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The Curtiss Show Print Collection, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute

Collection Profile

Donated by Nyle Stateler to the Ohio State University Libraries' Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, the Curtiss Show Print Collection is a remarkable record documenting the beautiful letterpress work done by the company for its show business clients. Curtiss Show Print began in Kalida, Ohio, in 1905, but founder Bill Curtiss moved his printing business to nearby Continental, Ohio, to take advantage of its location and access to the railroad. The shop specialized in turning orders around very quickly and gained a reputation among its show business clients for fast and excellent work. The more than 1,200 printing blocks, as well as photographs, correspondence, job tickets, ledgers, and colorful print materials including posters, window cards, heralds, tickets, ads, and letterhead stationery, tell not only the story of the show printer, but also the history and legacy of traveling companies in the early to mid-20th century. Vaudeville and tent repertoire companies including the Ohio-based Kinsey Komedy Kompany, minstrel shows such as Shufflin' Sam From Alabam', Uncle Tom's Cabin companies, Mysterious Brown and other magicians, numerous circuses, and other touring companies took Curtiss printing around the country. Today that printing provides a visual glimpse of what entertained America.

A young Nyle Stateler took a job at Curtiss Show Print in 1941, learning to do setup, layout, and printing. With a brief hiatus for military service during World War II, he has spent his entire career working for, and later owning, Curtiss Show Print. He and his wife Helen continue to keep the shop and all its presses, including a linotype machine, running and busy.

The Curtiss Show Print Collection was given to the Ohio State University in the summer of 2006 and immediately began to receive significant attention and use. In fall 2006, the printing blocks and posters formed the core hands-on project for a class of theater graduate students who created catalog records, selected pieces, and wrote captions for an exhibition on display at the Lawrence and Lee Institute in 2007. The final class meeting for this project was held in the Ohio State University Libraries' Center for Book Arts/Logan Elm Press where book arts specialist Robert Tauber demonstrated the printing process by printing on hand presses from selected Curtiss blocks. While collection processing is still underway, the Curtiss Show Print Collection has already been used by theater and dance students for research on minstrel shows and show girls. The Curtiss Show Print Web page highlights examples of the rich holdings of the collection, documents collection processing work, and will be joined by a digital video story of the business and the collection.

In 2005, Nyle Stateler and Curtiss Show Print were the focus of an award-winning documentary, Continental, Ohio, produced by Murphy & Associates Inc. and WOSU-TV. Continental, Ohio, received the 2005 Midwestern Regional Emmy Award for a documentary program. The Curtiss Show Print Collection was the subject of a January 2007 article in OnCampus, the university-wide newspaper.

Collection Profile and Overview: Nena Couch
Illustrations: David R. Barker

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