Reader identifies mystery machinery

WHAT IS THIS MACHINE?—The machine had a plate attached that identified it as a “press” manufactured by the Joseph F. Murphy Company of Worchester, Mass. Ron Hagedorn identified it and, along with his wife Sue, accepted his prize from Denise Maghielse, a gift certificate for Grill One Eleven.

WHAT IS THIS MACHINE?—The machine had a plate attached that identified it as a “press” manufactured by the Joseph F. Murphy Company of Worchester, Mass. Ron Hagedorn identified it and, along with his wife Sue, accepted his prize from Denise Maghielse, a gift certificate for Grill One Eleven.

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

Denise and Steve Maghielse of Maghielse & Company hosted this past July’s Rockford Chamber After Hours event.

The couple had made a bold move in the prior year. They had moved their thriving and ever-growing real estate business and their team of eight professionals from a crowded office in their home to a newly purchased property on Courtland Street.

The evening’s get-together of Rockford Chamber of Commerce members and guests had a three-fold purpose. One was the regularly scheduled “After Hours” networking event itself, the second was a celebration of the one-year anniversary of the couple’s newly remodeled 5 Star Real Estate brokerage located at 117 Courtland in downtown Rockford, and last was the announcement of a contest to identify a piece of machinery that had been left in the building’s basement by a previous owner or tenant. Somewhat resembling a medieval torture device, the Mighielses were clueless as to what it could be.

Prior to the opening their new office, Steve and Denise had to completely revamp the antiquated interior of the little storefront property. Found in the basement were years of accumulated “stuff.” One of the items found was a nondescript hand-cranked and gear-driven piece of equipment. Denise wanted to throw everything out but said, “Steve is a pack rat. He won’t throw anything away.” So in a compromise, she allowed Steve to keep the mystery machine and an antique toilet.

So it came to pass that the couple hit upon the idea of holding a contest to (hopefully) identify the piece. Entrants were invited to view the “press” and submit their guess. The person or persons who could properly identify the “press” and its use would win a prize.

Through research and input from Joan Bunn of Joan & Associates—Estate Sales and Appraisals, it was determined the “press” was a “padding” press. Bunn told us, because of its age and mechanical operation, it may well have considerable value.

Padding presses are still somewhat in use today but are electronic and hydraulically operated rather than hand-crank/gear-driven. Their primary purpose is to make tear-off pads of paper such as the legal pads we are all familiar with. In use, stacks of paper are placed into the press and compressed along one edge at great pressure. The edge is then coated with elastic adhesive that is brushed on. When dry, the pressure is released and the pad can be separated and cut into appropriate sized tablets. Bookbinders also might use padding presses in rebinding old books.

We now have a winner. Some two-dozen entrants submitted their best guesses and Rockford resident Ron Hagedorn, with the help from his wife Sue, submitted the correct and most complete and accurate answer (as described above). Others entrants were close, but the Hagedorns were “right on.”

Actually, it was a no-brainer for Hagedorn, who has spent his entire vocational life in the printing industry. A pressman for Gilson Graphics of Grand Rapids, he operates two- and four-color offset printing presses. He recalls occasionally having used a padding press in the past and believes this particular press to be a very early original model.

The Maghielses are so taken with this contest thing that they’ve decided to institute a series of monthly contests on their interactive “Window Vision”—an LCD display used to show pictures and information of current real estate listings—in the front window of their real estate office.

Starting in October, Jack Bolt of the Rockford Historical Society will submit a question pertaining to Rockford that will be displayed on the Window Vision screen. Entrants can enter their answers on the interactive keyboard of the display. Every month, the contestant who submits the first correct answer will win two movie passes.

Maghielse & Company is donating the antique padding press to the Rockford Historical Society Museum.

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