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Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop

Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop

by Paul Kingsbury, Jim Sherrarden, Elek Horvath

In this age of digital media, the handcrafted ethic and aesthetic of a Hatch Show Print poster is beyond compare. Country musicians and magicians, professional wrestlers and rock stars, all have turned to Nashville's historic Hatch Show Print to create showstopping posters. Established in 1879, Hatch preserves the art of traditional printing that has earned


In this age of digital media, the handcrafted ethic and aesthetic of a Hatch Show Print poster is beyond compare. Country musicians and magicians, professional wrestlers and rock stars, all have turned to Nashville's historic Hatch Show Print to create showstopping posters. Established in 1879, Hatch preserves the art of traditional printing that has earned a loyal following to this day (including the likes of Beck, Emmylou Harris, and the Beastie Boys). Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop is the first fully illustrated tour of this iconic print shop and also chronicles the long life and large cast of employees, entertainers, and American legends whose histories are intertwined with it. Complete with 190 illustrations—as well as a special book jacket that unfolds to reveal an original Hatch poster on the reverse—Hatch Show Print is a dazzling document of this legendary institution.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This is a book about Elvis and Jack Daniels. It is a tale of roadside circuses and itinerant minstrels, country music and rock 'n' roll. It is a fascinating story about rebirth and resurrection in the Deep South—of how a 100-year-old Nashville, Tennessee, poster shop struggled through hard times to become a modern-day design sensation.

Throughout the 1920s and '30s, Hatch Show Print's colorful broadsides and posters were a ubiquitous roadside attraction throughout the southeastern United States. The shop's advertisements for baseball games, concerts, carnivals and other small town events were pasted prominently on everything from barns to brick walls and hung conspicuously in storefronts, bars and theater windows.

Hatch Show Print could trace its origins back to Reverend William T. Hatch, a minister and northern businessman who moved to Nashville in 1875 with the hopeof cashing in on the city's thriving print industry. Hatch entered into business as a publisher, and following his death in 1879 the Reverend's two sons took over the family business. Work was steady and by the turn of the century the shop began producing numerous broadsides—show posters—for plays, theater groups and vaudeville acts.

In 1921, Will T. Hatch continued the family tradition. He often carved large, multicolor printing blocks by hand and this distinct style set Hatch's posters apart from other posters commonly designed only with commercial type. Will Hatch's timing was fortuitous—radio was a growing presence in America and the careers of entertainers that toured the South relied heavily on posters to spread the work. The buisness continued to grow and by the 1950s, the bulk of the shop's work was commissioned by Nashville's booming country music scene. Hatch produced posters for the likes of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and even an upstart Elvis Presley.

Fast-forward to the early-1980s. Increased competition, poor management and inexpensive offset printing threatened to put the letterpress shop out of business. Recognizing Hatch's unique history, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry stepped in to acquire the shop in 1986. To compete with desktop technology and the clean look of digital type, Hatch's posters began to emphasize the tactile qualtiy fo handset wood type, drawing upon their historical collection of battered typefaces and hand-carved printing blocks. Their rough-hewn design style was immediately recognized as unique—and authentic. Under the directorship of Jim Sherraden, the shop slowly rebuilt its business and in its current incarnation, Hatch Show Print enjoys widespread acclaim. The shop produces award-winning work for major music labels, book publishers and advertising agencies. They also print posters for an increasingly eclectic group of musicians ranging from REM to The Wailers, to Jewel. But despite their success, Hatch Show remains surprisingly accessible. In addition to the high-visibility projects, Hatch Show continues to take on the proletarian—the small clients and struggling bands that literally walk in off the street.

This book reconstructs the shop's 130-year-old past, but cleverly avoids getting buried in nostalgia. It covers a diverse range of topics, from technical information about letter-press printing to Hatch's role in musical, cultural and design history, and also includes plenty of reproductions of posters that will make the typographer and designer's mouth water. The book is well-designed and well-photographed, and typical of Hatch's quirky, clever design style, the dust jacket of the book folds out into a full-size poster. The poster provides a nice sense of scale and helps give more meaning to the smaller reproductions in the book.

Today Hatch Show Print is a working museum, its walls lined with an archive of oversized wooden letters and hand-cut engravings, and restrikes of historical posters. Their shop attracts tourists, visitors and the occasional graphic designer, many of whom make the pilgr

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Readers bleary and exhausted from the ceaseless hard sell of contemporary advertising will be refreshed and entertained by this loving and lavish look at a world of advertising that, if no less commercial, is certainly easier on the eye. Since 1879, when it was founded by the brothers for which it is named, Nashville's Hatch Show Print Shop has produced using handcrafted letterpress methods clearly explained in the text an astounding variety of posters and ephemera advertising everything from trailers to state fairs, wrestling matches to circuses, Roberto Duran to Dwight D. Eisenhower. But most of the work reproduced here in 190 lush color and b&w illustrations is devoted to announcements of musical events (unsurprising, given the shop's location), from Hank Williams to Bo Diddley, Emmylou Harris to Buddy Guy. Visual highlights include a strikingly vivid full-page portrait of Roy Acuff, trailer ads with the iconic immediacy of early Warhol and an ad for pure sausage that practically smokes off the page. Interwoven as well with the authors' engaging oral history (Sherraden and Horvath help to run the shop) are such tidbits as business letters from Bessie Smith and Col. Tom Parker, but the bulk of the book is rightly given to reproducing the posters that so powerfully evoke the music and Nashville itself. (May 17) Forecast: After changes of hands beginning in the 1950s, the still operational Hatch was donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. The book's pub date coincides with the opening of the CMHF's new, $37-million museum complex. Chronicle continues to solidify its position in packaging primary-source curios for popular consumption, from recent huge-scale projects like The Beatles Anthology to The Good Citizen's Handbook, a compilation of mid-20th-century government handbooks and pamphlets. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A fully illustrated tour of Nashville's Hatch Show Print, the iconic institution that has produced show posters for entertainers of all kinds, from country musicians to magicians, professional wrestlers to rock stars. The volume reveals how Hatch Show Print maintains its fidelity to the aesthetic of hand-set, hand-inked, and hand-cranked printing despite the encroachment of modern technology, and how its modern designs fuse the old and new. The 175 illustrations include historical photographs and posters. Sherraden and Elek Horvath are associated with Hatch Show Print, and Paul Kingsbury directs education and special research for the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Oversize: 10.5x10.5<">. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.12(w) x 10.12(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
13 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The Hatch Show Print story is indeed a colorful one that encompasses the history of the South, of American entertainment, and of graphic design, for Hatch is a place where history has been preserved on the fly and where to this day, the clock is turned backward, even in the midst of a bustling business.

The story begins in 1875. The Civil War had ended only ten years earlier. Vanderbilt University—a philanthropic attempt to reconcile the North and South financed by Northern transportation magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt—had been founded on the city's western border just two years before. Nashville was shaking off its war-torn memories and flexing its muscle as a burgeoning transportation and printing hub.

That same year, the Rev. William T. Hatch, a minister and small business man from the North, moved to Nashville and opened a publishing business downtown. From this modest beginning, the seeds of Hatch Show Print were sown.

Born in 1812, the Rev. Hatch had previously lived inIndianaand had run a printing shop in Prescott, Wisconsin, where he taught his sons, Charles and Herbert, the trade. Nashville's reputation as a thriving printing and publishing center probably attracted the Rev. Hatch. As he must have known, Christian publishing was on the rise in Nashville. The Methodist Church had founded its publishing house in Nashville in 1854, and by the end of the decade publishing firms affiliated with the Southern Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Church of Christ, the Seventh Day Adventists, and other churches had also established residence in Nashville. Each denomination printed bibles, hymnals, and periodicals for the region and the nation. As a result, by the turn of the century Nashville was the fifth leading publishing center in the nation.

From a printer's perspective, the Rev. Hatch must have seen the town as an attractive destination. Because of the many religious publishers in town, Nashville boasted plenty of printing presses, skilled labor, and affordable supplies such as ink and paper. In addition, it was centrally located (an important consideration for transporting and mailing publications), and it was a regular port of call for steamboats plying the Cumberland River as well as a railroad nexus for trains on the busy L&N and Tennessee Central routes.

The Rev. Hatch wasted no time making his mark in Nashville as the editor and publisher of Southern Industries, an eight-page weekly business newspaper. Settling comfortably into his new hometown, he rose quickly in the civic hierarchy, gaining an appointment as Nashville's Assistant Commissioner of Immigration. In 1879, however, in a sad reversal of fortune, the office of Southern Industries burned to the ground. The Rev. Hatch died the following year.

But a seed had been planted. In April 1879, the Rev. Hatch's sons, twenty-seven-year-old Charles and twenty-five-year-old Herbert, opened their own printing shop on 22 North Cherry Street (now Fourth Avenue South). Because the spacious building at this address was also the site of Nashville's biggest newspaper at the time, the Nashville Banner, it's probable that the Hatch shop leased space from the Banner. Hatch company legend has it that Charles—who briefly worked for the Banner—and Herbert bought a portion of the Banner's letterpress printing department when it was put up for sale shortly before the Hatch brothers opened their printing shop in 1879.

The sale probably made good business sense from the Banner's perspective: letterpress technology was already in decline as the faster, mechanized printing method of offset lithography was coming into play. But the sale probably made sense for the Hatch brothers as well: letterpress printing, though labor intensive, was still cost-effective for the smaller print runs for show posters and signs. At that time, both rubber and linoleum cost considerably more than wood, and wood allowed for designs to be drawn (and then carved) directly onto the printing surface in reverse, saving time. In any event, here is where Hatch Show Print begins, though the shop was then known simply as "C. R. & H. H. Hatch, Printers."

Printing of all kinds was a growing industry in the late 1800s in Nashville, then a town of 43,000 people. The new Hatch shop was one of fifteen printers to be found in the city in 1880; four other printers could be found with them on Cherry Street. The first poster ever created at Hatch was made on April 12, 1879. It was a 6 x 9-inch "dodger," or handbill, announcing the speaking appearance of Henry Ward Beecher, who in addition to being a noted minister, author, and public speaker, was brother to Harriet Ward Beecher, arguably the most popular American novelist of the mid-nineteenth century and author of the best-selling novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.

With the Henry Ward Beecher poster, all of the key elements that would come to characterize a Hatch Show Print design were in place: late nineteenth-century typography, letterpress printing technology, woodblocks, and metal type.

Another Hatch job from this period (circa 1885) provides the earliest example of a Hatch show poster. This dodger featured Margaret Mather, "the World's Greatest Juliet," performing in Romeo and Juliet during her "First Appearance in Nashville." We can smile today at the dated show business references to "The Most Complete and Expensive Representation of Shakespearean Plays Ever Given to the World," the company of 120 people "Whose Ages Range from 5 to 75 Years," the "4 Carloads of Scenery," and the ticket prices listed under one dollar, "notwithstanding the tremendous expenses attached to this production." But posters like this were very effective publicity. However wordy, the advertising slogans of the day connected with the public. (Margaret Mather herself had the interesting distinction of being married for a short time to Col. Gustav Pabst, son of Fredrick Pabst, founder of the Pabst Brewing Company.)

Around this time, the Hatch brothers gained a significant show client in the thriving realm of vaudeville productions, with the New York-based Keith-Albee-Orpheum theater chain (one of the nation's oldest) ordering Hatch posters regularly to promote vaudeville shows throughout its chain of theaters. Hatch also managed to catch the first mass-media wave of the post-vaudeville era: motion pictures. Two small Hatch woodblocks have survived in the current-day collections of Hatch, carved with the names of William S. Hart and Tom Mix, probably the most popular western stars of the silent film era. Hart starred in more than sixty silent films in eleven years with such memorable titles as Hell's Hinges (1916), Blue Blazes Rawden (1918), and Three Word Brand (1921). Tom Mix, by contrast, was a much more prolific actor and colorful character who—often "With His Wonder Horse Tony"—starred in more than three hundred films and started a circus after the "talkies" took a toll on his film career in the early 1930s. The posters made from these blocks were used regionally by movie theaters in the South to entice customers through their doors.

Even as Hatch was becoming involved in producing show posters that mirrored the history of American entertainment, the firm often had to rely on the bread-and-butter print jobs brought by businesses, organizations, and people of its own community. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Hatch brothers printed work for a variety of nonentertainment purposes, such as evangelistic services, Fisk University programs, farm posters, houses-for-sale, contests, tickets and election ballots, the Tennessee State Fair, the Vanderbilt Athletic Association, the Presbyterian Mission School, and the White Front Cafe. The same basic balance of print jobs is maintained at the shop to this day: some of these jobs still comprise part of a typical Hatch work load.

Still, show printing remained the Hatch brothers' primary occupation, as the name of the business would soon make clear. A Hatch advertisement placed in the December 18, 1920 edition of entertainment trade magazine The Billboard wished its readership "The Season's Greetings." Under this heading appeared the first known usage of "Hatch Show Print," in bold letters and over the smaller print "C. R. & H. H. Hatch, Nashville, Tenn."

No one knows for sure when the term "show print" was coined or when the name came to be used exclusively by the firm, although there's an amusing explanation from Mai Cook Fulton—a Hatch bookkeeper who started work in 1934 and was a fixture for years in the shop—that might serve as the last word. "I changed the name from C. R. & H. H. Hatch because of their slogan 'We Crow About Our Good Work.' I didn't want people thinkin' I worked at a hatchery, so I changed it to Hatch Show Print."

For all their hard work in building the Hatch business, not much information on the two brothers has survived into the present beyond a few pictures of stalwart citizens sporting prominent mustaches. They both were born in Indiana, Charles in 1853 in Knightstown, Herbert in 1854 in Franklin. Both brothers were married, and it's likely that Charles's wife, Mary Spaulding Hatch, worked in the shop, perhaps as a bookkeeper.

We also know that Charles's son, William (or Will) T. Hatch (born in 1886 and named for his paternal grandfather), was raised in his father's shop and—in keeping with family tradition—learned the craft of printmaking "after school, on Saturdays, and during vacations," as he told one publication in his later years. "That's why," he continued, "though comparatively young in years, I was well trained in all branches of the work when I took active management of the firm after my father died."

The year Will T. Hatch took over the shop was 1921. Four years later Will's uncle Herbert was dead as well. Yet Hatch Show Print was just beginning to realize its potential and about to enter a golden thirty-year stretch of show print history, led by the redoubtable Will Hatch.

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Copyright © 2001 The Catholic University of America Press. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Paul Kingsbury an award-winning author of several books and Deputy Director of Educational Research and Special Projects of the Country Music Foundation. All three authors live in Nashville.

Jim Sherraden who has been the manager of Hatch Show Print since 1984.

Elek Horvath a deputy at Hatch Show Print and is well-versed in its history, lore, and technical aspects.

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