With a letterpress lineage dating back to Gutenberg, Hatch Show Print began printing posters in 1879 when brothers Charles R. and Herbert H. Hatch opened their small business in Nashville. Their first poster, a six-by-nine-inch handbill advertising a lecture by Henry Ward Beecher, already contained the indispensable elements that would come to characterize a Hatch poster: nineteenth-century typography, letterpress printmaking technology, and a memorable, eye-catching layout.
“Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms,” went an early shop slogan. Hatch was a full-service, community printer whose posters touted church services, cafe hours, houses for sale, “whole hog” sausage, “easy starting” gasoline, and “most beautiful” electric ranges. Printing, then as now, was a cutthroat business: survivors usually had the latest technology, best service, and speediest delivery. The Hatch family’s affinity for show posters kept them in the game–that and their impeccable (if wholly unplanned) sense of timing and fortuitous location in Nashville.
Hatch Show Print’s association with country music began in 1928 when the shop printed posters featuring “America’s Blue Yodeler,” Jimmie Rodgers. The connection grew stronger in the 1940s when Hatch made posters for stars of the Grand Ole Opry as they toured outside Nashville. “All you needed was a Hatch poster to let folks know the Opry was coming to town,” country comedian Minnie Pearl once remarked. Iconographic portraits of Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Bill Monroe, Minnie herself, and others were printed from maple and basswood blocks, hand-carved by Will T. Hatch, the last family member to manage the shop.
Hatch documented nearly every form of entertainment in the twentieth century, printing posters–often from fabulously carved woodblocks–for showboats, medicine and tent shows, auto and boat races, carnivals, circuses, and minstrel shows. Promoters for vaudeville, silent films, “talkies,” country music, rock-n-roll, rhythm and blues, and professional wrestling all relied on Hatch to get the word out. Today, performers, promoters, graphic designers, and art lovers alike seek posters with Hatch Show Print’s inimitable wood-grained letterpress impressions. Recent clients have included the Ryman Auditorium, Coldplay, B. B. King, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, and Dorling Kindersley Publishers.
Since 1986, Hatch Show Print has operated as a non-profit working museum and as a division of the Country Music Foundation. Hatch Show Print is located at 316 Broadway in Nashville.
Paul Kingsbury, Jim Sherraden, and Elek Horvath, Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop (2001)