Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Talc Tins

I'm not a fan of talc, but I do take great delight in seeing some of the many ways it has been packaged over the years. Since 1893 talcs have been sold globally for use as a cosmetic, a baby powder and astringent to prevent diaper rash, and as a personal hygiene product for adults. During the latter half of the 20th century, talc gained a wider audience as manufacturers mercifully began marketing it to nearly any demographic. If you needed that perfect gift for the macho outdoorsmen in your life, Jolind Distributors marketed a gift set containing the manly Winchester After Shave Talc design with the pipe-smoking hunter, and the rugged Reel Man talc for the adventuresome pipe-smoking fisherman. For the gent whose idea of the great outdoors is a starlit lounge, there was a tin of Night Club talc with a mellow bar scene topped with some tantalizing brush lettering. 

Pretty Peach Talc by Avon, two sides with charming illustrations and decorative lettering | Source: Mable Rose

Mansco Baby Talc, Borated | Source: Advertising Antiques

Beauty Contest Talcum Powder, I believe to be from Nigeria, two sides | Source: Letterology archives

What the hell?

The talc in talcum powder; also known as toilet powder, after shave talc, or baby powder, comes from the crushing, drying and milling of mined talc rocks and contains minerals such as magnesium and silicon. Until the mid-1970s such products contained the toxic mineral asbestos, commonly linked to rare cancers of the lung. (Great! All of us baby boomers have been fully innoculated as babies!) Today, all talcum powders are essentially free of the naturally occurring mineral asbestos, however there continues to be reports of suspicious links between talc and ovarian cancer. Ongoing medical studies by the American Cancer Society and others have so far found claims to be inconclusive. Cornstarch is a great alternative to talcum powder people! 
     If this cautionary tale sounds bleak, it should; yet we have every reason to continue finding pleasure with the packaging of 20th century talc tins. They display a diverse overview of stylistic designs spanning more than a century. Tins vary as much in size and shape, as they do in design and lettering styles. If you happen to have an old pre-1970s talc tin, either keep it tightly sealed, or take care to empty the talc while wearing a face mask to prevent inhalation of any powder. You should then dampen the talc with water, and dispose as toxic waste. Do not put in trash! This concludes my public safety message on talcum powders.     

margo of mayfair's, With the Beatle's Talc (is that a piñata they are stepping on with their Beatle boots? And yes, we get the B is supposed to be a beetle.) | Source: Fellows Auction

Klein-Stillwell Borated & Perfumed talc | Source: Advertising Antiques 

 Lion Toilet Powder | Source: Advertising Antiques


Little Singer Mosquito Talcum (not sure I want to know what ingredients it contained) | Source: Advertising Antiques

Perfumed Talcum Powder for Infants & Adults | Source: Advertising Antiques

Prep Talcum (perhaps for the collegiate?) | Source: Advertising Antiques

Vantine's Sana-Dermal Talcum | Source: Advertising Antiques

Empress Toilet Powder | Source: Advertising Antiques

Humpty Dumpty Borated Talc and Baby Powder | Source: Advertising Antiques

Olivilo Velvety Talc | Source: Ruby Lane

Sweet Pea Talc | Source: Ruby Lane

The unusually economical Rawleigh's Talcum with balloon type! | Source: Decotique

A bit of talcum is always walcum. 
Ogden Nash

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

La Typographie

This first volume of La Typographie, on the techniques of book and graphic arts, was published in Paris in 1930 by Henry Babou under the direction of Marcel Valotaire. This cover photo by Jacques Evers is one of 30 photogravure plates of his work. I first discovered this beautiful French journal in the Wolfsonian archive at the University of Florida Digital Collections, however the title page seen just below was sourced here

These beautiful photogravure prints seen above of Evers photos are the only images available from the Wolfsonian Archives, however I was delighted to learn the entire book is made available from the International Monotype Memory Project (IMMP.) In their link to a black & white PDF (which appears to be from a reproduction), you can download this entire book complete with text (in French), photos and illustrations on the production of a fine press book;)

Monday, April 21, 2014

One Stop Print Shop

After nearly 40 years of printing, my dear friend Jules Remedios Faye of Stern & Faye Printers, has decided to considerably downsize her letterpress studio and would like to pass the baton (or the composing stick in this case) on to Myrna Knode, her spirited and hardworking apprentice. In order to purchase and move this legacy collection of type and printing equipment for her Expedition Press, Knode has recently begun a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. With just over 3 weeks to go she is closing in on her goal, but requesting additional help to secure this one-stop print shop opportunity. I predict that Knode and her Expedition Press will be going places someday soon.

A Glimpse of Modernist Type Design in Germany

This set of seven type specimen sample brochures, released by the Schriftguss A-G foundry in Dresden in the late 1930s, are not only great examples of modernist design, but a nice record of foundry types being created in Germany at that time. Many of these fonts such as Helion, Diamant, and Duplex appear just as modern today as when they were released in 1937. The entire lot of these four-page type specimen brochures are available here.

Luc Devroye's extensive informational archive of typography lists a number of the type designers associated with the Schriftguss foundry, and select pages from specimen catalogs. Also included is the original Schriftguss A-G logo.

At the end of WWII in 1945, Schriftguss and two other type foundries merged and were incorporated into the state-run East German foundry, VEB Typoart. The Typoart designers were a dedicated and passionate group who enjoyed a certain amount of artistic freedom, and chiefly responsible for developing typefaces for East German publishers. Shortly after the reunification of Germany in 1990, Typoart was sold into private hands who eventually dissolved the company in 1995. Unfortunately, the copyright status of many of the Typoart font designs remains unclear, but you can read a fascinating account at PingMag of their legacy and some independent efforts by various groups, including Typoart Friends who wish to further a campaign to document and revive these fonts and credit the individual designers.   

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Toy Story Legend

Via Silly Putty History

Peter Hodgson, Sr., (1912-1976) who starred in this 1951 Silly Putty TV commercial, was just another ad man down on his luck, writing copy for a small toy store catalog in New Haven, Connecticut when he first launched the idea of marketing a blob of silicone goop as a toy. The plastic goop was actually a failed experiment from General Electric scientists in New Haven who were looking to develop a synthetic rubber. Soon the non-toxic goo became the topic of conversation at a cocktail party where Mr. Hodgson first learned of it. 
     "Everybody kept saying there was no earthly use for the stuff, but I watched them as they fooled with it. I couldn't help noticing how people with busy schedules wasted as much as 15 minutes at a shot just fondling and stretching it" Hodgson later recalled. 
     After placing his first ad in the 1949 toy catalog, Hodgson borrowed $147 to package and fill orders. Silly Putty soon became an overnight success. Sales of the seemingly useless goo packaged in a plastic egg quickly expanded into 22 other countries, reaching over $5 million in annual sales. Mr. Hodgson was living the dream. 

Via Click Americana

"The Real Solid Liquid" as Silly Putty came to be known, was an American toy story legend simply because Mr. Hodgson viewed the useless silicone blob through a new set of eyes. From trash to treasure—he didn't see it as a failed experiment—he saw it as "fun for the whole family." It's all just context. With a logo of putty-like lettering, and packaging of a faux wood-grained television set, Silly Putty was ready for prime time. 
     For many of us, it was also our first introduction to printmaking. Who couldn't resist pulling impressions of favorite comic characters and stretching them until they snapped? This toy was magic—it could do anything!

Via 4|CP

Though seemingly harmless...it was not. I'm sure I wasn't alone to find I was the victim of another bad haircut after falling asleep with Silly Putty—only to wake up with it embedded in my hair. Or to leave it to rest on a desk in the sun, and return later to find it in a melted puddle of putty on the floor. 

Via Flickr

If you find yourself off to an Easter egg hunt this weekend, I hope you find a brightly-colored plastic egg with a blob of goop inside. Just don't eat it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

20th C Italian Pen Nib Packaging

Most of these small pen nib packages are printed boxes not much larger than a matchbox. Others are labels attached to small boxes. There are many standouts here, but this last particular design really does send me into orbit. 
Via: Kallipos