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.)