Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Appreciating history & art in a paper salesman’s catalogue June 18, 2014

Specimens, an incredible collection of fine papers and printing.

Specimens, an incredible  leather-bound collection of fine papers and printing.

I AM SETTLED ON THE SOFA, over-sized hardcover book weighing heavy upon my lap as I wade through the massive volume.

PRINT Magazine cover designed by Andrew Szoeke, printed silkscreen at Pied Piper Press, New York; caption and colophone designed by Ben Lane, printed letterpress at The Lane Press, Burlington, Vermont. Handmade natural wood veneer paper.

One of the pages in the Specimens Catalogue: PRINT Magazine cover designed by Andrew Szoeke, printed silkscreen at Pied Piper Press, New York; caption and colophon designed by Ben Lane, printed letterpress at The Lane Press, Burlington, Vermont. Handmade natural wood veneer paper.

Slowly I turn each page, studying the fonts, the colors, the graphics, the details that have me giddy as a kid flipping through the J.C. Penny or Sears Christmas catalogs.

Except I’m not wishing for something. I already have my gift, this 10 x 12-inch, one-inch thick book, this 1953 Stevens-Nelson Paper Corporation Specimens Catalogue found on the basement floor at an estate sale and immediately tucked into my arms and clamped against my chest.

The boldest print in the book, designed by Thomas Davenport; engravings by Knapp Engraving Company, Inc. and printed letterpress by Aldus Printers, Inc., New York City; handmade TSUYUKO paper.

The boldest print in the book, designed by Thomas Davenport; engravings by Knapp Engraving Company, Inc. and printed letterpress by Aldus Printers, Inc., New York City; handmade TSUYUKO paper. On the right you can see the ragged edges of some of the 100-plus paper specimens.

I’ve never seen anything like this collected sample of fine printing and handmade, or handmade with mould machines, art paper. Ragged-edged paper that is so fine and rich feeling that I can’t stop brushing my fingers across the surfaces.

An Exhibition

Designed by William Stobbs for an exhibition “showing the development of Sailing Ships from the Santa Maria to the Cutty Sark” at the Science Museum, South Kensingston. Printed letterpress in two colors by London School of Printing and Graphic Arts.

Letterpress and lithograph. Well-known designers and printers, American and foreign.

Ford Motor Company

Fiftieth anniversary booklet title page designed by L. J. Ansbacher.

In my hands, I am holding art and history.

Fernand Leger's art printed for the Container Corporation in 4-color Gravure by Draeger Freres, Paris, France.

Fernand Leger’s art printed for the Container Corporation in 4-color Gravure by Draeger Freres, Paris, France.

The program cover from Dwight Eisenhower’s installation as 13th President of Columbia University, printed on paper that can be cleaned with water or kerosene. A Picasso lithograph printed on handmade SHOGUN heavy weight paper suitable for letterpress and silkscreen. Colorful art by Fernand Leger created for the Container Corporation of America.

Designed and printed letterpress by Connecticut Printers, Incorporated, Hartford, Connecticut on handmade NATSUME 4002 paper.

Designed and printed letterpress by Connecticut Printers, Incorporated, Hartford, Connecticut on handmade NATSUME 4002 paper.

My favorite—a block print of trees celebrating Pine Acres Farm’s 30 years of tree farming in Hampton, Connecticut. James L. Goodwin, one of America’s first professional foresters, started the farm in 1913, eventually gifting the property to the State of Connecticut in 1964.

McCall

Designed by George Maas for McCall; screen process printing by Roycliff Associates, Inc, New York City; letterpress printing by Pandick Press, Inc., New York City. Printed on handmade NATSUME paper.

I rapid-clap my hands with untethered excitement.

I inhale the smells of time, wood and ink bound within the pages of this book once carted from place to place by a 1950s paper salesman from Minnesota.

Leonardo

Catalogue cover designed by Aldo Novarese, types by Alessandro Butti, of Societa Nebiolo Torino. Printed letterpress in Nebiolo’s “Augustea” by G. Canale & C., Tornino, Italy.

A Leonardo da Vinci catalog cover and the cover of the White Swan Hotel’s wine list. Neiman-Marcus fashion awards for 1949. An illustration of George Bernard Shaw. A die-stamped Christian Dior letterhead. And so much more. All here, in this catalogue.

Catalogue, ships

Designed by Walter Howe, with illustration by Joseph Low and printed letterpress at The Lakeside Press, R.R. Donnelly & Sons Company, Chicago, Illinois. Handmade HOSHO paper.

I wonder if I should be handling such finery, such opulence, with white gloves.

Signagture

A series of headings for the cover of SIGNATURE, A Quadrimestrial of Typography and Graphic Arts, edited by Oliver Simon. Designed and printed by letterpress at The Curwen Press, Plaistow, London, England.

This is my kind of book, one which combines my love of the printed word with the art of printing it. I care about paper and fonts and graphics. Clean lines and simplicity.

Art flows beneath my fingertips as I turn page after page, examining the specimens once showcased by a Minnesota paper salesman.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sermon on a stick September 1, 2013

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Sermon on a pencil

IN THE UNLIKLIEST OF PLACES, inside a box of vintage bullet pencils at the Rice County Steam and Gas Engines Flea Market, between the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., and Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, I spotted a mini sermon:

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; No man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”—John 14:6

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One elephant for sale August 21, 2010

SEE THIS LOVELY, LOVELY HOUSE. I’ve always admired this old brick home set atop a hill along a central Faribault street. With the inviting front porch, the fence, the arbor, the flowers, well, it pretty much has everything I appreciate in a place that exudes charm and character.

Ron and Peggy's beautiful house and yard

Ron and Peggy live here. Lucky them. But some day they expect to move and that means down-sizing. So this weekend they’re having an estate sale. Lucky buyers. The antique furniture and collectibles, old paintings, Peggy’s artwork, and even an old hair dryer, are tagged to sell. (Note to those of you who know that I love old dressers: I did not purchase one although I was tempted.)

But then I discovered the find of the day—an elephant. Yes, Ron and Peggy own an elephant.

Now this isn’t your regular circus-type elephant because these aren’t circus-type folks. (Or at least I don’t think they are; I really don’t know them.) Rather, theirs is an elephant slide that once stood in a park in Ron’s hometown of Winsted.

Ron and Peggy's elephant slide

As Ron and Peggy tell the story, Ron’s uncle, Florian, was the maintenance man in Winsted and 26 years ago called to ask if they wanted a slide. They did. And that’s how an elephant ended up in the back of their pick-up truck with motorists beeping their horns and, well, wondering about that elephant in the back of their pick-up truck.

Now after nearly three decades of elephant ownership, the couple is ready to sell the circus slide that provided hours of entertainment for their daughter, nieces and nephews.

Peggy points out the extra safety features—vertical bars placed between the five steps by a fretful Florian who worried about kids sticking their heads or feet between the open stairs.

Steps on the elephant slide with vertical bars added by Uncle Florian.

Decades ago she repainted the paint-worn slide to its original colors, even though she didn’t know the original colors at the time. But it could use a fresh coat of paint again.

And, Peggy insists, “It needs a yard. It needs kids.”

So folks, here’s your chance to own an honest-to-goodness elephant that won’t eat a ton of peanuts or stomp around your yard or run away with the circus.

Step right up! See this rare and exotic 1950s elephant slide (which originally sold for $235 and was made in Gunnell, Iowa) from the Miracle Equipment Company. Today it can be yours, all yours, for only $750!

Slide down the trunk of Ron and Peggy's Miracle elephant.

SERIOUSLY, IF YOU ARE interested in purchasing this elephant slide, submit a comment with your contact information and I will pass it along to Ron and Peggy. Please note that I do not work for the Miracle Equipment Company nor do I have part ownership in a circus.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling