Meriden Gravure Company records
Scope and Contents
The records document the work of the company, including its history, internal culture, relationships with clients, and the business of printing. Correspondence between the printing plant in Meriden and the company's New York office documents the internal workings of the company. Correspondence with clients documents specific printing projects, as well as the company's attention to customer's needs. Correspondence can be found throughout the first three series, Office Files, Correspondence, 1900-1959 (arranged largely alphabetically) and Correspondence, 1960-1981 (arranged chronologically), and in Series V. Estimates. Specific print jobs can also be tracked using an order index located in Series V. Orders; the company used an order numbering system that appears to correspond between Series V. Orders, Series VI. Estimates, and Series VII. Recapitulation Forms.
The collection contains numerous examples of the company's work, mostly in proof form, and to some extent documents the technical processes that made it such a success. Of particular interest is a volume of typescript and hand-drawn instructions titled "Collotype Printing" by Arthur Sias, found in Series VII. Financial and Business Records. A run of "Office Records," also in Series VII, is a detailed record of the daily operation of the printing presses from 1895 to 1922.
Examples of the company's detailed reproductions exist chiefly in the Printed Material series, which contains finished samples as well as proofs. Earlier examples such as silver catalogs and postcards exhibit the detail achieved through the collotype process, while later work, such as proofs for Leonard Baskin's illustrations for the Divine Comedy, showcase the company's offset work. Proofs can also be found on the verso of interoffice correspondence.
The records also document the career of E. Harold Hugo, whose personal office files, within the Office Files series, include papers relating to his sales trips for the company, but also files related to his involvement with Old Sturbridge Village and other outside concerns. Hugo's files also include examples of printed matter collected from a number of other presses.
- 1888 - 1990
- Majority of material found within 1900 - 1977
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Access
Boxes 366-372 (personnel records): Restricted until 2055. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Box 374 (computer media): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies of electronic files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
June 2013 Acquisition: gift of Dartmouth College, 2013.
403.5 Linear Feet ((374 boxes) + 1 broadside, 1 art)
Language of Materials
Meriden Gravure Company
Driven by the needs of the local silver industry, the company developed an early expertise in high quality image reproduction. It perfected the use of the full-tone collotype printing method, and soon attracted business from other clients who required highly detailed image reproduction, including scientific journals, museums, libraries, and publishers of illustrated books. By the mid-twentieth century, the company was also using offset printing presses, for which it pioneered the use of the fine screened 300-line halftone process for art reproduction and scholarly facsimiles. Both reproduction methods were in use through 1967, when the collotype presses were retired. The company first offered color printing in the 1940s. Through careful quality control, including an insistence on photographing directly from the item to be reproduced and using high quality paper, Meriden Gravure achieved a reputation of consistent excellence in printed illustration.
In addition to an extensive list of academic and museum clients, Meriden Gravure enjoyed steady business from the commercial sphere. The General Electric Company was one of its biggest accounts, as was the United States government (the company earned classified status during World War II).
A driving force behind Meriden Gravure's success from the late 1920s on was E. Harold Hugo (1910-1985), who devoted his entire career to the company. After assisting at age fourteen with experiments to improve the collotype process, he remained dedicated to constant improvements in the quality of reproduction. His passion for fine presswork was additionally enhanced by the influence of printer Gregg Anderson, who worked at the company from 1932 to 1935. Hugo was, by all accounts, an inspired company director and its most energetic salesman. While he never finished college, his expertise and advocacy of fine printing earned him numerous honorary degrees, including an M.A. from Yale in 1963.
The Meriden Gravure Company had a natural counterpart in the Stinehour Press of Lunenberg, Vermont, which was devoted to high quality letterpress printing. The two companies were closely related and often collaborated; Hugo had been on Stinehour's Board of Directors since it was founded in the 1950s. Anticipating Hugo's retirement, the companies merged in 1977. Meriden-Stinehour Press maintained operations in both locations through 1989, when it closed the Meriden operation and moved the presses to Vermont.
1888 Meriden Gravure Company founded, Meriden, Connecticut
1890 James F. Allen begins as President
1924 Everett Harold Hugo begins work at MGC while in high school
1928 James F. Allen dies; his son Parker Allen becomes President; Hugo drops out of Northeastern University to help run the company
1942-1945 Parker Allen serves in armed forces; Hugo becomes Manager
1943 Hugo becomes Vice President
1962 Hugo becomes President
1975 John Peckham becomes President; Hugo becomes Vice Chairman
1977 MGC merges with Stinehour Press, becoming Meriden-Stinehour Press. Hugo is Chair of the Board
1989 Meriden facility is closed, all operations move to Lunenberg, Vermont
The following works were consulted in preparing this summary:
Peckham, John F. Adventures in printing : a talk on the career of Harold Hugo given at the Club of Odd Volumes. Lunenburg, VT : Stinehour Press, [1995?].
Walker, Gay, Harold Hugo & the Meriden Gravure Company. Wilsonville, Or. : G. Walker, 1995.
- Allen, James F.
- Allen, Parker B.
- Anderson, Gregg, 1908-1944
- Born digital
- Hugo, Harold
- Meriden Gravure Company -- Archives
- Meriden-Stinehour Press
- Offset photomechanical prints
- Offset printing
- Peckham, John Ford, 1918-
- Photomechanical processes
- Printers -- Connecticut -- Meriden
- Printing -- Connecticut -- Meriden
- Printing industry -- Connecticut -- Meriden
- Printing industry -- United States
- Guide to the Meriden Gravure Company Records
- by Andrea Benefiel, Ellen Doon, and Emma Gronbeck
- April 2008, revised March 2022
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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