The press that was used to print the first issue of the Watford Observer and is a historic reminder of the town’s printing past is in the running for an award.

The 101-year-old Columbian Printing Press has been nominated for this year’s Hertfordshire Museum Object of the Year.

Over the next month, people can vote for their favourite object nominated by the county’s museums to win the award at

Staff and volunteers at Watford Museum chose the Columbian Press to represent the town, as they felt it was the ideal object to capture the public’s imagination and highlight Watford’s long printing history.

Watford Observer:

In its heyday during the 1920s, Watford was the largest centre for printing in Europe and many technical advances in the industry were made in the town by companies such as Sun Printers and Odhams.

The Columbian Press 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 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 taking the news to the people.

Watford Observer:

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.”

Deputy Mayor of Watford 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.”

You can vote for the Columbian Press to win the award at Voting closes on 21 November.