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The Smith Improved Printing Press that we have on display is a replica of the printing press invented by Peter Smith (1795-1823) that was used to print the 1st Edition Book of Mormon. Smith was a Yale educated man and owned a carpentry shop--Smith, Hoe and Co.--that specialized in wood products for printers. The Smith Improved Press first appeared on the market around 1821. The Press is on display at the McKay Library Room 249. The press is now open to visitors Monday-Friday from 3 pm-5 pm. To schedule a visit, please contact Brother Sam Nielson at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
After Smith's death, Robert Hoe took over the company and renamed it R. Hoe & Co. and it remained the most successful press manufacturing company up through a good portion of the 20th century.
It is not specifically known when Egbert Bratt Gandin, publisher of the first Book of Mormon, first bought his Smith Printing Press, but the Book of Mormon printing commenced in 1829 and was the latest technology available to the small printer at the time. The original Smith Press used by Grandin is housed in the Church Museum in Salt Lake City and, despite being broken in places, is still usable today.
When the Grandin Building in Palmyra, New York was to be restored, the Church contracted with Steve Pratt of Cove Fort, Utah, to make a copy of the original Smith Press. Steve Pratt made molds and then patterns from the original press and his replica is now being displayed in the Grandin Building. Some years later, Louis Crandall contracted with Steve Pratt for a second copy to be used at the Crandall Historical Printing Museum in Provo, Utah on Center Street.
The McKay Library's copy of the Smith Press is the third copy Steve Pratt has manufactured. It's major parts were sand-cast at a foundry in Nephi, Utah, and other steel cast parts were done in a lost-wax ceramic-mold process at a foundry in American Fork, Utah. Both of these foundries completed their work in the Summer of 2007. From then until October 2008, Steve Pratt has finished the castings, made other castings, cut steel parts, and machined surfaces. The end result is a press that has the original press' shape, markings and anomalies (aside from the bright BYU-I blue color). Minus a few minor 'improvements' for strength, the press you see holds all the original charm of the press E.B. Grandin used in the 1820s.
Click here to see a photograph collection of the creation and installation of the press at BYU-Idaho.
Steve Pratt manufactures wagons, handcarts, presses and generally anything else that the Church needs in their restoration efforts. He is currently beginning his 46th handmade printing press. November 2008.