Friday, April 13, 2012

Architectural Stationery Vignettes

The images in this post all come from Columbia University's very large assortment of commercial stationery (featuring architectural illustrations): the Biggert Collection.

The vast majority of the images below have been cropped, cleaned and variously doctored for display purposes, with an intent towards highlighting the range of letterform/font and design layouts. The underlying documents are invoices (most), letters, postcards, shipping records and related business and advertising letterhead ephemera from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.

20th century commercial invoice

Stewart Iron Works Company (Cincinatti, Ohio) 1926
=Manufacturers of iron fence, gates, jails, prisons and steel cells, 
iron reservoir flower vases, lawn settees, ornamental iron and wire work=

illustrated 1914 engineering business letter
Consolidated Engineering Co. (Baltimore, Maryland) 1914

=Engineers & Contractors. Building-Refrigeration-Paving. Reinforced Concrete=

Manchester, New Hampshire commercial invoice - letterhead with steer's head
Manchester Beef Co. (Manchester, New Hampshire) 1893

=Commission Merchants in Swift's Western Dressed Beef. Mutton lamb, 
veal, tongues, tripe &c. Poultry a Specialty. Telephone Connection=

ornate 1908 local Pennsylvania newspaper business invoice
Evening Leader Book + Mercantile Printing (Carbondale, Pennsylvania) 1908

=The Leader guarantees the largest circulation of any paper in its field. Carbondale 
typographical union label. Job promptly executed. Book and mercantile printing=

coloured 1912 plumbing business flyer depicting buildings + manufacturing plants
Colwell Lead Company (New York, New York) 1912

illustrated typed 1893 agricultural business letter
Mast, Buford & Burwell Co. Agricultural Implements (St Paul, Minnesota) 1893

stamped, envelope with printed 1905 illustration for furniture carpet business
L. P. Peck Furniture and Carpets (San Antonio, Texas) 1905

ornate letterhead paint business invoice
Allentown Manufacturing Co. Breing's White Lead (Paint) (Allentown, Pennsylvania) 1903

{reminds me of something}

=Ready mixed oil paint. Car, ship, bridge paints. Metallic oxide 
paints. Paste & liquid wood fillers. Filler & stain combined. 
Oil stains. Oil finish. Japans. Asphaltum varnishes &c &c=

business letter stationery : highly decorative letterhead and border of illustrated rivets
Edwin B. Stimpson Company Rivets (Brooklyn, New York) 1925

=Cable address "Splitrivet" Brooklyn, NY. Eyelets, grommets, hooks, automatic 
machines for attaching. Drawn and stamped metal articles, washers, wire forms=

antique bookshop receipt : building picture alongside decorative 1880s business logo
Loring, Short + Harmon - Booksellers & Stationers (Portland, Maine) 1886

=Wholesale and retail and dealers in paper hangings. Manufacturers of blank books=

paint manufacturer invoice letterhead with central building and red surrounding writing of products made
James A. McCafferty + Sons Mfg. Co., Inc. National White 
Lead and Color Works (Brooklyn, New York) 1938

=Manufacturer of the original genuine combination gold seal whitelead. 
Bedford prepared house paints. National liquid house paints. 
Copper paints for ship bottoms. Anti-fouling paints. Deck & floor paints. 
Gloss paints for barrels. Graphite paints in paste or liquid form. Pure putty. 
Our colors are the best made in strength and purity. Varnishes & Japans=

wharf lumber business letter with illustrated header region
Wm. S. Taylor + Co. Wholesale Lumber (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 1899
"Dear Sir;- 

I regret exceedingly to report that my wife has a very painful carbuncle on the side of her head, which is very stubborn, and no doubt it will detain us here until Wedensday or Thursday morning. We had made every arrangement to leave Phila. to-morrow at 8.20am.

The writer will wire you on Wednesday next, or sooner, when you may expect us. As we have said before we are looking forward to enjoying your lovely resort but it would be most imprudent to leave home as conditions are at the present time.

With best wishes, I remain,
Yours truly,

Wm S Taylor"

decorative company logo and manufacturing plant picture (cropped letter or invoice)
Carbon Dioxide and Magnesia Company (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) 1900

=Liquefied carbonic gas and appliances for its use. 
Montgomery and Twenty-Ninth st Philadelphia=

decorative business invoice letterhead with flourish, 1908
Edward D. Depew & Co. Importers & Wholesale Grocers (New York, New York) 1908

=The Crest brand of canned goods will convince the public of their 
superiority by trial of them. Teas and coffees specialties. All claims for damages
 or deduction must be made within FIVE days after receipt of goods. We will make 
no allowance for swells in canned goods after 30 days from the date of purchase=

3 x 1890s paint business embellished typographic letterhead decals
Whittier Fuller Paints [later: WP Fuller & Co.] (Oakland California) 1890s

=Sole agents for French plate glass companies 
- crystal sheet 21&26 ounces - and Valentine's 
varnishes. Doors, windows and blinds, wallpaper, 
moldings etc. Terms cash - payable in U.S. gold coin=

cropped business invoice letterhead with decorative typographic company name and printed manufacturing plant illustration
Egyptian Lacquer Mfg. Co. (New York, New York) 1913

illustrated company invoice header
Frank H. Lester Wholesaler of Bananas (New York, New York) 1904

=Ripe and shipping bananas all through the year. Commission merchant foreign fruits=

clay company's eagle logo and typographic letterhead/heading
Hadfield-Penfield Steel Company (Willoughby, Ohio) 1923

=Clay working machinery, fuel oil engines, Liberty lathes, 
bakery machinery, ship deck machinery, cement machinery, 
rotary dryers, industrial locomotives, steel and grey iron castings. 
Direct connections with all telephone & telegraphic services=

oversized business letterhead with ornate fonts and illustrated company premises
Munn Wired Envelope Company (New York, New York) 1900

=Capacity 5,000,000 envelopes a day=

Philadelphia rope company invoice in stylised font

colourful business stationery for rope-making factory
Hoffman Corr & Hoffman Corkram & Co.
Contractors to the Government

=Rope, yarn, wick, waste, bags, twine, excelsior, moss, oakum, nets, 
wadding, batts, awning stripes, burlaps, flags, hammocks & cotton duck=

hotel stationery design late 19th century
Park Avenue Hotel (New York, New York) 1899

Carriage-maker company correspondence design
Parry Mfg. Co. (Carriages) Indianapolis, Indiana 1912

=The largest carriage factory in the world. Buggies, surreys, 
phaetons, driving wagons, spring wagons, delivery wagons + carts=

business invoice header - ornate typography design + architectural engraving
Thomas P. Beals Co. Pine Ash + Hardwood Chamber Sets - 
Woven Wire Matresses (Portland, Maine) 1890s

colourful early 20th century paint company business card
John Lucas + Co. Colors Ready Mixed Paints (PA NY NJ) undated

invoice header design with building and vegetable illustrations
S. F. Leonard Seed Farmer + Merchant (Chicago, Illinois) 1890s

=Onion sets, bulbs, grass seeds, market garden trade a specialty. 
While we exercise the greatest care to have all seeds pure and reliable, 
we sell no seeds with warranty, expressed or implied in any respect, 
and are not in any way responsible for the crop. If the purchaser does 
not accept the seeds on these terms, they must be returned at once=

Michigan pickling factory stationery layout
Williams Bros. Co. Picklers (Detroit, Michigan) 1906

=Manufacturers of Waldorf and Dragon brand food products. Pickles, vinegar, mustard, catsup, preserves, mince meat and other fine table condiments. Branch factories and salting works=

Sewing Machine maker decorated invoice - receipt
The New Home Sewing Machine Co (Orange, Massachusetts) 1910s

colorado beer company business letterheaded receipt
Walter Brewing Co. (Pueblo, Colorado) 1911

"The Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery was donated to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library by Robert Biggert in honor of Lisa Ann Riveaux. This unique collection of printed ephemera contains over 1,300 items with architectural imagery spanning the dates 1850 to 1920, in more than 350 cities and towns in forty-five states, as well as the District of Columbia and U.S. possessions. The collection's billheads, letterheads, envelopes, checks, and business cards document the rise of the United States as an industrial nation, in often elaborate vignettes of factories, warehouses, mines, offices, stores, banks, and hotels."
The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University (hosts of the collection) also link to a lengthy article (from the mid-1990s I think) by the collector himself: [pdf warning-->] 'Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery', by Robert Biggert IN: Ephemera Journal [Volume VIII]. Well worth a read.

Related? Maybe: Banknote vignettes :: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Typography :: Ornamental Typography :: Deco Vignettes :: Header Vignettes.


Morgen M said...

I miss this kind of headmasting to stationery. It was a gentler time, and the detail of the header printing made artwork of the letter you received. Some of these are pure works of art by the printer and engraver. Truly works of art. No one does this kind of thing any more. It's almost a completely lost art.

peacay said...

I guess the modern world is more geared towards smart logo symbolism than artistic aesthetics. In some senses, loss of a lot of the everyday commercial paper ephemera makes some of these design-y typeform skill less of a core role in business.

It's interesting how, back in the day, all the businesses got aboard the idea that gravitas was to be conveyed by showing or advertising the 'hardware' of the company: be it building, fruit or cow. It projects solidity and strength and perhaps conservatism (they're not a fly-by-night firm).

I worked for a big company in the city years ago and I thought they were daft in renting rather than buying our 30 storey building. Some of that physical and touchable wealth and worth still projects a feeling of safe, longlasting presence.

hoot79er said...

Belching smokestacks: always a symbol of industry, production and success.

lavardera said...

some of us still boast our buildings..!

Anonymous said...

truly masterful work

MattAtDoyle said...

What a great job it would be to create these works of art. I wonder what medium was used; woodcarving, metal etching, embossed pressing? Similar to the art on currency I would imagine.

peacay said...

I think the majority of these works were produced by lithographic printing.

At least, I *think* that's the process for the majority from before 1900, but I could be wrong : mass flyer/stationery printing may have had a different set of needs versus book illustrations; and lithography really took off in the US in the 2nd half of 1800s for books and music sheets for example.

I'm less familiar with the newer offset styles that gained momentum in the new century (even though it came into being in 1875) See, for instance:

Karla said...

It seems to me that the Manchester Beef Company really missed an opportunity by failing to show the cow (bull?) in evening dress and answering the telephone. On the other hand, some would argue that that would have undermined the gravitas of the image. (Which could have been restored by a suitable smoke-billowing factory directly behind the animal...)

Post a Comment

Comments are all moderated so don't waste your time spamming: they will never show up.

If you include ANY links that aren't pertinent to the blog post or discussion they will be deleted and a rash will break out in your underwear.

Also: please play the ball and not the person.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Creative Commons License