Born in England in 1784, Robert Hoe studied carpentry before immigrating to the United States in 1803. Upon arrival, Hoe met Matthew Smith and together they formed Smith, Hoe & Company in 1805 in New York City, specializing in the manufacture of wooden hand presses. Due to the nature of the materials used, Smith and Hoe decided to incorporate saw-making into their business. Following the death of Smith, Hoe took over the company and changed its name to R. Hoe & Company in 1822. He continued to manufacture printing presses and along with his sons made numerous improvements upon existing machinery. In 1827, Hoe bought and improved Samuel Rust's patent for a wrought iron framed press and began manufacturing it as the "Washington" press. After his death in 1833, his sons Richard and Robert overtook daily operation of the company and are credited with introducing various improvements and obtaining patents for these innovations. Consequently, R. Hoe & Company firmly established its products as superior to those of European design. Notable advances made by R. Hoe & Company included a mechanical sheet delivery system for fast cylinder presses, the rotary printing press, and the first type revolving presses. The work of R. Hoe & Company helped facilitate the rapid and cheap production of newspapers.
In 1886, after the deaths of his father and his uncle, Robert Hoe III assumed control of the company. In the years following, he became better known for book collecting than for manufacturing. After his death in 1909, his son, Robert Hoe IV gained control but resigned by 1924. In that year the company was incorporated and a board of directors was announced. Robert Kelly was named president and the Hoe family no longer ran the company. During World War II, the company began to manufacture parts for weapons. After the war, however, the price of Hoe stock dropped and by 1969 the company was forced to claim bankruptcy. Throughout the 1970s, the Hoe factory was dismantled while the board focused on revitalizing the saw-making aspect of the company. In 1984, Pacific Saw and Knife Company purchased R. Hoe & Company and formed Pacific/Hoe Saw and Knife Company. It is still in operation today.
Comparato, Frank E. Chronicles of genius and folly : R. Hoe & Company and the printing press as a service to democracy. Culver City, Ca. : Labyrinthos, c1979.
Additional information derived from the collection.
The R. Hoe & Company Collection consists of one linear foot of material spanning the dates 1876 to 1929. During this period, the company main offices were located in the block 504 to 520 Grand Street in New York City. The collection includes catalogs for various pieces of printing machinery, samples of company letterhead, price lists for materials produced by R. Hoe & Company, printed collections of publisher opinions regarding the quality and efficiency of Hoe products, British patents extended to R. Hoe & Company for manufacture in London, assorted printed ephemera of R. Hoe & Company, and ephemera related to William R. Fish, a civil engineer who patented various improvements in the field of printing technology.