Spectacular Images from Chicago’s Turn-of-the-Century Design Bible
‘The Inland Printer’ taught generations of printers the tricks of the trade, while spreading the gospel of Art Nouveau to America—and previewing the sleek modernist revolution to come.
Published March 6, 2018, at 10:30 a.m.
Text by Whet Moser
The Inland Printer was founded in Chicago in 1883 as a trade journal for the Midwestern printing industry, of which its publisher, the Inland Printer Company, was a part. And it maintained that mission, covering a wide range of subjects about the trade—technical details, discussions of copyediting, advice on business matters—while expanding into an influential design and illustration journal just as posters became a mass market for artists and designers and American type designers came into their own.
Local illustrator William H. Bradley, an Art Nouveau disciple of the great British illustrators Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris, pushed its editors to use illustrators (including himself) as part of their coverage and to demonstrate the technical possibilities of the growing scene. The publication became a catalyst for the Art Nouveau movement in the United States, while introducing readers to styles from abroad.
This selection of images from almost four decades of The Inland Printer captures its scope and the richness of its Art Nouveau heritage—while the change that would be wrought by European modernism begins to emerge from its pages. In one preview of what was to come, a 1915 sample of “characteristic German design” notes that the comparatively austere pre-Bauhaus posters “illustrate the tendency on the part of German artists to work for striking, unusual results rather than beauty.”