Henry D. Beach and Jasper Meek were competing newspaper publishers in Coshocton, Ohio during the mid-1880s. In or about 1887, Meek printed advertising on burlap or canvas school book bags for a local Coshocton Shoe retailer (Cantwell Shoes) that Cantwell then gave to customers. That effort became an instant success and both Meek and Beach began printing advertising for businesses on a vast array of items. Meek formed The Tuscarora Advertising Co is 1887 and Beach formed the Standard Advertising Co. in 1888. Both companies produced color lithograph on tin signs, trays and other tin lithograph as well as other printed advertising. In mid-1901, (Meek) Tuscarora Advertising Co. and (Beach) The Standard Advertising Co. merged to form The Meek & Beach Company.
THE MEEK & BEACH CO - COSHOCTON, OHIO
The Meek & Beach Co. was formed in 1901 with the merger of The Tuscarora Advertising Co. (Meek) and The Standard Advertising Co. (Beach). According to Hazelcorn, because of friction between the two men, Beach left within a few months to again form his own company (The H. D. Beach Co.) while Meek continued to operate under the Meek & Beach Co. name until 1905 when the name was then changed to The Meek Co. However, more recent information indicates that Meek formed and began using The Meek Co. name as early as 1903 since other non-plate items have been seen marked The Meek Co. and dated as early as 1903 leaving it unclear just when the Meek & Beach name was changed to The Meek Co. Presently, it appears likely that both names were actively used, depending on the specific item produced, during the 1901 to 1905 time frame.
During this four year time frame, both Meek & Beach and H. D. Beach produced what was a predecessor to the flat bottomed conventional plate featured here. While appearing quite similar, these early 1901 to 1905 era plate had no flat bottom like a traditional plate, but rather, has a curved bottom resembling a very shallow “bowl” and having a near flat border or outer ring surface. This bowl design predates the actual production of the pure plate design that was first introduced by H.D. Beach beginning in 1904 and later closely replicated by other makers from about 1905 until about 1915. These bowl shaped plates are not addressed in the Hazelcorn book and are not widely collected since they are not a true “plate” in the eyes of many collectors.
(A very similar if not nearly identical bowl shaped lithographed plate design is occasional seen all having an intricate red, blue and gold border designs and containing Victorian garden scenes or portraits. One has been seen containing a portrait of Queen Victoria with small portraits of prominent British military officers around the border. That plate is marked “Made in Germany” (See: Section on OTHER plates). While no confirmation has yet been made, it is believed that these plates, produced by a yet unknown maker, likely were made in Germany dating from about 1900 and that this bowl design may have been copied or replicated by Meek & Beach for their own line of bowl shaped plates, before making the true plate designs beginning in about 1904.
THE H.D. BEACH CO - COSHOCTON, OHIO - VIENNA ART PLATES
Per Hazelcorn, The H.D. Beach Co. commenced business in late 1901. In February, 1904 Beach applied for the patent of a “Metal Plaque” that is “intended for ornamental and advertising purposes” and that “The object is to construct a device of this character from sheet metal so that it will have the configuration of the ordinary and well-known type of plate and to decorate the same by reproducing thereon famous or artistic designs, thereby securing at slight cost plaques that are ornamental, instructive or attractive for advertising purposes.” The patent was granted February 21, 1905. That patent was only for a plate constructed of two layers – a face and a back – crimped together at the outer edges which were then unique to Beach – Vienna Art plates. The patent did not preclude others from making single layer tin plates.
Beach likely began producing the first true plate in 1904 at or near the time of the filing for his patent. Those first plates were the four Victorian Scene plates since those plates are found marked “Patent Applied For” as well as with the February 21, 1905 Patent date. Victorian Scene I is depicted in the patent documents. Other designs followed. Between approximately 1906 and 1910 Beach produced several standard plate designs bearing a “Western Coca-Cola Bottling Co” of Chicago logo on the back. In addition, between 1907 and 1909, Beach produced two exclusive designs for Anheuser-Bush “Malt-Nutrine” bearing a Busch / Malt-Nutrine logo on the back. During the last year or two of production (around 1912-1913), Beach produced limited numbers of some of its standard artwork designs with only the single top layer of tin and without any logos or markings.
THE MEEK CO - COSHOCTON, OHIO - DRESDEN ART PLATES
The Meek & Beach Co. changed its name to the Meek Co. in 1905 and continued operating as the Meek Co. until 1909 when the name was then changed to The American Art Works Co. All known plates produced with the Meek Co. name were true flat bottomed plates and most times are found marked with the Meek / Dresden Art name and logo. No plates are known to have been produced with the American Art Works name. Accordingly, The Meek Co. / Dresden Art plates were apparently made only during this 1905 to 1909 interval.
CHARLES W. SHONK CO - CHICAGO (MAYWOOD), ILLINOIS – ROYAL SAXONY PLATES
The Shonk Co. began business in 1891 and produced tin plates with a red Royal Saxony logo on the backs. Several of their standard plate designs (Hazelcorn indicates eight designs) were produced with “Dr. Pepper” soft drink advertising printed onto the front border. In addition to their standard designs, The Walter Baker Co .contracted for a special plate with their “Lady with a Tray of Cocoa” trademark artwork in the center. It is unknown when Shonk began and ceased producing plates; however it is generally believed that Shonk plates date to the later 1910-1915 time frame.
The Charles W. Shonk Co. is noted for producing some very early tin Coca-Cola items and later for producing small multiple coin tin litho mechanical registering banks under several patents they obtained beginning in 1905. Many of these registering baks were produced in the 1910-1915 time frame and were marked “Shonk Works – American Can Co. -Maywood,Il” In 1916 Shonk obtained a contract to produce vehicle license plates for the State of Illinois being paid $.16/pair. There were 249,000 registered vehicles in Illinois at the time.
The American Can Co began business in 1901. It is unknown if American Can acquired Shonk however internet searches indicate Shonk Works existed from 1906 to 1973. American Can may have acquired the Chas. W. Shonk Co and changed the name to Shonk Works then produced different products under different names. American Can Co. became Primerica in 1987.
KAUFMANN & STRAUSS - NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Kaufmann & Strauss (K & S) began business in 1890 and was a leading manufacturer of early lithographed tin signs and trays. K & S plates carry no rear logos but some have the Kaufmann & Strauss name incorporated with very small lettering into the perimeter of the artwork or in the outer border design. K & S plates were likely produced only between approximately 1912 and 1915 in only a few designs.
BACHRACH & CO - SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Bachrach & Co began business in 1895 and was a smaller lithographer producing advertising for many western states breweries and other western manufacturers. From 1895 to 1917, they were a distributor for Jasper Meek’s companies (Tuscarora – Meek & Beach – The Meek Co.and American Art Works). Bachrach is believed to have simply ordered and sold some standard Meek-Dresden plate designs with any advertising likely applied by Bachrach before delivery to the customer. According to Hazelcorn, one plate with Bachrach produced artwork is presently known to have been made. That plate however is believed to have simply been ordered from Meek by Bachrach and then Bachrach added their own mark to the back as Bachrach had apparently done with other plates. That particular plate was produced for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 that was held in Seattle.
HISTORY: COSHOCTON, OHIO
Coshocton, Ohio is located in the rural rolling hills of Eastern Ohio 120 miles south of Cleveland and about midway between Columbus and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the early 1900s, Coshocton’s design and artisan community had grown to be the second largest in the U.S. surpassed only by that of New York City. The ingenuity and competition of Henry Beach and Jasper Meek made Coshocton the leading manufacturing town for advertising items from the 1890s into the 1950s. Virtually every family in Coshocton had friends or relatives working in the advertising industry. As the form and nature of advertising changed, and television became a new media, printed advertising dwindled rapidly. Only a descendant company, The Beach Co. dba M-Line Calendars, remains today. Coshocton currently has a population of about 11,000 and Coshocton County a population of about 36,000 residents.
Coshocton History: http://coshoctonohio.pa-roots.com/factoryopening.html
Lithography had its beginning in Europe in 1798. It was an easy medium for art since the artist simply drew their artwork onto smooth slabs of limestone which was then used to reproduce many copies of the identical image onto paper. For much of a century and a half, lithography was primarily used by artists to produce art prints. The first lithographs appeared in the United Stated in 1819, most of which were scenes. The most recognized maker of the time was Currier and Ives. Demand for lithographic prints grew and by 1870, there were nearly 500 presses in the United States producing artwork.
Much advancement was being made in the letterpress (newspaper) printing industry including the development of efficient rotating presses. Limestone, however, could not be bent around a cylinder. In or about 1875, the lithographic offset press was developed in England. The offset press removed the direct contact between the printing plate and the paper with the addition of an intermediate cardboard surface. By the early 1880s, the cardboard had been replaced with rubber. The image is first transferred to the rubber surface which then transfers the image to paper or other surfaces, including metal or tin. Thus began the efficient process of printing detailed color artwork onto tin and creating the color artwork and advertising on tin revolution of the 1880s.
The lithograph process prints one color for each run through the press. Accordingly, each color that is applied requires a separate printing plate for that color. Each color on a sign, tray or plate is applied in a separate run through the press in order to create the finished product. An item containing 10 colors requires 10 different printing plates and 10 trips through the offset press.
HISTORY: TIN PLATE MANUFACTURING
Embossed tin signs, self-framed signs, early toys, trays and tin plates first have the lithographed artwork applied to flat sheets of metal. After all artwork is applied, the finished sheets are then formed or bent into their finished shapes using shaping molds mounted in stamping machines or presses.