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“The Success of an Efficient Printer,” from The American Printer (June 20, 1916)

This is an item from a 1916 issue of The American Printer (Vol. 62.12), printed at New York. I noticed it and clipped it out because it’s about the career of Horace E. Carr, a Cleveland-area printer (active in the Cleveland arts scene, influenced by the work of William Morris, and also a friend of the individualist anarchist Fred Schulder, whose pamphlet he printed). Here:

The Success of an Efficient Printer

SOME one sent us a copy of a house-organ that was several years old, and in it we found a marked article by David Gibson, in which he tells in his interesting style the story of Horace Carr, the Cleveland printer. It is worth reading:

Back in 1893, when we all had fresh bank failures every morning for breakfast, a printer in the old Herald job office in Cleveland, O., bought an old treadle press and a few fonts of type from a man who conducted a combination printing shop and candy store out in his neighborhood, which equipment he stored away in a room in his house.

A few weeks later when bank failures were about all anybody had for breakfast, this printer found himself out of a job.

He tried to find another, but the thought came to him very soon that it would be easier to find a few jobs of printing at which both he and the little outfit he had stored away could work.

This theory proved to be correct, and its occurring to him after he had been thrown out of employment is a very good illustration of why throwing out a man very frequently gives him a boost.

His first job was 20,000 counter slips for a neighboring grocery, and for which he agreed to accept provisions as payment.

Now, anybody who has ever been anywhere near a treadle press knows that 20,000 impressions, one at a time, is a whole lot. He didn’t have enough rules to set the job three times–the capacity of his press–and he didn’t feel justified in adding any more to his investment; but–

Where there is want there is a will.

He set the job once, made a mold by beating wet tissue backed with blotting paper down into the type with a hairbrush, held the mold tight to the type between a couple of scrap-steel plates by means of a couple of glue clamps, and baked the impression dry in the kitchen-stove oven.

Then he melted the contents of the hellbox in a soup ladle, cast three stereotype plates, and thus by a little headwork he cut his footwork in three.

The work following this consisted of billheads for job carpenters, business cards for clothes-wringer peddlers, and tickets for milkmen.

He was alive to the value of advertising as appealing to the habits and tendencies of the human mind; when he went out soliciting work he needed something to leave with those on whom he called–something to serve as a reminder.

So he set a line on a card:

Perfect Printing Punctually Performed Pleases Particular People!

He didn’t have enough Ps: there were only six in the font in which he was compelled to set it for display, so he cut the seventh out of a block of maple wood.

Even with all his disadvantages, his work was good enough to impress the city librarian, and he was asked to figure on an annual report.

He got the job even though he was the third highest bidder, by agreeing to set in hand composition what the others proposed to do with a machine. Linotype composition in those days was not up to its present high state of perfection.

The job was too big for his imposing stone, to say nothing of his press, so he made it up on the kitchen table and farmed out the presswork.

With the profit on this job he bought more equipment, and a little later he moved downtown.

This man was Horace Carr.

He is today, perhaps, the foremost strictly type printer in America, and has done as much as any one man to revive this simple, beautiful art and commercially apply it to what would otherwise be the commonplace.

His influence has been felt not only directly through his own work, but by the published examples and exhibitions he has educated the younger printers to his tradition.

It was a big jump from being thrown out of a newspaper job office to his present position, but–

Many a man loses his opportunity by not losing his job.

An examination of some samples of his very early work, which includes some milk tickets, very clearly indicates the reason for his present position.

These early efforts indicate a simplicity, care and cleanliness beyond the same class of work at that time.

He took pains and at the expense of untold labor by reason of lack of common facilities. He used one job to study the next, and doubtless put more pride in his work than he got out in price.

His price may have been market, yet his quality was more than market.

While Horace Carr’s plant is not large today, and his business is not large as compared with that of many printers, yet it is more than complete, and his patronage is unique.

It is not always well to measure a success with a tapeline; more frequently a micrometer will do.

His product is mostly small-edition work involving strictly type design.

He gets better than market prices for his work even though he may not get all that he thinks it is worth.

Few of us ever get what we think we are worth.

Horace Carr can actually express a personality or a business in type.

For instance, a letterhead for a millinery store would express the feminine in type selection and color scheme, in direct contrast to the boldness expressed in a letterhead for a machine shop.

The writer once saw a letterhead that he designed [p. 20] for a fashionable undertaker. You would have known that it was for one of that profession without reading it. The type selection had a suggestion of early religious printing, and the whole was done in purple and black to suggest mourning.

While Horace Carr’s work has all been performed in Cleveland, yet his first real recognition came from abroad. Some samples of his work fell into the hands of the British Printer, one of the leading typographical journals of England.

And there is a good example in this for any man in any field of endeavor: A man may do good work in some place and get recognition for it another; a mechanic may do good work in one shop and get recognition for it in another; a man may do good work on one farm and get his reward on another.

A man should be efficient for his own sake, in his own selfish interest, rather than out of consideration for the man for whom he may be immediately working.

The efficient man can get a job anywhere; it becomes a selection of jobs rather than just a job.

An efficient man doesn’t have to work under unjust conditions; he can go where the conditions are just.

The efficient man can be absolutely certain of the money return if he makes efficiency the first consideration.

–From The Success of an Efficient Printer, in The American Printer: A Semi-Monthly News, Business and Technical Journal 62.12 (June 20, 1916). 19-20.


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