, the firm was sued by two stockholders on the grounds that it had issued false financial reports. In July the firm filed for bankruptcy, claiming that its "failure to land new orders in significant volume had left it unable to meet current obligations" and citing its closing market average at 13 ¾ a share, as compared to the year's high of 57 ⅜. In June of 1970 the newspaper and press division was bought by Hood Industries of New Jersey. The plant in the Bronx stood empty for several years before it was demolished.