1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press
The 1873 Kelsey Excelsior 3x5 Press
This is the press that got William Kelsey really started in the small press field. 
1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press
~~~ click on either image above to see a larger photo ~~~

HOME ~ When was my press made?

The Kelsey Excelsior Press design circa 1873

1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen PressWilliam Kelsey had had a few failures before producing this press and making The Kelsey Company a success. But make it a success, he did. By 1873, the Excelsior design had progressed to this stage. There were more improvements to make, and at least two major design changes before they ceased production in 1994.

But this is the press that really got them started.

1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press ink disk
The Ink Disk on this old press looks quite a bit different than on later models and shows ratchet steps on the extreme outside of the disk, apparently to give more leverage to rotate the disk as it is pressed by the striker.1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press ink disk strike position The disk is 33 picas, 6 points or about 5 1/2 inches in diameter and has a 1/2 x 7/8" stem in the center.

1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press chaseT1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press chasehe Chase is not an open frame, as on most platen press, but is permanently mounted to a flat base, which, when kept perfectly clean can serve as a good base to lock up type.

As with all Kelsey chases, quoins are not needed to lock up a form. Sufficient pressure to hold type forms in place can be applied using a set of thumb screws on the top and the left sides of the mounted chase. Locking up from the top and left suggests that the press would be used with gauge pins set to the right and bottom - opposite the more common trade-school technique of setting gauge pins on the bottom and left sides of the platen, with quoins set on the top and right sides of the chase.
1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press chase mounting

The chase mounts in a unique way as well. It is held in place by two spring-loaded moveable bolts on either side and rests on a ledge at the bottom. This requires a small tab be built onto the sides of the chase bed as shown in the photo above.

1873 Kelsey Chase Edge DetailThe chase itself is permanently mounted to a 1/4" bed. Note the side protrusion - this is to allow the spring-loaded bolts to hold it in place.

1873 Chase angle view

Complete chase - angle view - showing all critical parts. (click on image for close-up view)

This particular press was discovered near Salem, NY during the spring of 2011. Kevin G. googled "Excelsior Press", contacted us and by May15, 2011, we had acquired this press for our collection.

It's been a busy year, so we've only recently unpacked this press and have not cast rollers nor made trucks for it. Once we do, we will continue this description of the original Kelsey Excelsior Press.
- Alan Runfeldt, Dec 7. 2012.



Our Friend Carl Smith of Fieldston Press at the Fieldston School in The Bronx, NY sent us these photos of his two 1873 Kelsey presses:
1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press
When Carl bought this press, he was expecting a 3x5 Excelsior. Since we have one here already, he & I both expected that we could duplicate our ink disk and chase & bed to fit his press. But, when we saw this photo - and the single roller hook, we realized that it is not a 3x5 Excelsior, But is instead the JUNIOR - a smaller model. Fabricating a replacement ink disk and chase-bed assembly will be a bit more challenging, but with our 3x5 to refer to, we expect we can do it.

1873 Kelsey Excelsior Platen Press

Carl's other press is indeed a 3x5 Excelsior, but as you can see, it has neither rollers nor an ink disk. This press is complete as it is. It was designed to be inked using a hand brayer.

The ink disk and roller assembly were either an added feature, or came on later models only.

We have just filled an order for gauge pins from Brock W., who describes his press as a 5x8 "Excelsior 1893" We hope to have photos of his press to add to this page soon.

Our Friend Paul Aken at the Platen Press Museum in Zion, Illinois has some of these old presses as well. We also hope to soon have photos of his press(s) to round out this page on the earliest Kelsey Excelsiors.

Note: In the early years, Kelsey Company dabbled in a quite wide variety of presses - including a flatbed cylinder newspaper press and the large "King" and "Star" Job Presses. A complete accounting of all of the presses they made is beyond the scope of this page - but may be covered elsewhere at another time.

How to date a
n Excelsior Press:
Although few, if any Kelsey presses ever had true serial numbers, sometime around 1960, Kelsey began stamping the chase beds with a date code.

The First letter identifies the model of press
A = 3x5 Excelsior
B = 5x8 Excelsior
C = 6x10 Excelsior
The second two numbers identify the year it was made. (66= 1966)
The 4th space is a letter indicating which month it was made in -
A = January through L = December
"SL" appended to the code indicates "Side Lever" press

So, for example, the press bed shown in the photo below is a 3x5 made in January of 1966

A 6 6 A
Date code on Kelsey Excelsior 3x5 printing press
Click on image for closer look.
note also that while this bed was being stamped, the second "6" was mis-tamped with the "A" die, then over-stamped with the "6" in a second p
ass.. .
Other date code errors & anomalies have been reported as well...

Below is the excellent explanatory chart made by Ivan Guilkov of Pilowface Press
click on image for a close-up view

Ivan Gulkov's Kelsey Code Chart

Kelsey Presses image collection by Stephen Saxe
here's a link to Stephen Saxe' full page of images of various Kelsey presses over 100 years:

Further Reading: Kelsey Company
Please contact Alan Runfeldt with questions or comments using our
 contact form
  page last updated December 21, 2012 | Feb 10, 2018