Newspaper printing presses
   
In its long history the Mercury and its presses have undergone considerable changes.

 

The first copies of then Hobarton Mercury were turned out on a primitive Columbian press driven by an operator turning a handle at an output of between 80 and 100 small newspapers an hour.

Within months this had been replaced by a two-cylinder perfecting machine, and its ability to print four pages at one time was regarded as a scientific miracle.

A Wharfedale press was in use by 1862, and this hand-driven unit was later converted to steam power.

We have not yet been able to locate images of these early presses in situ at the Mercury, although an artist's impression of the Columbian featured prominently on the top half of the cover of The Mercury Centenary Magazine in 1954 (at left).

 

 

 

 

In 1902 the Mercury installed its first American-built Goss press. The Goss had been custom-built in Chicago and shipped to Hobart in 29 packing cases, weighing nearly 25 tonnes.

This press could produce a six, eight, or 10-page newspaper at a rate of 20,000 copies an hour - for the princely sum of one penny.

This machine was installed in the company's brand new purpose-built premises next door to the original newspaper office in Macquarie St, Hobart.

     
 

In 1923 the company graduated to a Hoe sextuplet double-decker (left). This larger press, described as a "giant" at the time, required an extension to the new building.

A London-built Hoe quadruple press followed (right).

The Mercury's relationship with Goss and Hoe presses would continue throughout the 20th century.

 

 
         
 

In 1946 the company installed a Scott four-in-one press. Powered by 14 push-button 80-horsepower electric motors, the Scott press poured out 30,000 folded newspapers an hour.

This press really was a giant in comparison to its predecessors, standing on foundations strong enough to support a large building. It arrived from Sydney in 168 boxes, each weighing two tonnes.

The machine took six months to install, with the job done entirely by Davies Brothers staff. Perhaps its biggest challenge was the printing on July 5, 1954, of the special magazine to mark the centenary of the Mercury newspaper. The first issue of the Saturday Evening Mercury, later popularly known as SEM, had been published two days earlier on July 3.

The last copy of the Mercury produced on this press was published on Saturday, February 1, 1958 and a new Hoe press, built in London, was used the following Monday.

     
 

An ultra-modern Hoe press built for Melbourne's Argus newspaper in 1950 was bought by Davies Brothers when the Argus closed in 1957.

About 650 tonnes of complicated machinery was dismantled in Melbourne and rebuilt from a jigsaw puzzle of parts in Hobart. The shipment of the huge plant was made in 350 packages, with the heaviest weighing nearly five tonnes.

The rear of the Mercury's premises had to be extensively remodelled to accommodate this massive machine. It was so big that it had to be installed in two parts, with the second half having to wait until the Scott press was removed. The second of the 1920s-era Hoe presses was also removed at this time.

The big Hoe press ended its run in 1993. After 35 years of service it had earned the title of "old faithful". The machine had been extended in the early 1980s with additional units purchased from a newspaper in Townsville, Queensland.

     
 

Four-colour printing was a long-awaited feature of the reconditioned Goss Urbanite web offset press commissioned in February 1993 (left).

Sourced from the related Leader Newspaper Group in Victoria, the introduction of this press coincided with the conversion of the Mercury, Saturday Mercury and Sunday Tasmanian to tabloid format. These newspapers and a string of sister publications including Tasmanian Country and the Derwent Valley Gazette were produced on the Goss press until May 2009.

Printing in full colour on the front, back and selected inside pages of the newspapers became a daily feature in December 1993, used extensively by advertisers and in news, sport and feature sections.

     
click to enlarge

In 2009, a $31 print centre was established by the Mercury at the Tasmanian Technopark, Dowsing Point.

The centrepiece of this new facility is a six-tower KBA Comet printing press which at the time was the most advanced in Australia.

In addition to meeting all of the company's needs for the publishing of the Mercury and associated publications, the centre also prints several mainland newspapers for distribution in Tasmania, in both tabloid and broadsheet formats.

click to enlarge
The KBA Comet installed in 2009
The Mercury Print Centre

 


 

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