The Power of Print – and Men

 

The Power of Print – and Men: A Retrospective Inquiry

Robert A. Goettge

 

GD 203 (601)

Dr. Deborah Littlejohn, Dr. Russel Flinchem

North Carolina State University

February 11, 2019

 

Where the latter end of Populism and the many new art movements inspired by the American progressive era of the early 20th century meet; a reflection is born that infuses the past with the technological change of contemporary practice. The Power of Print- and Men (1936) takes a glance at the historical significance of the linotype and additionally engraves its history alongside the now more present methods of broadcasting and radio. From an orientation that begins with a subjective inference on the physical state of the book, this inquiry will progress into a perspective that identifies with critical factors (e.g., The importance of this book as a piece within  a collection, the position of this book in design discourse as well as its many relationships regarding development and authentication). North Carolina State Special collections offers a unique opportunity to take a glance at this book and the contexts surrounding its creation. The exterior of the book indicates with its design a dynamic reflection of many styles and practices known to early 20th century graphic design (i.e., Constructivism, Suprematism, Art Nouveau). The physical elements of the book provide even more dimensionality to the once prominent medium of communication. Perhaps the wear of age or simply the material used as the cover provides a gridded texture from the interior string of the grafting process. Consisting of threaded cloth that is pulled over the interior multiply board that creates the structure of the cover, the thread of this grafting process seems to have out-aged the materials of the cover art. As one may stroke their finger along the gridded grooves of the covers surface, they are led to the pulled edges of the books encasing. Theses edges and corners of the hardcover show the wear of age and the breakdown of the adhesives that hold each layer of the book in its physical place. Yellowing of the paper used for the print seems to prime the modern viewer with a dark ivory lens from which to view this work and its’ origin.

Figure 1. The cover of “The Power of Print – and Men”, emphasizes the dated nature of the material as well as the contextual arrangement surrounding the books development.

Figure 2. The yellow-tint by which this paper appears, provides for the contemporary viewer yet another historical lens to interpret the reading.

 

Serving the Linotype in a commemoration noted on the title page as “A salute to the modern newspaper produced and broadcast by the National Broadcasting Company”, this book in its historical connotations, emphasizes the subtleties of previous owner inscriptions and affiliates to the publishing process. Inscribed within the back cover of the book, a note is read “Dougald Coxe, Red Springs Citizen.” As history provides, In 1946 Dougald Coxe of Red Springs, NC, came to purchase the Times-Messenger; a paper he would run with local editors after his service in World War II. In 1948 this paper found a new editor in an individual by the name of Billy Whitted. Despite descending from the role of Editor, Dougald Coxe would own stocks and interest in the paper until 1951. With The Power of Print- and Men publishing date of 1936, this book may be estimated to have maintained residual value through professional association and printing practices for an additional 10 years following publishment.

Alongside the notable professional relationships that surround this book not only in its historical content but the publishing and printing practices of media in 1936, The Power of Print- and Men, espouses a network of influential figures and practices known to printing and graphic design in this era. The National Broadcasting Company with whom the book-notes commemorate, broadcast to 26 stations and 12 million people in 1926 via radio. This significant shift from the general population as a source of printed and published newspapers to radio-broadcast, illuminates a drastic change in the ideologically centered information source of the historical newspaper. Furthermore, the publishing city of Brooklyn with the broader New York City, held a population of 76% immigrants in 1920. Development of ethnic neighborhoods as well as foreign language newspapers proliferated communication for much of the population that largely depended upon printing methods such as the linotype for matriculation of news and information. The Power of Print – and Men, serves as a peculiar point of connection for the many elements embedded within the media to viewer/consumer relationship in the 20th century. Primarily, this publication advertises the National Broadcasting Company in its then contemporary form of radio while simultaneously propelling a history of the linotype that served as the primary method of information matriculation for most of the decade. Additionally, the location of the publishing company holds many connotations about the vast amount of foreign influence on american culture in the early 20th century, and furthermore exhibits these relationships through the Designs by W.A. Dwiggins, illustrator for The Power of Print – and Men.

Exploring the graphic design works of the notorious W.A. Dwiggins and his personal history with both type and coining the title of the profession “Graphic Design”, The Power of Print – and Men, integrates the craft of design in cohesion with the medium of writing. With the history of book making coming from largely a practice of scribes and artisans with complimentary meanings instilled throughout the artwork and passages, it is of much interest to take a look at the narrative of graphic design, and the role this played in the works by W.A. Dwiggins in this composition. Although some chapters pages were paired with illustrations that repeated throughout the book, each illustration bares a note of influence not only in its role of priming the reader with an orientation to the subject, but with Dwiggins master of craft. Specifically a chapter titled “A Difficulty Seeming Insurmountable”, Dwiggins denotes a piece reputable for its use of balance, hierarchy, and the symbolism associated with the subject matter by author Thomas Drierer.

 

Figure 3. Chapter title “A difficulty seemingly Insurmountable” demonstrates the effective nature whereby Design and Written Word exist in complimentary forms.

Figure 4. Contrasting with the work of W.A. Dwiggins, an example of the Suprematism movement that influenced the Graphic Designers work.

Figure 5. In contrast to the foreign influence on American Art in the early 20th Century, an Example of early Constructivism that may be said to have influenced the work of D.W. Dwiggins.

The use of balance and scale by Dwiggins represented in Figure 3. demonstrates the influence of foreign art movements and their recent integration into american society in the early 20th century. Suprematist expression by Malevich and furthermore constructivist influenced by tatlin substantiates the early 20th century relationships between elements within a composition.This method of subject representation takes root in the works by Dwiggins in his commission for this book. However the narrative role that Dwiggins work plays alongside written type far outweighs what any one piece of art could accomplish alone for many reasons. Primarily, the outreach to diverse populations that occurs with associating the written word with that of images. The Power of Print – and Men, substantiates the drastic importance of the historical resonance of type, and does so in a period where radio broadcasting is becoming the new forefront of popular communication of news and media. The parallel that exists, between written word and illustration as demonstrated by the work of Dwiggins in this book, further introduces a common ground whereby multiple mediums of information expression draw the audience to engage meaning and interpret the message.

 

See link for full in-text citations and footnotes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-QYsCmD4NWagD-6m9CGvw39QbL–_Lxl2pRiERW9nDY/edit?usp=sharing

 

Bibliography

 

Anonymous. (2018). Reference List: Electronic Sources. Retrieved From http://designishistory.com/1850/wa-dwiggins/

 

Denning, Michael. The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century, Verso, 1996

Drier, Thomas. The Power of Print – and Men. Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 1936. Print.

 

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! Seagall, 5 Edition, Volume 2, W.W. Norton & Company, 2016

George, Bullock Mrs. (1969). Reference List: Electronic Sources. Retrieved From http://www.capefearclans.com/RSHistory.html

 

Hartman, Mike, Hartman Bushy. (2010). Reference List: Electronic Sources. Retrieved From https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/51081223/james-dougald-coxe

 

Malevich, Kazimir. Suprematism. (1915). Reference List: Electronic Sources. Retrieved From https://www.wikiart.org/en/kazimir-malevich/suprematism-1915

 

McGurt, Curtist. (2017). Reference List: Electronic Sources. Retrieved From https://fairmontnchistory.com/businesses/all-newspapers

 

Tatlin, Vladimir. Monument to the Third International. (1920). Reference List: Electronic Sources. Retrieved From http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/constructivism.htm