Four Score and Seventy Years Ago
150 years ago, on April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, a Federal fort in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, SC. The garrison surrendered 34 hours later, marking the first Union defeat in what would become a bloody four year Civil War. Back in 1961 Bradbury Thompson (1911–1995), designer of the storied paper promotion Westvaco Inspirations (among many other things), created an issue devoted to “The War Between the States” on the 100th anniversary of the conflict.
As Thompson enjoyed doing, he made vintage illustrations and type modern. His page layout, which includes excerpts from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and a brief narrative account of the war itself, was akin to a contiguous, page-turning collage (an exquisite corpse of graphic iconography), illustrating key moments and technologies that helped tear the nation asunder.
Thompson was a classicist with modernist tendencies, a craftsman and designer whose perfection was legendary. Westvaco Inspirations was his graphic design and typographic laboratory, and forum for interpreting history as it related to the present.
Here are spreads from Westvaco 216 (Copyright 1961, West Virginia Pulp and Paper Corporation). Note that even in 1961 the states were color-coded between North and South as red and blue.
(See yesterday’s Nightly Daily Heller on duping neo-nazis through T-shirt design.)