Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 10—The Golden Era 1921–1930 (Part II)
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 have curated at The Opalka Gallery of The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. The exhibition runs from October 3 to December 15, 2017.
Although Strathmore had begun to rely on famous artists and designers in the 1920s, some of its liveliest sample books of the decade were illustrated and designed by unknown individuals. Several of them are shown in here in chronological order. Compare them to the sample books displayed in the previous blog post Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 9.
The illustration on the cover of the Strathmore Parquetry Cover sample book (above) reflects the influence of the Paper Is Part of the Picture campaign introduced that year. Even more modern is the minimal, bleed illustration on the cover of the sample book for Araby Covers. Its depiction of Arabs manages to avoid caricature. This was no mean feat in an era when racist and ethnic stereotypes were still common in American advertising, including a “darkie” Aladdin with magic lamp on the cover of Strathmore’s first sample book for Aladdin Writings (1919).
Strathmore’s sample books finally caught up with the Art Deco trend at the end of the 1920s. The covers of swatch books for Rhododendron Cover and Rhododendron Box Cover papers sport a stylized bellhop and lettering similar to the new Parisian typeface from American Type Founders. The circular head of the bellhop ties him to the “funny little man” trope of the time that Virginia Smith explored in her 1993 book of that name.
Although these final two swatch books* date from 1930 and thus are not technically part of the 1920s, they fit in more with Strathmore’s efforts in that decade than with what came after 1931. Munsell Cover papers were introduced by Strathmore in 1925. They were named after Albert H. Munsell (1858–1918), creator of the Munsell Color System which was promoted in Strathmore’s landmark book A Grammar of Color (1921). Note the stylized thistle pattern at the far left.
The Bay Path Bond swatch book cover is the most “moderne” of all of the surviving Strathmore swatch and sample books in the archive at Mohawk. The lettering is based on Bernhard Gothic, issued by American Type Founders in 1929. The plant leaves have typical reductive Art Deco stylized elements. To appreciate how much had changed at Strathmore during the 1920s I have included the cover of the c.1922 swatch book for Strathmore Bay Path Bond following the one from 1930.
*swatch books gather together blank swatches of the different colors and weights of a paper line; in contrast sample books include designs using those paper stocks.