Scanning Around With Gene: Eyelets, Grommets, and Puttees

I love anonymous art, particularly of the industrial kind. So while today’s installment may not appeal to everyone, I found the material strangely compelling. I imagine rows of artists working with airbrushes churning out drawing after drawing of small metal parts of every shape and style, each of the thousands of images a small triumph in its own right.

At the time of these images, the Edwin B. Stimpson Company (established in 1852) was in Brooklyn, New York. Today, the company still makes small metal parts of every sort and style, but it has relocated to Pompano Beach, Florida. Click on any image for a larger version.

These first images are from a 1939 edition of the Stimpson catalog, which shows not only the various parts and machines the company made, but the factory and showroom. While we may take grommets, hooks, rivets, and snap fasteners for granted, they represented considerable commerce for Stimpson.

A puttee, by the way, is a leg wrapping used by soldiers in World War I (and by others, I assume). I’m not sure where the metal part comes in; it may have something to do with adhering the puttee to the leg.

Stimpson not only makes the metal parts, but at least in this era, it made the machines to adhere these parts to various items.

Over the years, which for these images runs from 1939 to 1966, the Stimpson Company had various letterheads, as well.

By the 1960s, the company added color to the drawings, though it appears the base art was still black and white, with color overlays applied to add variety. I can only imagine the printers cutting masks by hand to add colors to these drawings.

Go to page 2 for more!

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Posted on: March 25, 2011

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. He has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. Gene's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on CreativePro.com.

6 Comments on Scanning Around With Gene: Eyelets, Grommets, and Puttees

  1. Thanks for the interesting article.

    See below for a photo of motorcycle riders’ puttees that use metal closures:
    http://www.goldenagemotorcycleclothing.com/puttees.htm

    Cat Pragoff
    ASK US, NH Union Leader

  2. Most of the art shown was probably a black and white photo that was retouched using an airbrush, then screened in a graphic arts camera. I actually apprenticed at Buffalo Big Print early in my career doing just that !

  3. I remember staring at catalogs like this when I was young. Photography could never rival illustrations for things like these shiny objects. Now, I can create a perfectly lit “scene” in my 3D software and spit out these shapes in a matter of minutes instead of hours.

    Thanks, Gene. Love your scans and worldly perspective.

  4. I don’t see how photographs of small parts like these could ever be as informative and pleasing to look at as these drawings are.

    Gene, I appreciate your romanticism about being a “manufacturer of something” but I’m sure that in today’s world it would end up being a problematic business … unless there happened to be a big uptick in demand for grommets and you caught it at just the right time!

  5. It made me think of the old Bob & Ray bit about the paper clip factory that made paper clips by hand. The output of the factory was so small and the wages so low that the workers wore rags, foraged for food, and lived in caves.

  6. Fantastic drawings! You are a manufacturer of articles that make me happy!

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