Making the Pewter Shine

In the 1980s, I had the pleasure of spending considerable time in W.A. Dwiggins‘s studio in Hingham, Massachusetts. His books, drawings, marionette theater, proof press, and all things WAD were inspirations. I even got to hold the legendary Püterschein Pitcher, which was the veritable logo for his alter ego, Hermann Püterschein, and the various printing projects done under his name. Twenty years ago, this Pitcher disappeared from the studio where his colleague, Dorothy Abbe, lived since around the time Dwig died in 1956. The Boston Public Library Rare Book Department, which maintains a permanent display of WAD’s work, including a recreated studio and marionette room, wants to obtain the Pitcher for the collection. The Püterschein Fund was created to support the care of the Dwiggins’s holdings. The Pitcher is currently off the market, but for $4,500, the BPL will be able to make the acquisition. Tax-deductible donations are being solicited (see the statement below for details).

Here’s a little history from The Püterschein Fund:

During a family holiday gathering in 1913 Dwiggins and his cousin Laurence Siegfried were helping with preparations for the meal. Ten years WAD’s junior, Siegfried shared studio space with Dwiggins for a few years prior to World War I; both men possessed a love of printing and shared an appreciation for wit and whimsy. In the years they spent together, they created a number of serio-comic publications to express what they described as their “peculiar but potent individualities.”

At the time of this holiday party, the cousins had decided to create a fictitious family of characters for use in their printed pieces. Unable to get any sheen on the pitcher he was cleaning, Dwiggins complained, “I can’t make the damn pewter shine!” Inveterate punster Siegfried immediately seized upon Dwiggins’ words of frustration and came up with the name “Thedam Püterschein.”

From this moment, the name Püterschein would be associated constantly with Dwiggins. The two cousins fabricated an entire family of German immigrants, with Thedam as head of the family. Dwiggins adopted Thedam’s son Hermann as his nom de plume and alter ego, while Siegfried established an association with Hermann’s younger brother Jacob.

(See yesterday’s Nightly Daily Heller for Evgeny Nikitin’s tattoo folly.)

One thought on “Making the Pewter Shine

  1. mkf

    The indespensible Steven Heller! Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Of course I’ll donate. A dozen years as an art director (and editor) at Random House, another 20+ with the Muppets — how could I not? WAD is, well, one for the ages. And glad the BPL’s got him. Thanks!

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