Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 21—The Postwar Era
This is one in a series of blog posts accompanying Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition ran from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Horace Moses, the founder of the Mittineague Paper Company (the predecessor of the Strathmore Paper Company), died on April 22, 1947. His death marked the end of an era for the company, but since he had retired as the Chairman of the Board five years earlier, it had little impact on Strathmore’s postwar fortunes. Although it took Strathmore until 1954 to rebuild the number of paper lines to the level that existed in 1941, the recovery in the company’s promotional efforts had already begun by 1948 with the introduction of several new paper lines. (Its paper lines never again returned to the high of 65 lines achieved in 1916.)
In 1949 and 1950 Strathmore issued two elaborate portfolios to promote its correspondence papers, designed respectively by Charles Capon and Rudolph Ruzicka. For the latter, Ruzicka not only designed the portfolio itself, but he executed all of the sample letterheads, which ranged stylistically from classical to modern. Many of them are hand lettered, showcasing his versatility. ”The manner in which a company heads its correspondence paper is a problem of design—a problem of infinite variety,” stated Ruzicka about Strathmore Expressive Papers for Letterheads. “If the design is to have the stamp of originality and individuality, there obviously can be no set rules or formulas for a simple solution. Hence, every letterhead is a special problem and in devising the appropriate design, due regard must be given to a number of factors.”
Strathmore’s 1930s preference for illustrations on the covers of its swatch books continued in the postwar era, but fashions had changed. Gone were the flat, crisp, stylized drawings of the Art Deco/Art Moderne era. Now the drawings were looser, more figurative. Scripts replaced sans serif lettering. Richard Bartlett (1900–1987), a painter known for his scenes of Cape Cod, was responsible for several of the new swatch books between 1947 and 1953: two versions of Strathmore Beau Brilliant and one each of Strathmore Pastelle and Strathmore Saxon.
Cornelia J. Hoff
There have been only a few women involved in Strathmore’s paper promotions. One of them was Cornelia J. Hoff (b. 1904) of whom little is known. An online search turned up a number of references to children’s books and mathematics textbooks that she illustrated at the end of the 1920s and into the 1930s for Ginn & Co.; and in the 1940 United States census she described her occupation as commercial artist. For Strathmore, she was a designer as well as an illustrator. During the war she designed several streamlined thistles that were used on packing labels and packages. And in the 1950s she was responsible for the formats of the first two color-coded Strathmore swatch book lines, both of which used abstracted thistles as a repetitive and unifying element. Unfortunately, lack of space in the case devoted to the 1950s made it impossible to include Hoff’s work in The Opalka Gallery exhibition. This post is an attempt to remedy that oversight.