Thursday, June 14, 2018

Westman & Baker: Printing Presses and Related Equipment

In a previous post (Vanished Tool Makers: E Westman) it was noted that Elijah Westman of Toronto had started a tool (butcher saws and tools) manufacturing business in the mid to late 19th century after immigrating to Canada from Ireland. This immigration appears to coincide with the Irish Potato Famine that saw Toronto’s population more than double with an influx of Irish immigrants. He was one of five Westman brothers (Samuel, William, Joseph and James) that made Toronto their home. Their father was Joseph Westman, a third generation Irish whitesmith (or tinsmith) who came to Toronto with his family. James Henry Westman, the youngest of the brothers born in 1848 (after the Westman family had moved to Canada), was also an important early pioneer in the Toronto manufacturing scene.

James H. Westman and George R. Baker, both of whom were born and raised in Toronto, established a manufacturing business (Westman & Baker) for printing equipment in 1874 at 100 Bay Street, Toronto. In 1885, operating from 119 Bay Street, they produced Gordon printing presses (invented by an American, George P. Gordon), Beaver’s cutting machines, Baker’s binding machines, and other printing related implements. Thereafter the business re-located to 76 Wellington Street before finally settling in 1907 at 107 Jarvis Street, Toronto (the only of those buildings still standing today). 

107 Jarvis St., Toronto in 2017

George Baker retired in 1912, and James Westman elected to continue to operate the business on his own but still retaining the Westman & Baker name. James H. Westman died on March 27, 1920 at the age of 71. His wife, Sarah Jane Westman had passed away the month prior on February 23, 1920. The company was purchased in 1922 by Manton Brothers, which was a Toronto based supplier of printing equipment. Manton Brother Ltd. was later acquired by an American paper company, Parsons & Whittemore, in 1980. I have found no evidence to indicate that this company produces any printing equipment currently.

You can see examples of the printing machinery manufactured by Westman & Baker (arguably the finest example of Canadian printing machine manufacturing) at the Howard Iron Works (Oakville, ON) , the Canadian Science & Technology Museum (Ottawa, ON) , Grey Roots Museum (Owen Sound, ON) , Mackenzie Printery & Newspaper Museum (Queenston, ON) A very unique and special Canadian journal dedicated to hardcopy printing is The Devil’s Artisan ( and I would like to than their editor, Don MacLeod, for taking the time to scan and share this wonderful old article from 1983 with me (Westman and Baker, Makers). The Howard Iron Works provided the pictures of a Westman & Baker platen press and also a cutter. Please post any additional information you might have about the company, the people, or their equipment on public display.



Nick Howard said...

Well written and researched article Michael. I enjoyed reading it.
Nick Howard

Orlando said...

Hello.. I have a press that is very similar to the one pictured at the top of this page (although, it needs to be restored), and am looking to find out it's value and how best to find someone who would be interested in acquiring it. Any help is appreciated.