History of Hatch Show Print

It started, naturally enough, with the Hatch family. William H. Hatch ran a print shop in the town of Prescott, Wisconsin, where his two sons, Charles R. and Herbert H. (born in 1852 and 1854, respectively), grew up and learned the craft of letterpress printmaking.  In 1875, William moved his family to Nashville where, four years later, Charles and Herbert founded CR and HH Hatch.

From their very first print job—a handbill announcing the appearance of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe)—the Hatch brothers got the look right. Here was the simplicity, the effortless balance between type size and style, vertical and horizontal layout. Here, too, was the distinct whiff of American history, southern culture, and entertainment.

Hatch flourished, for these were the days when show business was get-up-and-go business. Show posters created the excitement that sold the show, covering the sides of buildings and barns in cities and towns throughout the country. Whether circus, minstrel show, vaudeville act, or carnival, if you wanted to fill seats, Hatch got the job done.

The golden age of Hatch was from the mid-1920s, when Charles's son Will T. Hatch took over the business, until Will's death in 1952. It was a golden era for country music as well, and Hatch captured the magic. Will frequently turned his talent as a master woodblock carver to "chiseling and gouging" (as someone once put it) some of the most indelible images of country music performers ever made. To further secure the historic link, Hatch's home from 1925 to 1992 was right behind the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music.

Hatch captured the glory of other musical genres, doing work for the great African-American jazz and blues entertainers of the day, such as Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong.

Just as eye-catching are the "bread and butter" posters that filled in the blanks during this time, the small jobs for filling stations, laundries, grocery stores, and movie theaters. This openness to the sheer breadth of southern culture and advertising helped Hatch Show Print survive the comparatively lean years that followed the death of Will Hatch. While letterpress printmakers found it hard to compete in the more modern, faster age of offset printmaking, Hatch could turn to country music and other "old faithfuls" for continued
support, while embracing newer forms of entertainment such as all-star wrestling and rock & roll.

Ownership of Hatch changed hands several times in these years. Bill Denny (fittingly enough, son of Grand Ole Opry General Manager Jim Denny), Gaylord Entertainment, and others all played roles in keeping Hatch alive. Gaylord was directly responsible for the generous donation of Hatch to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992.

From 1992 – 2013, Hatch Show Print could be found on lower Broadway, after vacating the building on 4th Avenue South to make way for the AT&T Building. These two decades also required the shop to shift gears, to keep up with a renewed demand for posters from artists and venues around the world, and for artwork from ad agencies and creative directors who desire the look and texture Hatch Show Print offers – the antithesis of digital design.

Now designing and printing from 500 to 600 different posters a year, plus providing artwork for diverse projects such as an art book on photography and food packaging for a UK-based entrepreneur, and lending the shop’s typography to a United States postage stamp design, Hatch Show Print looks forward to carrying on the 19th century traditions and practices of the letterpress poster shop it was founded as three generations
ago.

Today, Hatch Show Print resides at 224 5th Avenue South, in four different spaces designed and built to suit the demands and mission of such a busy icon of design, letterpress printing, and history:       

  • A large print shop where visitors can watch posters roll off the presses;
  • A store with wall space to display the 100-plus posters created by the print shop and available for purchase;
  • Hatch Show Print's Haley Gallery, featuring historic restrikes of original posters from the Hatch collection, as well as Master Printer Jim Sherraden’s monoprints—contemporary interpretations and celebrations of the classic wood blocks of Hatch Show Print; and
  • Hatch Show Print Space for Design, a classroom and workshop space that will offer visitors and clients opportunities to learn more through demonstrations, hands-on printing and more in-depth programs.