Monday, November 23, 2009

The Globe Collection at Hamilton

Why go to Wisconsin for a weekend in late November?

For the Wayzgoose Weekend at one of my all-time favorites, the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, of course. (Past posts on the museum.)

Woodtype printed sign for the Wayzgoose in the window of the museum
A primary reason for the event was the unveiling of a new wood type font by Matthew Carter, one of the most prominent living type designers (best known by the teeming masses for the common web fonts Verdana and Georgia, but also the phonebook font Bell Centennial, among many others).

Scattered pieces of wood type for the Carter font
Carter's new typeface was proof printed for the first time during the Wayzgoose. It combines two separate fonts, a positive and a negative, which can be printed together in two colors. Everyone at the Wayzgoose got to print from the letters on their choice of paper color.

Printed alphabet of the Carter font
During the course of the Wayzgoose, it was announced that the typeface would be named Van Lanen, in honor of the museum's founder, James Van Lanen.

One of the weekend sessions highlighted the museum's Globe Collection, which was acquired from the Globe Printing Company of Chicago.

Angle shot of a table full of illustration plates in a range of colors
Jim Moran, the museum's technical director, showed a group of the cuts, which were used to print posters for movies, stage shows, car racing, political parties, and circuses. The collection also includes a large number of grocery store cuts, and in general represents a unique glimpse of American commercial culture in the 20th century.

The Globe company stopped using its vast number of illustration cuts and wood type fonts in 1980. Everything was packed into large boxes or put onto pallets in layers, and then loaded into a semi trailer. Which then sat outside through 25 Chicago summers and winters.

By the time the collection was donated to the Hamilton museum, the floor of the trailer was deteriorating, making it impossible to use a pallet jack to move the boxes and pallets, so it had to be unloaded by hand. If the weather could do that to a semi, imagine what it could do the printing materials.

There are still dozens of boxes and pallets waiting to be unpacked at the museum, but a lot of progress has been made.

Plate for Asylum of Horror
The plates are generally wood with a vinyl layer glued to it. The vinyl was then cut away to create a raised printing surface. This is the red plate...

Printed poster for the Asylum of Horror
...for the Asylum of Horrors stage show poster.

Stock Car Races small poster with plate
This is the black plate, cut from wood, for a stock car racing poster. The squares at bottom were meant for local dates and locations.

Most of the posters were two or three colors. Sometimes the collection includes all the plates; sometimes it doesn't. Maybe the others are in one of the boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Even when they're all present, one may be in such bad condition that it can't be printed.

In some cases, it's clear which ink color should be used to print each plate, while at other times, it's not, requiring some trial and error work.

Halloween hat poster plate
The orange plate for this striking Halloween poster.

Black and orange printed Halloween poster
Robert Benchley, carved in wood, from the poster for the movie The Hired Wife.

Printing plate illustration of a creepy clown
Because some of the plates are warped from lack of temperature control, they sometimes can be printed best on fabric instead of paper.

The clown printed in gold ink on a dark sweatshirt
Like this evil clown, which makes an excellent sweatshirt!

Printing plate of the logo of the Hamilton Wood Type museum
Some of the posters made from the Globe Collection so far are for sale on the museum's website.

For more on the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, see Nick Sherman's Woodtyper blog or the Flickr stream from the Wayzgoose Weekend.


Ms Sparrow said...

Who'd have thought that advertising and printing plates could be so interesting?

David Steinlicht said...

It's disorienting -- in a fun way -- to see a Web address in metal, type high and ready to print.