Hatch Show Print, country music landmark, finds new home
Photo By Nikki Miller
Its roots can be traced back over a century ago to a spot just a hop, skip and jump from the Twin Cities. And on Monday, the venerable Nashville poster shop Hatch Show Print announced that it's on the move again, this time to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Established in 1879, Hatch Show Print is believed to be the oldest active poster print shop in the country.
Currently located in downtown Nashville, it's known for its posters for the Grand Ole Opry, which for the last seven-plus decades has been one of its most famous clients. Hatch Show's characteristic woodblock prints are striking in their minimalism, and have inspired a resurgence of a medium you today see everywhere from big-city rock concert flyers to every-hipster-you-know's wedding invitation. And it all started across the river in Prescott, Wisconsin.
It was in that river town that reverend and businessman William H. Hatch ran his own print shop, and apprenticed his sons, Charles R. and Herbert H., in the craft of letterpress printmaking. In 1875, William moved the family to Nashville and shortly thereafter, his sons founded CR and HH Hatch at what is now the corner of Fifth and Deaderick, between the State Capitol and the town's famous Printer's Alley. It was there that they printed what is believed to be their first 6x9 handbill - an ad for an April 1879 appearance at the Grand Opera House by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, famed abolitionist and brother of writer Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Over the years, the shop printed posters for everything from baseball games, vaudeville shows, and country and jazz concerts to ads for grocery stores, filling stations and movie theaters, and in 1921, Charles' son Will T. Hatch took over the family business, moving it to 116 Fourth Avenue North, right behind the Ryman Auditorium. Within a decade, Hatch posters could be seen on barns and storefronts all over the region. The business went into decline after Will Hatch died in 1952, and after changing hands several times, Hatch Show Print experienced a revival when then-owner Gaylord Entertainment donated it to the Country Hall of Fame and Museum, moving it to its current location on Broadway in 1992 when its previous location was to be razed.
On Monday, Hatch Show Print announced what is likely to be its last move for a good long while. This time, it'll be moving into a new, custom-designed space within the expanded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum just up the street.
"Hatch Show Print's move to our expanding museum campus is the logical next step in our decades-long effort to preserve the shop," said Museum Director Kyle Young in a press release. "Hatch, founded in 1879, is one of the oldest letterpress print shops in the U.S., and is synonymous with Southern entertainment, particularly early country music stars. It is entirely fitting that the shop, with its venerable history and invaluable collection of carved wood blocks, will reside permanently at the museum. For more than 20 years, the museum has labored to safeguard Hatch and its legacy, and this is the culmination of that work. The shop has changed locations seven times over its 133-year history; now it will have a 'forever' home."
"Hatch will continue to operate as it always has," said Young. "In its new space on the museum's first floor, Hatch will have an expanded production area with an adjacent retail site. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows on one wall of the production space will allow visitors to watch as designers lay out type and print posters on the letterpresses. We'll even have a dedicated design space where Hatch staff can offer hands-on demos to visitors at designated times."
If you want to check out the shop in its existing digs, a little old building at 316 Broadway, you'll have 'til the end of 2013 to do so - just be careful not to let the cat out. But if you can't make it to Nashville before then, don't be too disappointed.
While the building itself is charming and has some twenty years of history under its roof, a timeframe during which it's gone from annual earnings of $12,000 to $750,000 and welcomed some 30,000 visitors a year, the business is of course not in its original spot, and the Hall of Fame will guarantee the equipment and collections it holds - some dating back to 1879 - are kept well-preserved for letterpress geeks and country music fans to enjoy for years to come. More importantly, this move will ensure that Hatch maintains its important place in country music history, just down the stairs from Mother Maybelle Carter's 1928 Gibson guitar and Bill Monroe's 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin.
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