Thursday, August 4, 2011
For a story that started out with 18 ft. Miehle letterpresses being hauled to the scrapyard, there is, miraculously, a way better ending than one might have expected.
The plant being dismantled was that of The Globe Poster Company, of Baltimore. The 80-year old business, run by the Cicero family for some 40 years, printed posters for everything fireman’s carnivals and vaudeville shows to R&B acts—lots of R&B—and hip hop shows. The company was now about to vanish into obsolescence.
Its fate was altered when owner Bob Cicero met Christian Sturgis, a local musician and antique dealer who was to help the Cicero brothers sell over 6,000 publicity photos and some of the remaining poster inventory. As an antique dealer, Sturgis had been appraising treasures from the past for well over a decade. This time, however, the enormous value he recognized was not monetary, but historical. What started as a business proposition, became a mission to find a savior for “this treasure trove of African American Music history and the Letterpress history” that was the Globe. His goal was to not just sell photos, but to find a buyer for the operation--its wooden type, etched zinc plates and remaining Heidelberg letterpress.
Fortunately, the Globe was not only a great story, but had great visuals as well. So thanks to articles, such as those in the Baltimore City Paper, and the efforts of a local group, “Friends of the Globe,” The Globe will live on. It’s amazing what can happen with publicity and passion, as letterpress printing has gained a huge popularity amongst a younger generation of artists and graphic designers.
What happened next, I’d say, falls into the “dreams-come-true” category. Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), also located in Baltimore, after a proposal by a letterpress faculty member, purchased a large percentage of the Globe this past March. It will be used as a research and study facility, and this fall, Bob Cicero will be teaching in the graphic design graduate program.
The neon torch will, in fact, be passed.
Some links where you can learn more and see more images of the historic posters and of the plant:
NPR, Globe Poster: An Illustrated History Of American Music
Baltimore City Paper, Pressed for Time. There you will find links to a fantastic photo tour by Frank Hamilton.
Visit Sturgis Antiques to buy posters. He's got other wonderful items, there too.
James Brown Poster from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.