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Beck Engraving Company Records

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Collection Summary

Beck Engraving Company Records


Collection ID

Beck Engraving Company
44.5 linear feet (36 boxes)

Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries

Materials in English

Detailed Collection Information

Historical Note

Beck Engraving Company gained a national reputation for four color plate printing, the Bassani Halftone process, and became one of the first sheet-fed gravure plants in the U.S. Beck Engraving was incorporated in 1898 and the company expanded its operations to New York City in 1910.

Description of Collection

The records of this New York/Philadelphia fine art printing firm span most of the 20th century through ledgers (1902-1930); cash journals; insurance records; inventories and appraisals; audit reports; production reports; leases and contracts; tax returns and reports; pasteups; photographs of plant facilities and personnel; negatives; promotional materials; in-house mechanical; block prints from Guatemalan artist, Carlos Sierra Franco; color prints of the work of Jules Guerin; and a group of 40 French woodcuts published by H.C. Perleberg of Philadelphia. There is a small amount of correspondence from Charles W. Beck, Jr. and financial records from the Fidelity Appraisal Co., Penn Process Co., Inc., and Wolf and Company. An addition to the collection consists primarily of 20 copper printing plates.

Patron Information

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Temple University’s online library catalog: https://librarysearch.temple.edu/catalog/991030634629703811.

Research Access

Collection is open for research.

Collections Stored Off-Site

This collection may be housed off-site at the Library Depository, and require up to two business days to retrieve. Please review the finding aid and be prepared to identify specific materials to be retrieved. Contact the Special Collections Research Center in advance of your visit, so that materials may be relocated to the reading room for research.

Publication and Copyright Information

The Beck Engraving Company Records are the physical property of the Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries. Intellectual property rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for determining the identity of rights holders and obtaining their permission for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Preferred Citation

[Description and date of item], [Box/folder number], Beck Engraving Company Records, SPC MSS PP 049, Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

Most of collection acquired at a public sale in Philadelphia at the auction house of Samuel T. Freeman, December 17, 1992. Portions added from the Book Mark bookstore in May 1993.

Some additions gifted by Frieda Cooper in December 2003.

Processing Information

Finding aid revised according to contemporary archival standards June 2017 by Sarah Lerner, Student Worker.         


Index Terms

The following headings have been used to index the description of this collection in Temple University’s electronic catalog:

Personal and Corporate Names:
Beck, Charles W., Jr.
Beck, C. Weston
Beck, George D
Beck, Harry B
Franco, Carlos Sierra
Guérin, Jules Vallée, 1866-1946
Fidelity Appraisal Co. (Milwaukee, Wis.)
Penn Process Co., Inc. (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Perleberg, H.C.
Philadelphia Photo-Engraving Co.
Advertising layout and typography
Engraving – 20th century – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia
Engraving – Printing – Specimens
Photoengraving – Halftone process
Printing plants – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia
Printing – Layout
Printing – Presswork
Printing – Proofs
United States – History – War of 1812

Material Types:
Copperplates (lcsh)
mezzotints (prints)
Financial records


           1          1          General and Subsidiary Ledger. With: various contracts and leases (esp. Flu-orographic Dropout Process) and birth notices of George Heiser and Theodore Braun          1955

2          1          Ledger with tabs including: Liabilities, Materials, Productive Labor, Operating, Selling, Administrative, Expenses, and Income          1923-1934

3          1          Image labeled “Proofing Department as it appeared in 1918”          Undated

3          2          Copper halftone, mounted on block, portrait of bearded man (scratched)          Undated

3          3          Line etchings (3). Photo-engravings. Mounted on blocks. All depict an eagle; one labeled “I.N.A” and “1795”          Undated

3          4          Copper engraving, mounted on a block, of Beck crest (an engraver’s tool)          Undated

3          5          Stamp, mounted, of name “George D. Beck”          Undated

3          6          Issue of National Geographic Magazine. Vol. XIX, No. 1, “One of the early issues of the National Geographic Magazine in which Beck Engravings were used”          January 1908

3          7          Mezzotint. “The first mezzotint to be produced in the United States. Made in 1892 by Charles W. Beck”. Picture of farm scene with cows, horses, chickens, farmers, barns. Print mounted on board          Undated

3          8          Letter from Charles W. Beck describing the portrait as “a new discovery in the reproduction of color work, this being one first result”          February 28, 1894

3          9          Correspondence to Beck thanking him for the sample portrait and/or congratulating him on the process          Undated

3          10          Framed photograph labeled “the employees of Beck Engraving Company in 1896. Charles W. Beck, the founder, is seventh from the left in back row. His son, Charles W. Beck, Jr., is eighth from left in same row.”          1896

3          11          Print including individual photographs of Beck employees, labeled with prints of their signatures. Titled, “The Beck Engraving Company-Gallery”          April 1956

3          12          Image labeled “The gallery as it appeared in 1918”          Undated

3          13          Unlabeled image depicting men working at various machines          Undated

3          14          Photograph of two men holding straw hats          Undated

3          15          “The Economy of Excellence: The Argument of the Beck Engraving Company.”  An advertising pamphlet for the company (Photocopy, probably enlarged)          1922

3          16          Beck Highlights. Volume 1, No. 3. Pamphlet about the experience of the workers at Beck Engraving Co. (printer’s copy)          Spring 1953

3          17          “The Beck Story” (A reprint of an editorial article published in the Graphic Arts Review, June 1948) History of the Company (2 copies)          Undated

3          18          “Fiftieth Anniversary of the House of Beck: 1864-1914” History of the company with some biography of the founder, Charles W. Beck          1914

3          19          The Girard Letter. Vol. X, No. 2. Includes article, on pages 6-10, titled “Industrial Philadelphia: The Beck Engraving Company”, covering the history of photo-engraving in Philadelphia and deals some with the Beck Company          February 1930

3          20          A list of employees and wages on 2 sheets, in a plastic envelope          Undated

4          1          Stock Reports, Tax Returns, Accountant’s Reports          1926

4          2          Inventories          1927

4          3          Stock Reports, Shareholders Reports, Audit, Taxes          1927

4          4          Inventories          1928

4          5          Tax Report, Stock Report          1928

4          6          Inventories          1929

4          7          Taxes, Audit, Census Report         1929

4          8          Inventories, Taxes          1930

4          9          Inventories, Tax Reports, Audits, Profit and Loss Statements          1931

5          1          Contracts, Titles, Deeds          1941-1955

5          2          Finances and Dealings with Banks          1920-1923

5          3          Labor, Wage Reports          1920-1950

5          4          Profit and Loss Statements          1923-1926

5          5          Profit and Loss Statements          1927-1930

5          6          Stock Reports, Corporate Loans          1911-1922

5          7          Tax Reports, Census Manufacturers, Other Government Reports          1910-1926

5          8          War Industries Board Reports          1918

6          1          Audits, Tax Reports, Wage Reports, Other Financial Reports          1932

6          2          Audits, Tax Reports, Wage Reports, Profit and Loss Reports          1933

6          3          Profit and Loss Reports, Operating Cost Reports          1923, 1930, 1932

6          4          Finlay, Receipts and Miscellaneous          1929-1930

6          5          Sayles, S.B. Commissions, Projects          1939-1940

7          1          Bank Deposit Book          1917

7          2          Inventories          1922

7          3          Inventories          1923

7          4          Tax Reports, Stock Reports          1923

7          5          Inventories          1924

7          6          Government and State Reports prepared by Wolf and Co., Accountants          1924

7          7          Tax Reports          1924

7          8          Inventories          1925

7          9          Tax Returns, Audits, Stock Reports, Profit and Loss Reports          1925

7          10          Inventories          1926

8          1          Appraisal of the plant at 7th and Sansom, Philadelphia (for buildings, equipment, and depreciation); Blueprint of plant enclosed (2 copies)          July 8, 1936

8          2          Guest Book (location not named)          1947-1989

8          3          Cash Book and Journal          January 1922-December 1923

9          1          Blueprints of Beck Philadelphia Sansom Street Building by Fidelity Appraisal Co.        May 1923

9          2          Appraisal of the plant at 7th and Sansom, Philadelphia (for buildings, equipment, and land)          May 14, 1923

9          3          Appraisal of the engraving plant at 305 E. 45 St., NYC (for equipment and depreciation)          July 6, 1936

9          4          Appraisal of the plant at 461 8th Ave., NYC (for equipment and depreciation)          June 3, 1927

9          5          Appraisal of the plant at 7th and Sansom, Philadelphia (for equipment only)          June 3, 1927

9          6          Appraisal of the plant at 461 8th Ave, NYC (for the machinery and equipment on the third and fourth floors)          May 14, 1923

10                    Photographic prints and negatives of Beck executives/family          1958-1969, undated

11                    Photographic prints, unlabeled (plant and staff)          Undated

12                    Photographs and negatives, labeled (plant and staff)          1959-1960, undated

13                    Photographic negatives, unlabeled (plant and staff)          Undated

14                    Photographic prints, unlabeled (plant and staff)          Undated

15                    Photographic negatives, labeled          1956, undated

16          1          America’s Wonderlands: the National Parks. (Prepared by the National Geographic Book Service. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society). Published copy of book with markings for a revised edition          1959

16          2          “The Alphabet”: Notes, drafts of copy          Undated

16          3          “The Alphabet”: Non-mounted print work          Undated

16          4          “The Alphabet”: Mounted print work          Undated

17          1          Various Beck Company intaglio plates          Undated

17          2          Intaglio name plates of company officials: Charles P. Barber, C. Weston Beck,  George D. Beck (Chairman), George D. Beck (President), Larry Cavanaugh, Thomas L. Cooper  (President), Rae Craft (Vice President), Donald B. Hancock, Frank C. Johnson, Michael E. Ventola, Robert B. Veroni          Undated

17          3          Two circular copper plates featuring Beck Emblem. Background painted blue. 8” in diameter. Engraver/etching symbol          Undated

17          4          Two plates featuring the same N.C. Wyeth image. Electrograph half-tone color plates, 1 for black ink, 1 for blue ink. Unmounted. Back of both bears the number: “P-1400” 9”x12”          Undated

18          1          Madonna and Child Antonello da Messina          Undated

18          2          Madonna and Child Fra Angelico          Undated

18          3          Portrait of a Young Man Velasquez          Undated

18          4          Rest during Flight into Egypt David          Undated

18          5          Portrait of a Lady Pisanello          Undated

18          6          “Contemporary French Woodcuts: Forty Plates.” Published by H.C. Perleberg. Philadelphia (plates loose, numbered 1-39 with a title page; missing page 40) (Pencil note on envelope reads, “Pages from Harpers French Woodcuts”          Undated

18          7          “A Midnight Race on the Housassippi” H.D. Manning of the Natchez          Undated

18          8          “Central-Park, Winter: The Skating Pond” Currier and Ives, Lith. N.Y. (2 copies)          Undated

18          9          “Full Cry” Painted by J.F. Henning Sr.         Undated

18          10          “Woodcock Shotting?” From nature and on Stone by F.F. Palmer          Undated

18          11          “Five Centuries of the Printed Bible.” Exhibit announcement. Given by the Lakeside Press. R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company          January-March, 1957

18          12          “Greek Myths and Other Symbols; From a Group of Paintings by John Hemming Fry.” Designed, Engraved, and Printed by the Beck Engraving Company (envelope reads, “Pages from Frey Book”) (loose signatures without illustrative plates. Text and typographical work without actual prints of the artist’s work)          1927

18          13          Oakley Mural materials          Undated

18          14          “Original Block Prints” Carlos Sierra Franco (artist). “Series No. 1: Amatitlan Fisherman: Life in Life” (Designed envelope with artist’s biographical information, containing 16 untitled prints of different sizes and different materials, 1 of which is signed in pencil by the artist          Undated

18          15          Portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson. Painting by Elizabeth Thoumatoff (5 copies)          1974

18          16          “Twelve Pictures in Color” By Jules Guerin (12 loose prints in a printed envelope) (2 copies)  Listed by title, in the order in which they were found: “Old Swedes’ Church, Wilmington, Delaware” “Kings Chapel, Boston” “St. Pauls Chapel, New York” “Old St. Peter’s Church, Philadelphia” “Noel, Noel: Christmas Waits at Old Christ Church, Philadelphia” “The  Mission of San Carlos, California” “The Alamo Mission, San Antonio, Texas” “Christ Church at Alexandria, Virginia” “The Old Dutch Church at Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, New York” “Mission San Jose de Aguayo, near San Antonia, Texas” “The Mission San Luis Rey de Francia” “First Congregational Church at Old Lyme, Connecticut”          Undated

18          17          William Penn (various prints concerning William Penn’s story and accomplishments, presented with religious historical context. Not all are identified, but they all seem to be by the same artist; one print reads “copyright 1917 by Violet Oakley”          1917, undated

19          1          Bound book of samples of color prints, untitled          Undated

19          2          Bound book of samples of color prints: “The Book of Beck Standards of Engraving”          Undated

20          1          Skeleton. 4 Prints, 1 mounted, of scientific diagram of a human skeleton          Undated

20          2          U.S. Capitol Building. 24 prints, all from the same negative, of various types and materials. Enclosed in folder marked, “A souvenir of your visit with The Beck Engraving Company.”          Undated

20          3          Albrecht Durer. 2 prints and 2 transparencies of engraving, “Adam and Eve”          Undated

20          4          American Wildlife Institute (work for a calendar featuring birds and the work of Louis Agassiz Fuentes. Includes: Prints of pictures of birds (13 prints), Prints of copy along with a calendar month (10 sheets (January-October folded over)), Printing of copy, with introduction (1 page, folded 3 times), Draft of copy (2 typed pages)          Undated

20          5          Bird.Prints (color and black & white). Artwork by Allan Brooks. Envelope (clipping in folder) reads, “Letterpress Print Progressive Proofs”          Undated

20          6          Calendars and Almanacs: 14 Prints of farming scenes. Individual envelope (clipping in this folder) reads, “1 set of proofs of Almanack Cal. 1919. Line cuts to be put with Beck samples. #2. MM1.”  Large envelope (in Folder E) reads, “Beck Calendar-1919 (Penfield)”          1919

20          7          15 Prints of country/farming scenes. Individual envelope (clipping in this folder) reads, “Proofs of Line cuts (electros) taken from Beck Cal. 1920, to be put with Beck samples. #1-A to L. MM1”.  Large envelope (in Folder E) reads, “Beck Calendar 1926 (BFC) Zodiac”          1920, 1926

20          8          12 Prints of boys, labeled 1-A to 1-L. Individual envelope (clipping in this folder) reads, “1 set of proofs of 2 color line cuts taken from Beck Cal. 1926 to be put with Beck samples. #1-A to L. MM1.”  Large envelope (in Folder E) reads, “Beck Calendar 1926 (BFC) Zodiac”          1926

20          9          35 Prints from a late 18th-century or early 19th-century book          Undated

20          10          7 Prints from pages of unknown calendars or almanacs          Undated

20          11          Fish. Print, mounted on board (“Red fire fish”, “Deep etch on copper”)          Undated

20          12          George Washington. Prints of line drawing of profile of George Washington. 5 unmounted, 2 mounted on board. (Envelope reads, “George Washington Portfolio cover drawing. Beck Art.”) (clipping in folder)          Undated

20          13          Independence Hall and Liberty Bell. 7 Prints (1 mounted) of drawings and photographs of Independence Hall. 8 Prints of drawings and photographs of the Liberty Bell. 1 mounted drawing combines the images. Also included is a pamphlet titles “Independence,” printed for the National Historical Park Service, that featuring Independence Hall and other buildings. None of the images in the pamphlet are the same as the other prints of the Hall and the Bell.         Undated

20          14          Parthenon. 5 prints of the same image, 1 mounted. The unmounted prints are cropped slightly smaller. (Note on one of the unmounted prints reads, “Procession of mounted youths-north wall of Parthenon”) (Note on the mounted print reads, “Deep etch on copper”)          Undated

20          15          Poor Richard’s Almanac. 2 transparencies and 6 prints of line drawings by Thurman French. Envelope containing the transparencies reads, “4/15/55 Almanac. Thurman French line drawings”  5 of 6 prints are printed on board. The other is title page reading, “Poor Richard’s Almanack. Official publication of the Poor Richard Club. May 1955.”  Large envelope containing all materials (clipping in folder) read, “Thurman French cartoons”          1955

21          1          Andrey Avinoff’s Work. Folder prepared for independent distribution, with title, “Monument to an Artist”. Enclosed are prints of plant specimens. (4 copies, all in unmarked envelopes. 4 copies of one print, 1 copy of another print)          Undated

21          2          “Brush Up Your Packaging.” Ad featuring work done for toothbrush manufacturer Py-co-pay. Included: mounted and unmounted prints, negatives, and a toothbrush in packaging          Undated

21          3          Colonial entranceway. Brochure prepared for independent distribution, titled “Three-Color Beck Gravure” (2 copies)          Undated

21          4          “Does she…or doesn’t she?...go to Beck for Photoengraving?”  Ad featuring ads done for Clairol and Old Taylor Bourbon. Included: multiple copies of the finished ad, and parts of the ad in various stages of completion          Undated

21          5          Fragonard’s “A Young Girl Reading.”  Print of an Ad. Besides Beck, ad also promotes the book, “Treasures from the National Gallery of Art.”  [no bibliographical information provided]          Undated

21          6          Harry Goff cartoon and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Cartoon depicts a busy scene at a Beck plant. Artwork from the Met presents Beck’s work, advertising letterpress          Undated

21          7          “New 1-2 Punch Licks 2 Old Gravure Problems…see Beck.”  Ad prepared for appearance in “Gravure Magazine”. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          March 1965

21          8          “Nine of the Top Ten Agencies Go to Beck…There Must Be a Reason.”  Ad prepared for appearance in “Advertising age”. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          November 13, 1964

21          9          “Still Better Service for Our Clients in and around Pittsburgh…”  Ad prepared for appearance in “Type Graphic”. Ad announces direct phone line from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          August 1965

21          10          “Record of Achievement”. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          Undated

21          11          “Some things naturally go together…like cigarettes and cordials. Like Beck and the printed page.” Ad prepared for appearance in multiple publications. Ad featuring ad work done for Phillip Morris and Hiram Walker. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          February-May 1965

21          12          “There’s Appetite Appeal in Photoengraving.”  Ad featuring work done for Jell-O and Mrs. Flibert’s Margarine. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          Undated

21          13          U.S. Capitol. Brochure prepared for independent distribution, titled “Monotone Beck Gravure.”  Featured are various prints of the U.S. Capitol building          Undated

21          14          “We Think It’s Better in Print.”  Ad booklet prepared for independent distribution. Featured are numerous examples of ad work done by Beck. Spiral bound. (2 copies)          Undated

21          15          “What’s a Photoengraver Like Beck doing in the Food Packaging Business?”  Ad featuring ad work done for Seabrook Creamed Spinach and Mrs. Smith’s Pies. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          Undated

21          16          “If You Are Thinking of Installing…”  Ad prepared as “Giveaway sheet for Printing Industries of America show.”  Included: work at many stages of ad’s production          Undated

21          17          Wrist Watches. Brochure prepared for independent distributions titled, “Monocolor Beck Gravure” and featuring ad work done for Hamilton Watches          Undated

21          18          “3 Steps Toward Package Perfection.”  Ad featuring ad work done for Muriel Coronella Cigars and Action Bleach. Includes: work at many stages of ad’s production          Undated

21          19          Materials prepared for the Gravure Technical Association Convention, Atlanta GA. Materials completed and in production          April 29, 1980

21          20          Various “ad inserts” Includes: work at many stages of production          Undated

22                    Beck Engraving Company heading drafts          Undated

23          1          Beck 25 Year Club. Work at many stages for award certificate          1966

23          2          “Memorandum of Appreciation.”  17 retirement certificates awarded to: Benjamin F. Collins, Willard S. Davenport, E. Donahue, Joseph D. Gutherman, Harry W. Hess, Marie A. Hood, Howard J. Kelly, P. Peter, Harry E. Robinson, Terrence J. Rodgers, Adolph F. Schwaiger, Penrose Sherman, Thomas R. Smith, Sr., Henry O. Sountag [Sonntag?], William F. Steele, John E. Sullivan, William T. Wrightson, Richard Ziegelbauer          Undated

23          3          Beck Letterhead and Stationary. Numerous prints and samples of Beck letterhead and stationary at various stages of production          Undated

23          4          T-M even lines          Undated

23          5          Special Beck ad          Undated

24          1          Expense Ledger for various Accounts          January 31, 1949-December 31, 1957

24          2          Ledger indexed with tabs labeled: Liabilities, Sales, Operating, Materials, Productive Labor, Shop Expenses, General, Selling, Administration, Financial, Expenses, Income, and Closed Accounts          1919-1923

24          3          Ledger indexed with tabs labeled: Assets, Liabilities, Printing (Sales, Materials, Productive Labor, Non-Productive Labor, Overhead, Selling, Administration), Photo Engraving (same headings as for printing above), New York Plant, Other Incomes, and Other Expenses          1927-1931

25          1          Various Accounts          June 2, 1919-September 20, 1919

25          2          Various Accounts          February 1-May 31, 1919

25          3          Various Accounts          October 1, 1920-February 28, 1921

25          4          Various Accounts          May 1, 1920-September 30, 1920

25          5          Various Accounts          January 1, 1920-April 30, 1920

25          6          Various Accounts          October 30, 1919-December 31, 1919

26          1          “Books of Account of Julia L. Beck trading as The Beck Engraving Co.” Headings include: Sales, Materials, Expense, Discounts and Interest, New York Office, (Charles W. Beck (on spine: No. 3))          1902-1910

26          2          Various Accounts          1920-1921

26          3          Account book with headings including: Machinery And Fixtures, Materials, Merchandise, Expense, Market St. National Bank, Charles Beck Sr., New York Office, Moore Art Department, Printing, Etching          1911-1915

26          4          Account book with headings including: Machinery and Fixtures, Merchandise, Expense, Discounts and Interest, Taxes, Investments, New York Plant, Charles W. Beck, Jr., Charles W. Beck (on spine: No. 5)          1915-1919

27          1          Ledger          1923-1936

27          2          Ledger indexed with tabs labeled: Assets, Liabilities, Printing (Sales, Materials, Productive Labor, Non-Productive, Overhead, Selling, Administration), Photo Engraving, NY Plant, Other Incomes, Other Expenses          1953

27          1          Insurance ledger: Building, Casualty, New York, Philadelphia          1924-1933

28                    Cash Ledger only. Various accounts received and paid          1916-1919

29                    Credits, Debits for Various Accounts         1939-1958

30                    Naval print plates          1935

31                    Naval print and caption bar          1935

32                    Naval prints          Undated

33                    Naval prints          Undated

34                    Naval prints and caption blocks          Undated

35          1          Ad featuring a catalogue of Planters Products; first word of title: “Nuts”          Undated

35          2          Ad featuring a grocery store display; title: “Planters is the Word for Good Peanuts: Planters Full-Line Nut Department: Boosts Sales and Profits”          Undated

36                    Print of plant employees          Undated