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Meriden Gravure Company records

 Collection
Call Number: GEN MSS 606

Scope and Contents

The Records consist of correspondence, office files, estimates, orders, cost recapitulation forms, proofs, and other material documenting the operation of the Meriden Gravure Company, a commercial printing company that rose to prominence in the early twentieth century through specialization in high-fidelity image reproduction. The records span the dates 1895 to 1990, with the bulk of the material falling between 1900 and 1977.

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.

Dates

  • 1895 - 1990
  • Majority of material found within 1900 - 1977

Creator

Language

English

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Meriden Gravure Company Records are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Meriden-Stinehour Press, 1981-1989, and Stinehour Press, 2006; five additional boxes transferred from Arts of the Book Collection, 2005-2006.

Arrangement

The records are organized into nine series: I. Office Files. II. Correspondence, 1900-1959. III. Correspondence, 1960-1981. IV. Orders. V. Estimates. VI. Recapitulation Forms. VII. Financial and Business Records. VIII. Printed Materials. IX. Meriden-Stinehour, Inc. Records.

Extent

400 Linear Feet ((361 boxes) + 1 broadside folder and 1 art object)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.mergravure

Overview

The Records consist of correspondence, office files, estimates, orders, cost recapitulation forms, proofs, and other material documenting the work of the Meriden Gravure Company, a printing company that rose to prominence in the early twentieth century through specialization in high-fidelity image reproduction.

Meriden Gravure Company

The Meriden Gravure Company was founded in Meriden, Connecticut, in 1888 by Charles Parker and James F. Allen, and grew out of an earlier printing endeavor by Parker.

Driven by the needs of the local silver industry, the company early developed an 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.

Administrative Timeline:

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.

Processing Information

The records remain largely in their original order as received from the Meriden Gravure Company, although some shifting was done to arrange material that was out of sequence within series. A number of large-format proof sets for books printed by Meriden Gravure and duplicate copies of a sample postcard prospectus were removed from the collection during processing and discarded. Published books were removed for separate cataloging or discard.
Title
Guide to the Meriden Gravure Company Records
Author
by Andrea Benefiel and Ellen Doon
Date
April 2008
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-02-10: Transformed with yale.addEadidUrl.xsl. Adds @url with handle for finding aid. Overwrites @url if already present.

Repository Details

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977