When I was a kid, every year we'd visit my grandparents in Cleveland and usually visit "the shop". The shop was the specialty paint factory my family ran, Sheffield Bronze. I thought it was cool and thought maybe when I'd grow up I'd get to run a factory.
Many years later after not having visited for some time, my interest in graphic design and printmaking led me to discover and start studying letterpress. At some point a family member mentioned to me "you know there's letterpress printing at the shop, right?"
I did not, and that's when I learned the story of Star Printing from my mother's cousin Mel. I didn't get all of the story straight, and there was plenty to it. I told Mel, a first-class story teller, that he should write it all down, but he responded "why, I'm telling you now", so I fail the oral history part of the assignment and will just sum it up so I can get to the show-and-tell.
At some point in the early 20th century, my great-grandfather Abraham H. Gross started printing, eventually with his own company Star Printing, with a single 8x12 Chandler and Price (made in Cleveland!) There are stories involving the Jewish mob in Cleveland, a shadowy figure called Cousin Willy plus some association with the infamous Shondor Birns; maybe even printing bootleg whiskey labels for Al Capone during the prohibition...midnight Great Lakes boat rides. One day a paint manufacturer couldn't pay for a print job and offered paint in exchange. Taking the opportunity, my great-grandfather and associates sold the paint and knowing a good thing when they see it, the company switched over to making and selling specialty paint products. From bronze paints and heat-resistant aluminum, to tintable paints to chalkboard and ping-pong table paint, Sheffield Bronze Paint Corp. has had and continues to have a nice niche. But what do I know about paint? I know about ink.
The amazing thing is instead of scrapping the 1930s/1940s era print-shop, they kept it running to print many of the package and paint can labels and other ephemera in-house, going another 60+ years without updating the equipment. By the time I learned this print shop even existed in a side-room of the factory, I'd already been taking classes and working on hand-fed C+Ps and Vandercook proof presses, so you didn't need to tell me the value or use of such archaic technologies.
I've been meaning to post some photos from more recent trips to show off some of the awesome gear and supplies and give a little back story as to why my little print shop in the outer boroughs of NYC is called Sheffield and how I stole the logo from a long-running paint company. Now you know. (The "Product" part is as much a tribute to Fast Product, which is a post for another time.) The first gallery is a photo tour of the factory and print shop, of interest mostly to people who get excited over the prospect of seeing what a 21 x 28 inch 2 color cylinder press looks like. Click the side arrows for all the cool gear shots!
This second gallery is just one of hundreds of job folders saved from the days of Star Printing. This one, for printed materials for a night club featuring some hilarious performers is especially awesome. Click to enlarge.