Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Hoge Brush Company Files, Vol. 17

Click to enlarge

[Note: For background on the "Hoge Brush Company Files" series, click here; to see all the entries in the series so far, click here.]

Here's another surprise from the Hoge Brush Company files: a letter from the Walter T. Kelley Company, a Kentucky-based vendor of beekeeping supplies. This somehow feels akin to the earlier letter we saw from a chicken coop company.

It's not clear from the letter what sort of business Hoge and Kelley were doing, but beekeepers use brushes, so I suspect that was the basis for the two companies' relationship.

I love the letterhead design. And look how they used those three horizontal red lines to indicate that they're leaving Paducah and moving to Clarkson — even the cross-out is nicely designed!

The letter explains that the company is being forced to move "due to chaotic conditions in Paducah caused by the building of the billion dollar atomic plant here." That is an apparent reference to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a uranium enrichment facility. There's some additional info here. The plant opened in 1952, so the letter, which is undated, was presumably sent out around that time.

This is the part where I'd usually say, "The Walter T. Kelley Company is no longer in business." But it turns out that Kelley is still an ongoing concern. Not only that, but they're still located in Clarkson, where they had relocated due to the "chaotic conditions" in Paducah. Their website's "About" page includes the following:

In the late 1950s [I think they meant 1940s — PL], the federal government announced a half-billion dollar atomic plant would be located in McCracken County, on the site of the Old Kentucky Ordinance Plant, not far from Paducah. With labor talent in short supply, [Walter T. Kelley] began construction of a new manufacturing plant in Grayson County and in November 1952, an office/shipping structure and factory buildings were erected and ready to be equipped with production machinery. So with his semi-truck loaded, Mr. Kelley moved the factory’s goods 160 miles to Clarkson, KY, where it resides today.

Interesting that the change-of-address letter refers to the plant as a "billion dollar" initiative, while the website says "half-billion." Perhaps, as is so often the case with government projects, this one had some cost overruns.

Kelley, incidentally, still offers brushes. It's not clear who now supplies them.

(My continued thanks to Joanna and David Zwiep for sharing the Hoge Brush Company letters with me.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Hoge Brush Company Files, Vol. 16

Click to enlarge

[Note: For background on the "Hoge Brush Company Files" series, click here; to see all the entries in the series so far, click here.]

Our latest letter from the Hoge Brush Company files is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, the letter itself, sent on Christmas Eve 1947 by a New York City operation called Baer Brothers, offers virtually no substance at all (it's basically just a very long-winded way of saying, "Sorry to hear you can't use our services at the moment, but please keep us in mind for the the future"). Still, it's a really nice piece of letterhead design, it features a cool-sounding word that's new to me, and it has a killer logo at the bottom, all of which are worth a closer look.

Let's start at the top. So many little clusters of type! It almost looks like one of those word cloud thingies we commonly see online these days.

I'm particularly interested in the notation beneath the telephone numbers near the top-left corner, where it refers to the company's "shellac bleachery" in Stamford, Connecticut. Now there's a good word — bleachery. I assume that's a facility for bleaching things, right? Right. But how does that pertain to shellac? The answer can be found on this page, as follows:

Shellac, a classic wood finish, is produced by a tiny insect, the Lac Bug, native to India and Thailand. It is a natural resin secreted by the insects on specific trees found in Southeast Asia. The dark, reddish-brown resin is harvested, crushed, rinsed and processed. The resin can be tinted to bring out rich, natural colors in wood, or the seedlac can be bleached to remove color for a clear finish.

Interesting! According to that same page, North America's only remaining shellac bleachery currently operates in Attleboro, Massachusetts, so Baer's facility in Connecticut (which you can see in this flier) is apparently no longer operating.

But the highlight of the letterhead is clearly the Baer Brothers logo at the bottom. Let's take a closer look (click to enlarge):

How can you not love a pair of house-painting bears wearing matching white suits? I especially like the little "Baer Bros." scripts on the jacket collars. And look, the paint cans say, "Bruin Paint" — a great little touch that I didn't even notice until I enlarged the logo. One of the bears is winking! The whole thing is much more playful and fun than the rest of the letterhead design, which makes me wonder if it was added as an afterthought.

Baer Brothers is no longer in business, but the company's legacy is easy enough to trace on eBay, which features listings for lots of vintage Baer products, including bronze powder (look here, here, here, and here), soap detergent, and this varnish pamphlet.

The address listed on the Baer letterhead — 438 West 37th St. in Manhattan — shows no evidence of the company's former presence. Too bad. I was hoping to see the logo with the bears painted on the wall.

(My continued thanks to Joanna and David Zwiep for sharing the Hoge Brush Company letters with me.)