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

 

Touring a third-generation family print shop in Fergus Falls May 23, 2013

The Victor Lundeen Company, located in the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue, downtown Fergus Falls.

The Victor Lundeen Company, located in the 100 block of West Lincoln Avenue, downtown Fergus Falls.

ON A RECENT IMPROMPTU TOUR of a third-generation family-owned print shop in Fergus Falls, I couldn’t contain my giddiness over drawers of aged logos/artwork, handcrafted stamps, stacks of paper, even the vintage cabinets and stools and carts.

I was just giddy over all this handcrafted vintage art tucked into drawers.

I was just giddy over all this handcrafted vintage art tucked into drawers.

The 99-year-old Victor Lundeen Company is the type of place that appeals to a writer like me, with ink flowing through my veins.

The 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, still used in the second floor print shop.

The 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, still used in the second floor print shop.

Ah, the ink. The smell of ink. I just stood there beside owner Paul Lundeen’s vintage 1960s Heidelberg offset presses, breathing in the distinct scent of ink imprinted upon my memory.

Cans of ink line shelves.

Cans of ink line shelves.

Decades ago, working at The Gaylord Hub as a young newspaper reporter and photographer fresh out of college, I first smelled that ink, heard the clack-clack-clack of ancient machines printing auction bills. I watched Frank “Chick” Deis set type on the old letterpress.

While digging through all that vintage art, we found this City of Fergus Falls Centennial Seal of an otter. The city is located  in Otter Tail County.

While digging through all that vintage art, we found this City of Fergus Falls Centennial Seal of an otter. The city is located in Otter Tail County. The Lundeens recently sold all but one letterpress.

Such memories endear me to places like Victor Lundeen Company, started in 1914 by Victor Lundeen, Sr., who bought out a Fargo print shop and moved the equipment to his hometown of Fergus Falls. Today the company is owned by Victor Lundeen, Jr., and his son, Paul Lundeen.

A portion of the print shop looking toward the bank of street-side windows.

A portion of the print shop looking toward the bank of street-side windows.

I find it especially impressive, in this advanced technological age, that printing businesses like the Lundeen Company can survive, even seemingly thrive. This Fergus Falls firm has apparently found its niche in focusing on agri-business needs primarily in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Montana, but also extending to grain elevator businesses nationwide.

That said, this family-owned print shop, which employs eight in production (30 total in all aspects of the company), also values the individual walk-in customer. Paul didn’t specifically tell me that during our tour. Rather, I surmised that when, for example, I noticed the corner area where employees engrave gold foil names onto bibles for Confirmation gifts. Just like my King James bible imprinted with my name and given to me by my parents on my Confirmation Day in 1970.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

Tour guide Paul Lundeen inside his print shop.

And then there’s Paul himself, who welcomed my husband and me on a Thursday evening like we were long-time friends rather than out-of-towners checking out his store and other downtown businesses during an overnight stay in Fergus Falls. I mean, what businessman shows you the original safe of the former First National Bank of Fergus Falls shortly after meeting you? Paul did just that.

The independent bookstore portion of Victor Lundeen Company on the first floor. Gifts and office supplies are also sold here.

The independent bookstore portion of Victor Lundeen Company on the first floor. Gifts and office supplies are also sold here. I even asked if the store carries Lake Region Review, a regional anthology in which I’ve been published. It does.

His office supply/bookstore/gift shop/printing business occupies two connected buildings, one of them the old bank, in the heart of this historic downtown.

History in the signage.

History in the signage.

Such hospitality reaffirms my belief that chain stores have nothing on businesses like Victor Lundeen Company, which clearly values the importance of outstanding customer service and friendliness.

You can bet, thanks to Paul Lundeen and to Pat Connelly, whom I met later that evening at Dairyland Drive In (that’s a forthcoming post), I left Fergus Falls the next morning with the warmest of feelings for this west central Minnesota community.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Paper packed near the presses.

Paper stacked near the presses.

A vintage stool caught my eye.

A vintage stool, between counters, caught my eye.

My husband noticed the wheels on a cart, made at the former Nutting Company in our community of Faribault.

My husband noticed the wheels on a cart made at the former Nutting Company in our community of Faribault.

I aimed my camera down to shoot this lovely old cabinet.

I aimed my camera down to shoot this lovely old cabinet.

The art of well-known Fergus Falls resident Charles Beck, noted for his woodcut prints, featured in two books printed by Victor Lundeen Company. The books are sold in the bookstore. Across the street, you can view Beck's art at the Kaddatz Galleries.

The art of well-known Fergus Falls resident Charles Beck, noted for his woodcut prints, featured in two books printed by Victor Lundeen Company. The books are sold in the bookstore. Across the street, you can view Beck’s art at the Kaddatz Galleries.

TO VIEW PREVIOUS posts from Fergus Falls, see yesterday’s post and check my mid-June 2011 archives. Watch for more stories from this delightful community.

© Copyright 2103 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Steele County showcases history in a big way July 10, 2012

Five-year-old David of Faribault, aka Apache Shadow, was among costumed reenactors from the Old West Regulators.

WHEN THE STEELE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY in Owatonna throws an extravaganza, they put on a heckuva an event.

Late Sunday morning my husband Randy and I headed about 15 miles south on Interstate 35 to the Village of Yesteryear for the historical society’s 26th annual celebration of history. I cannot believe that I’ve never known about this extravaganza, which I’d recommend to anyone interested in a free family-friendly day of learning about the past.

Kids, like Kennedy, right, were drawn to the water and the old-fashioned wringer.

Owatonna resident Tom Gray carves a mountain man.

From hands-on demonstrations of rope making to washing clothes the old-fashioned way to printing on an aged press to carving wood and working with leather, and more, we observed an array of dedicated and passionate historians showcasing yesteryear.

Two actresses shoot it out in a scenario presented by the Old West Regulators.

Add in costumed reenactors modeling period attire and shooting it out in mini dramas; a country singer crooning Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart;” kids circled around a table in an old country school crafting corn husk dolls; tractors snail-crawling toward the finish line in a slow tractor race; the tantalizing aroma of shredded pork sandwiches and the refreshing promise of icy root beer; 15 buildings, most of them vintage, plus a caboose to tour, and you have a full day.

Dunnell Lenort, who has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and elsewhere, presented a selection of songs, including “I Fought the Law.” It was, he said, “for those who have been on the wrong side of the law.”

Kids learned how to make corn husk dolls inside the former District 14 country school, built in 1856 and located about four miles south of Owatonna along Lemond Road. The school was closed by consolidation in 1962.

Lest you think the John Deere won this race, you would be wrong. The winner here was the tractor which drove the slowest along about a 50-foot stretch to the finish line in a slow tractor race.

Randy expected we would be there an hour; we left more than four hours later and could have stayed longer. We missed the vintage baseball game and other events.

Pete the printer at work in the Village of Yesteryear print shop.

Of course, my spouse will tell you that, had I not been so interested in the village print shop, we could have knocked perhaps 30 minutes off our extravaganza tour. But given my journalism background; two years of employment at a weekly newspaper which printed auction bills and other items on an old Linotype machine; and my appreciation for the art of printing, I was fascinated by the working print shop and its resident printer, Pete Baxter.

Randy indulged my print obsession and I, likewise, later feigned interest in the engine display over in the agricultural section of the extravaganza.

Letters laid out to spelling “printing.”

Let’s back up to that print shop and printer Pete, who once owned North Cal Printing, as you would expect, in California. Family brought Pete to Minnesota about a dozen years ago. And the old print shop at the Village of Yesteryear was one of the deciding factors in his settling specifically in Owatonna.

Today he’s an enthusiastic volunteer who dons a printer’s apron as he educates visitors, spins a few stories and inks up the press to spew out bookmarks and cards with messages like “Without a love for books the richest person is poor.”

Spend any time with this man who owns a library of 1,500 volumes; is a member of The Wördos, an organization which meets monthly in the metro to discuss errors in local and national media; and who knows the ins and outs of the printing business, and your interest in printing is likely to grow, too. When he mentioned the bit about The Wördos and their dissection of media grammar, usage and more, I wanted to grab back the business card I’d handed him for fear of him scrutinizing my writing. But I didn’t.

I wasn’t about to allow my insecurities to interfere with learning from an old-school printer educated in the 1940s at California Polytechnic State University during the transition from letterpress to offset printing.

Pete’s interest in printing stretches back to his childhood when he often accompanied his dad to a California street car station and stood at the window of a nearby newspaper office watching printers at work.

One day, as Pete dramatizes with arms gesturing, a worker exited the print shop, grabbed him by the arm and shouted, “Get your snot nose off my window.” He hauled young Pete inside, gave him a tour, and, as the printer says, “I was hooked.”

The next Christmas, he received a toy printing press and a case of type. Years later, he would earn a printing degree from Cal Poly and eventually own a print shop.

An original OZ Press print of the Indian princess after whom Owatonna is named, on display in the print shop.

That Pete the printer understands and appreciates printing is obvious to anyone who takes the time, as I did, to listen. He’s quick to spotlight the work of Owatonna’s probably most notable press, OZ Press. OZ co-owners Alice Ottinger and Jean Zamboni—thus the OZ name—donated an 1885 working printing press and artwork to the Village of Yesteryear print shop. Their press specialized in original art printing and silk screening during its 40 years in business, 22 of them in Owatonna.

Jean Zambonia, left, talks about OZ Press at the artisan market. Framed OZ Press prints, on the table, were for sale.

Later I met Jean Zamboni in the new Steele County History Center and learned that she taught art at Minnesota State University, Mankato, before opening her press with friend Alice Ottinger. They designed some program covers for the college, did silk screening and eventually determined they could afford to start a press.

“So that was it,” Jean summarized as she stood next to a table where a limited selection of OZ framed prints were sold at the extravaganza. I wish now that I’d purchased one.

And you likely wish, about now, that I’d informed you of the Steele County Historical Society Extravaganza before the event. Mark it on your calendar for next July. Before that, though, you can attend Christmas in the Village, set for 4:30 – 8:30 p.m. Friday, November 30, and again from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 1. The holiday celebration includes sleigh rides, visits by Santa and Mrs. Claus, children’s activities, selected buildings decorated for the season, a cookie sale, music and more. If it’s anything like the summer extravaganza, you will not want to miss it.

The general store and Museum of Professions at the Village of Yesteryear.

FYI: Click here to learn more about the Village of Yesteryear. Watch for several more posts from the extravaganza to be published here on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Inside the Hamilton Wood Type Museum & the Target connection August 17, 2011

A picturesque view of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, as seen from the historic Rogers Street Fishing Village.

We treated ourselves to ice cream sundaes after the museum visit.

IF NOT FOR MY SECOND DAUGHTER’S neighbor mentioning a day trip to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, I might never have discovered the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum or its connection to Minnesota-based Target.

The retailing giant collaborated with the museum on a recently-released fall Vintage Varsity collection promoted as “Cool Never Fades.”

With vintage so in vogue right now, Target definitely found the right place for designers to authenticate this new line. Hamilton made wood type from 1880-1985 and boasts a collection of 1.5 million pieces, the largest in the world. Target dipped into that collection to create graphics for the Vintage Varsity line.

The Target connection, however, wasn’t my reason for visiting Two Rivers, a city of 13,000 just south of Door County. Rather, Lake Michigan drew me here on a recent Sunday when my husband, son and I were visiting our daughter Miranda at her Appleton home 50 miles to the west.

My family can assure you that fashion wouldn’t draw me anywhere. But wood type would.

So, when I planned our day trip from Appleton to Two Rivers, Hamilton Wood Type ranked high on my must-see list, right after Lake Michigan. A promise to the teenage son of ice cream afterward at the historic Washington House, just across the street from the museum, kept him from complaining too much about my museum meandering. Interestingly enough, the sundae originated in Two Rivers in 1881.

Had I opted to take the official Hamilton tour, I likely would have learned much more about Hamilton Manufacturing Company and the museum, which also includes a collection of 1930s – 1970s advertising cuts, wood type and Linotype equipment, tools and more. The manufacturing company, which once made medical office furniture, appliances and more, is still in business today producing steel lab equipment.

Hamilton manufactured the first gas-powered clothes dryers.

The museum is a self-supporting, working museum where artists and designers and others get hands-on experience in wood type printing and where custom printing is done, according to a Minneapolis woman who was printing at the museum on the day I visited.

In all honesty, Hamilton’s historical details didn’t interest me. Rather, I was here because of my decades-earlier connection to Linotype and because of my profession. During my first job out of college in 1978, I worked as a reporter at The Gaylord Hub, a small-town weekly newspaper that still used hot metal type to create auction bills and other custom printing. At the time, I failed to appreciate this fading art. Rather, I found the constant clack-clack-clack of the vintage machines bothersome, especially when conducting phone interviews.

Today my attitude has changed. I appreciate printing as an art. I took that perspective to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum and knew, even before I stepped inside the 1927 building, that my focus would be visual.

The Hamilton complex of buildings covers blocks.

The building exterior features aesthetically appealing letters and punctuation.

My eyes swept across the nothing-fancy, industrial space filled with letters in more fonts and sizes than I could ever imagine. Posters. Colors. Graphics. Drawers upon drawers upon drawers that I wished I could pull open. Machines. Cement floors and brick walls. Jumbled pieces of wood and smeared paint cans, and brushes hung on walls.

I felt almost overwhelmed by the photographic possibilities, the kaleidoscope of colors and shapes that changed as I circled the room.

Everywhere you'll see letters and numbers in differing sizes and fonts, a visual delight.

One of the many vintage prints you'll see in the museum.

Rows upon rows of tempting drawers, presumably filled with wood type.

An oversized vintage photo anchors the wall you first see upon entering the museum.

John Burnet, an early engraver at Hamilton.

Lines of type.

One of the many graphic cuts you'll see in the museum.

Only when I was in a back room, where the Minneapolis artist was printing and the museum manager/tour guide chastised me for taking his photo without asking, did I think about the Target collection. I had passed by a clothing rack earlier, hadn’t even looked. But then the Minnesotan mentioned Target. So on my way out the door I paused, shot a quick photo and then joined the impatient teen for an ice cream sundae across the street.

A t-shirt I pulled from the rack of clothing at the museum. I don't know whether this is from the Target collection, because I didn't check.

Stacks of paint cans clue you in that this is a working museum.

Prints hang on a wall in one of the back rooms.

This photo shows printers' aprons and, to the back, the wall just inside the museum entry.

The entry provides a sweeping view of the museum.

FYI: For more information about the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, click here. The museum is open from1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday and from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday from May 1 to October 31. Winter hours are from noon – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and Saturday by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling