Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 2—A Tale of Two Mills 1892–1911 (Part I)
This is the second blog post to accompany Paper Is Part of the Picture: Strathmore Paper and the Evolution of American Graphic Design 1892–2017, an exhibition that I have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Will Bradley and Horace Moses
The covers that Will Bradley (1868–1962) designed for The Inland Printer in 1894 and 1895—a heady mix of Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris—thrust him into the national spotlight.  Overnight he became the most famous graphic designer in America. But, in late 1895, at the height of Bradley mania, he left Chicago and moved to West Springfield, Massachusetts.  The move was fortuitous as it coincided with the perfecting of machine-made, deckle-edge paper by Horace Moses (1862–1947) of the Mittineague Paper Co., located less than three miles away on the Westfield River. Moses sought out Bradley as he was setting up The Wayside Press and asked him to design a sample book to promote the innovative paper. Although Bradley had planned to devote his press to publishing Bradley: His Book, an art and literary magazine, he was attracted to the printing possibilities of the deckle-edge paper and agreed to work with Moses. 
Moses, who had founded the Mittineague Paper Co. only a few years earlier in 1892, was inspired to create the Strathmore Deckle Edge Book and Writing Papers by the Arts & Crafts movement which was then in full swing. Thick handmade papers with deckle edges, used by William Morris for his Kelmscott Press books, were adopted by many other private presses and even copied by trade publishers seeking to give their books cachet. Deckle-edge papers were such a fad that they were used for stationery, trade catalogues, brochures and greeting cards. The deckle edge was a symbol of quality. But handmade papers with deckle edges were expensive. English papermakers had managed to create machine-made papers with deckle edges, but only on two sides. Moses’ innovation was a machine-made paper with deckles on all four sides. Moses made deckle-edge paper affordable.
Bradley liked the Strathmore Deckle Edge Book Paper so much that he had Bradley: His Book printed on it. (The coated paper was provided by the Hampden Glazed Paper and Card Co. of nearby Holyoke.) The magazine, which lasted from May 1896 to January 1897, was designed entirely by Bradley, including the advertisements. Among those in the first issue were four for paper companies, among them the Mittineague Paper Co.  The advertisment, entitled “A New Era in Fine Printing” read in part, “From a mere machine the modem printer is evolving into a genuine artist. Instead of nondescript type and any paper that will take ink, type and paper are made to harmonize. To people of taste we offer our Stratmore [sic] Deckle-Edge Book Paper. It is equal and in many respects superior to the genuine hand-made paper. The edge is long and feathery and gives a fine finish to untrimmed volumes.” 
Bradley’s use of Strathmore Deckle-Edge Book Paper provided an important imprimatur to the young paper company. More importantly, his sample book designs for Mittineague marked the first time that a paper company had used art and design to showcase its products. Before then, swatch books, rather than sample books, were the order of the day. Instead of showing how paper could be used, they merely indicated information about each sheet (size, basis weight, and color). The samples by Bradley were largely his own designs, some taken from Bradley: His Book (e.g. the May 1896 advertisement for the Phelps Publishing Co. with a rampant lion surrounded by ornamental foliage reappeared in the 1897 Strathmore Deckle Edge Papers sample book, the oldest one surviving in the Strathmore Archives at Mohawk). Among those that were not his, were some small illustrations by H.B. Eddy (1872–1935) taken from a profile in the July 1896 issue of Bradley: His Book.
Bradley continued to design sample books for Mittineague until 1900, first through The Wayside Press and then, after he sold his business to John Wilson & Son (The University Press) in Cambridge in the spring of 1898, as The Wayside Department of The University Press. As a group, they set a precedent for Moses and Mittineague that was carried on after Bradley turned to other work in New York City. Through the 1920s the company continued to issue sample books, including several very lavish ones, rather than mere swatch books.
1. Bradley’s work for The Inland Printer first appeared in the April 1894 issue, the beginning of a new volume—and a moment of economic optimism following the Panic of 1893. The editor boasted: “The Inland Printer is gratified to inform its readers that arrangements have been completed with Mr. Will H. Bradley to furnish for each issue of the present volume a new cover design and headpieces. Mr. Bradley’s work is already so well known that his name in connection with a design is sufficient guarantee of merit. No more favorable time to subscribe than now. Each issue promises to be quickly sold out. Do not delay your subscription.” The Inland Printer, vol. XIII, no. 1 (p. 70). Bradley designed the covers and headpieces for all issues of volumes 13 and 14 of The Inland Printer as well as several issues in volumes 15 to 17. The most famous of the covers was for the Christmas 1895 issue. Unfortunately, the issues of The Inland Printer available online at Hathitrust are missing their covers.
2. For a good overview of Bradley’s life, astonishingly inventive work, and varied career see Will H. Bradley: American Artist in Print: A Collector’s Guide by Robert Koch (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2002). For a good visual selection of Bradley’s work in print see Will H. Bradley, An American Artist: Selections from the Gordon A. Pfeiffer Collection, a website accompanying the 2015 exhibition of that name. However, the collection seriously underestimates the amount of work that Bradley did for Strathmore Paper Co.
3. Bradley: His Book was begun by Bradley as a chapbook in the prevalent Arts & Crafts mode, following journals such as The Knight Errant (1892–1893) and The Chap-Book (1894–1898).
4. The other paper company advertisements were for The Hampden Glazed Paper and Card Company, Magna Carta Bond from the Riverside Paper Company and Whiting’s Standard Linen from the Whiting Paper Company, all with mills in nearby Holyoke, Massachusetts.
5. The Mittineague Paper Company added Old Stratford and Old Chester papers with deckle edges to their lines in 1899. Not everyone was enamored of machine-made deckle edge paper in the 1890s. Some criticized it for pretending to be handmade paper and some worried about the extra effort involved in registering printing done on deckle edge paper. The latter was solved through the use of pins.