Impressions of Hamilton: 2009-2016
Featuring Madison College Graphic Design and Illustration Program and Giegerich’s Sons
Thursday, September 1, 2016-Monday, December 5, 2016
8am-8pm on school days (check calendar)
Reception: Friday, September 23, 5:30pm-7:30pm
Art Talk with Jim Moran: 6pm
Wood has been used for letterforms and illustrations dating back to the first known Chinese wood block print from 868 CE. The forerunner of the block print in China was the wooden stamp. In America, with the expansion of the commercial printing industry in the first years of the 19th century, it was inevitable that someone would perfect a process for cheaply producing the large letters so in demand for broadsides. A major step in the manufacture of wood type was the introduction of holly wood type in 1880 by James Edward Hamilton. This less expensive production method gave Hamilton an economic advantage over his competitors. Though the demand for wood type started to wane in the 1920s, Hamilton continued to produce wood type until very close to the end of the 20th century.
“When people see wood type they often remember the classic ‘Wanted’ poster,” says Historical Society board member Jim VanLanen. “If you discover the other printed items of our nation’s graphic history, you’ll find wood type in almost every historical society collection. You’ll find printed documents and posters that help illustrate how people communicated with each other. Whether it was the sale of horses or land, political rallies, booklets, packaging or circus posters – wood type helped express the message of that day.”
Edward Hamilton was born in Two Rivers and lived there until he was in his teens. When his father died fighting in the Civil War, his mother took her family to Lockport, NY, to be closer to her brothers-in-law, and for two years Hamilton attended Lockport High School. In 1868, the family moved back to Two Rivers, and at the age of 16, Edward went to work as a tender of a clothespin lathe in a chair and pail factory. Tending a clothespin lathe was not enough to satisfy Hamilton – in addition to figuring out ways to improve his production and the quality of his work, he volunteered in the engine room to learn about steam power and the mechanics of the equipment; next he managed a brick factory for his uncle until the business folded; and then he sought his fortune in the 1876 gold rush in South Dakota.
In 1878, back in Two Rivers, at the pail factory once again and determined to make his way in the business world, the opportunity presented itself that would put Two Rivers on the map and make Hamilton a name known among newspapers and print shops (and eventually housewives, dentists, doctors, architects, scientists and more) nationwide.
River Arts Inc. will be featuring an art exhibit, Impressions of Hamilton 2009-2016, which will depict both the history of Hamilton wood type as well as feature current works by the infamous museum. In an effort to connect regional history to our local history, we will be collaborating with Giegerich’s Sons, the oldest business in Sauk Prairie, and Tripp Heritage Museum to highlight printmaking in Sauk and how that process has evolved. Finally, we will be connecting historical processes of printmaking with current practices by collaborating with the Madison College Graphic Design program. Students will display their artwork at the River Arts Center and host a special print sale with proceeds benefiting their program.