Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tickets to Nowhere

Old tickets aren't always just yesterday's trash. The value can be a visual record of their design, or perhaps a record of a significant event, time or place. Expired tickets are usually discarded once they are used, so they are one of the most ephemeral of paper items. In fact I recently found the 1942 Stanford vs. Santa Clara Football game ticket below in a recycling bin, along with several others of the same era. I love these two tickets featured above and below, as they are great examples of overprinting text onto illustrations, and they are a typographic record of time. Although there is no date on the Dubuque Railway ticket, I would place it mid-to-late-19th century, based upon the fontstyles of the first two lines of text. The slab serif on the first line is a bit unusual, particularly because of the great contrast between the thick and thin strokes on the S, and the weight on all of the letters' horizontal strokes as well. The "5" on the second line looks like a tuscan style letter, popular in wood type fonts in the mid-19th century, but this small size had to have been printed with metal type.

This more recent ticket for a 1969 performance of "Hair" at the Aquarius Theater in LA was given to me recently by my neighbor. It may not necessarily be as visually interesting, but I rather like it with all the Futura cap letters, various weights and sizes, and the oddly random alignment. It was also just like every other ticket around at the time. (I'd file it under "theatrical typography" ;)




This particular ticket actually does take me somewhere. It takes me back to the 30th National Square Dance Convention I attended 33 years ago. I wasn't there to dance, but dropped by as a spectator, with my camera. I hadn't squared danced since I did the hokey pokey on roller skates at the local "Skateland" roller rink when I was a kid. No, I just came to watch from the stadium bleachers, as a group of 28,000 twirling (NOT twerking;) square dancers set a world record for the largest number to dance to one caller. It was a wonder to behold. To see these adorable couples—some as old as 80+ years—in their his-and-her matching ensembles parading into the stadium against a wall covered with anarchy symbols and "The Clash" graffiti, was every bit worth the $1 admission. (Sadly, my 35mm slides of that day have never been digitized, or I would include some here.) I guess I saved this ticket all these years as a happy reminder, but I never noticed until today, the scowling faces of the two dancers. 
     All of the tickets above are from my personal collection, but the random variety below are recent unearthed eBay finds, all costing more than their original admission fee. Many more can be found there.











Most commercial tickets today are printed digitally, which don't hold the same fascination. Roll tickets with consecutive numbers are an exception, and are still available. One name which frequently pops up in the world of specialized ticket printing is the Globe Ticket Company. In fact, you can see their name printed at the bottom of a few of these amusement park tickets and the earlier "Hair" ticket. The story of the Globe Ticket Company goes back to 1868, when 12 year-old Walter Hering found a $5 bill on a Philadelphia street and used it to purchase a small printing press. He took in small print jobs for calling cards, and soon outgrew the small room in his house. Years later, his business expanded to printing large ticket orders for theater companies in New York and Philadelphia. In 1900, he built a larger facility, the Globe Ticket Company Building, at the site of his birthplace in Philadelphia. In 1984 this was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for preservation. I guess Walter printed his own ticket to fame and fortune. All for a $5 investment in a printing press.    

7 comments:

  1. Wonderful, where ever do you find all these things!

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    1. Ha! I just keep my nose to the ground...it's a blessing and a curse!

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  2. I adore this post and the tickets -- specially the scowling dancers. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Jane! I love those scowling dancers as well. Too much ink made their smiling faces turn upside down ; )

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  3. What a great success story! Where is Ripley when we need him?

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  4. I just discovered your blog and I love it! Really interesting both visually and informationwise. You seem to put a lot of research into this. As for this post: I collect tickets too (not vintage ones, but still) and I love that memories come back when I look at them. I still have one with an elephant on it from visiting the zoo when I was a child :)

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    1. Thanks for visiting Rahel, and welcome to Letterology Land!

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