Watford Borough Council is excited to announce that the 101-year-old Columbian Printing Press within their collection, has been nominated for Hertfordshire Museum Object of the Year 2021.


Over the next month, residents can vote for their favourite object nominated by Hertfordshire’s fantastic museums to win the Object of the Year Award. Staff and volunteers at Watford Museum chose the Columbian Press to represent the town, as they felt it was perfect object to capture the public’s imagination and highlight Watford’s long printing history.


In its heyday during the 1920’s, Watford was the largest centre for printing in Europe and many technical advances in the industry were made in the town. The biggest companies were Sun Printers Ltd and Odhams Press, and during World War II the prints were taken over by the government who used them to print propaganda.


The Columbian Press itself was invented in 1813 by George Clymer in Philadelphia, and was used to print the first ever edition of the Watford Observer in 1863. The Columbian Press did not have much commercial success in America, but was overwhelmingly popular in Britain after Clymer moved to London in 1817.


Besides its speed and ease of use, the Columbian Press was most famous for its striking decoration. The golden eagle represents the American inventor of the press, the green dragons represent the Chinese origins of printing, and the Staff of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, represents printing taking the news to the people.


Deputy Mayor of Watford and Portfolio Holder for Community, Aga Dychton said: “I am delighted that the Columbian Printing Press has been nominated for the Hertfordshire Museum Object of the Year Award. It is wonderful to have an iconic relic like this in our museum, that so many people can enjoy and understand Watford’s long printing history. The staff and volunteers at Watford Museum do a tremendous job and they deserved to be recognised with this award.”


Museum Curator Sarah Priestley said: “The Columbian Press in our collection was made in 1820, and we think it came to Watford in approximately 1823, when John Peacock opened his print works in the Lower High Street. In recent years it was restored to working order by local printers and donated to the museum. Printing is hugely important in the history and development of the town, and the press is popular with visitors because of this link to the town’s industrial past, the Watford Observer, and the beautiful decoration that has very interesting meaning.”


You can vote for the 101-year-old Columbian Printing Press to win Hertfordshire Museum Object of the Year at hertfordshiremuseums.org.uk. Voting closes on 21 November.

Sign up to our newsletter