Paper Is Part of the Picture no. 11—4-Group Plan Handbook (1926)

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.

Strathmore 4-Group Plan Handbook (1926). Design by George F. Trenholm. Photograph by Vincent Trinacria.

Strathmore 4-Group Plan Handbook (1926). Design by George F. Trenholm. Photograph by Vincent Giordano.

In 1912 Strathmore Paper Co., after Will Bradley’s reorganization of the combined Mittineague and Woronoco paper lines, had 61 different sample books. They were arranged in four groups that reflected their intended function: Writing Papers, Book Papers, Cover Papers and Bristols, and Business Announcement Stocks. Over time that arrangement shifted a bit (e.g. the 65 lines of paper in 1916 were divided up into Bonds & Ledgers, Writings, Books & Text, and Covers) but usage was still the guiding principle through World War II. These groupings were intended as much for internal inventory purposes as for external sales efforts.

But in 1926 Strathmore introduced a new way of looking at its paper lines that was clearly motivated by a desire to sell more of its papers across the board. They were divided up into four groups based on the intended mood or tone of the printed piece: Distinguished, Prestige, Everyday, and Decorative. Thus, Alexandra Japan was placed in the Distinguished Group; Munsell Cover and Rhodendron Box Cover  in the Prestige Group; Bannockburn Cover and Fanfare (introduced in 1927) in the Decorative Group; while Strathmore Saxonet and Strathmore Highway Cover (introduced in 1931) were in the Everyday Group, and so on. This rebranding was done by Strathmore to encourage printers to see that its papers could be used for a wide range of purposes, customer needs, and price ranges—not just for high-class projects.

Strathmore assembled its new paper groups into a large album of swatch samples, the Strathmore 4-Group Handbook. The back cover explained the new concept:

There is a Strathmore Paper for every printing purpose
For everyday printing… Inexpensive papers… The Everyday Group
For better or prestige printing… Better papers… The Prestige Group
For best or distinguished printing… Best papers… The Distinguished Group
When you need a “decorative” background… Wide price range… The Decorative Group

The album also included a pocket of “Miniature Reproductions of Printed Advertising” that offered suggestions for layout, color and typography using Strathmore papers. The whole thing was designed by George F. Trenholm.