Collection Spotlight: City of Ishpeming Records Letterhead

Correspondence coming into Ishpeming’s Department of Public Works during the 1890s was boring! The city was in the middle of putting in their sewer system and most of the letters were debating or extolling the merits of various types of sewer pipes, catch basins, and more.
If what was written is rather mundane and pedestrian, what the letters were written on is not. Many of the letterheads (and often invoices) used are, quite simply, gorgeous.


Frederick Braastad was a local merchant. His department store was one of the biggest and best in Ishpeming. Today known as the Gossard building, it is located at 308 Cleveland Street.

It should be noted that in the 1890s, printing was done on platen presses with hand set type. The letterhead was done as a metal engraving mounted on a block of wood.


Here’s another one for a foundry in Pittsburgh, PA. The letterhead itself bears witness to being stored in damp conditions.


In those days, two color letterheads were rare, and much more expensive than single color letterheads, since each sheet of paper required two trips through the printing press. Still, some companies felt it was worth the expense.


Almost every letterhead served a dual purpose, advertising the company’s services and products.


Invoices and other business stationery also got
“fancy” headings, such as this one for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway. It’s in purple, probably to make it stand out from all the black and white pieces of paper.


This letterhead is also interesting, as it uses a photograph rather than an engraving.


Here’s one last letterhead. Some of the details, especially the Art Deco flourishes, are nice.

The letterheads shown in this blog post are but a few examples of what’s in our archives. Many of the letterheads were typical for the period when they were designed. For more information on the history of letterheads, check out these blog posts from the Duke University Library and the University of Virginia!

Written by Karen Kasper.


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