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Hatch Show Print Celebrates 140 Years of Letterpress Printing
Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest working letterpress poster and design shops in North America, celebrates its milestone 140th birthday this month. Brothers Charles and Herbert Hatch founded their business on April 12, 1879, as C.R. & H.H. Hatch, Printers. Hatch Show Print thrives in the 21st century, while its traditions and techniques remain rooted in the foundations of design and printing.
With their very first print job—a handbill announcing a speaking engagement by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe)—the Hatch brothers produced a simple design that struck an effortless balance between type size and style, and what is frequently called a ‘poster style’ layout.
Today, Hatch Show Print staff rely on the same techniques used years ago by Charles and Herbert Hatch. Staff, led by shop manager Celene Aubry, pull from extensive archives of thousands of hand-carved wood blocks to produce posters for shows, events, advertising and more. They still set wood and metal type by hand and produce all the print work on printing presses that are between 50 and 100-plus years old.
Hatch Show Print’s history reflects the full spectrum of American entertainment from the late 1800s to the present. Since its founding, the shop has provided performers—from circuses and traveling vaudeville shows to Grand Ole Opry stars and touring rock bands—with vibrant posters that combine color, individuality and bold, tactile design. The shop designs and prints approximately 600 different posters each year for classic and contemporary artists including Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Beyonce and Guns N’ Roses. In addition to producing frame-worthy music posters, Hatch Show Print has designed artwork for diverse projects including an art book on photography, food packaging for a U.K.-based entrepreneur and a United States postage stamp.
Located inside the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, which owns and operates the shop, Hatch Show Print annually offers nearly 2,000 public tours and educational programs, facilitated by a dedicated team of educators.
“The ongoing cultural impact of Hatch Show Print is a point of pride for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum,” said museum CEO Kyle Young. “Since taking ownership of the shop in 1992, we have seen it continue to grow and prosper. This includes the move of the shop in 2013 from Lower Broadway to a space inside the museum specifically designed and built to suit the demands and mission of this icon of design, letterpress printing and history. The museum was committed then, and is just as committed today, to preserving this 140-year-old institution that has created some of the most important images in the history of country music.”
Aubry and the Hatch Show Print staff are acutely aware of the legacy they have inherited and its connection to the work they do today. “Letterpress printing informs every one of our design solutions, and just like Herbert and Charles Hatch, and Charles’ son Will T. and his staff, all of us making posters in the shop today incorporate contemporary conversations in design to inform our work,” said Aubry. We carry on traditions established by the Hatch family more than five generations ago, and the enthusiastic reactions we receive, to the work and the physicality of our process and to this shop’s presence in the digital age, fuel us. This shop will outlast us all.”
Special exhibitions and events will mark Hatch Show Print’s 140th anniversary.
Saturday, April 6, 2019: Hatch Show Print unveils a visual retrospective of the shop’s work, stretching from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Community Corridor to the connecting Omni Nashville Hotel lobby. The exhibition Every Poster Tells a Story: 140 Years of Hatch Show Print allows guests to experience and learn about the shop’s 140-year history through a collection of posters, blocks and memorabilia. On view until April 2020, this retrospective focuses on pivotal periods in the history of Hatch Show Print, from its founding in 1879 as C.R. & H.H. Hatch, Printers, to its golden age in the 1920s led by Will T. Hatch, to the shop’s continued breadth and scope of work and long-standing dedication to its “preservation through production” mantra.
April 6, 2019 to July 7, 2019: Alumni Invitational: Celebrating 140 Years of Printing, showcasing the work of former Hatch Show Print employees. The exhibition, in Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery, includes prints, paintings, screen prints and more. All work on view will be available for purchase; prices and details available upon request.
April 12, 2019: Hatch Show Print invites the entire Nashville community to celebrate its official 140th birthday on Friday, April 12, 2019. The first 140 visitors to Hatch Show Print that day will have the chance to print the final color on limited-edition, commemorative birthday posters. Cupcakes will be served, and limited-edition “Hatch Show Print 140” birthday prints and T-shirts will be available for purchase in the store.
Finally, Hatch Show Print will host two events for the letterpress community: Wayzgoose and BIG INK.
June 20 to June 23, 2019: Wayzgoose, the annual conference of the Amalgamated Printers’ Association, an organization that includes letterpress printers with varied experience, including hobbyists, artists, and commercial print shop owners and operators. The event includes workshops, demos, a printers’ flea market and auction, a steamroller street activation on downtown Nashville’s Fifth Avenue and speaking engagements by members of the letterpress community.
Sept. 14 to Sept. 15, 2019: Hatch Show Print will host a two-day event celebrating works on paper in the Haley Gallery. Visitors can witness the printing of monumental wood-block prints carved by artists from throughout the region. During this time, BIG INK will assemble a giant, portable printing press inside Hatch Show Print’s Gallery for the sole purpose of helping artists print these wood blocks, some of which can reach nearly 4 x 8 feet in dimension.
About Hatch Show Print
Founded by brothers Charles and Herbert Hatch, Hatch Show Print opened in Nashville in 1879. For much of the 20th century, the shop’s vibrant posters served as a leading advertising medium for Southern entertainment, and included work for many members of the Grand Ole Opry such as Bill Monroe, Minnie Pearl and Ernest Tubb, and for rock & roll greats such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. Thousands of posters and billboard-size advertisements were printed for traveling vaudeville and minstrel shows, circuses and carnivals barnstorming across the country. In 1992, Hatch Show Print became a historic property of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. Today, Hatch Show Print is a thriving letterpress poster and design shop in downtown Nashville, with seven full-time designer-printers on staff. The shop creates and prints 500 to 600 poster jobs every year for clients ranging from Mumford & Sons and Willie Nelson to brands such as Fossil, Taschen and the U.S. Postal Service. For more information about tours or the history of the shop, visit www.HatchShowPrint.com.
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