1930s Galveston - Murdoch's Bath House Print - Red
A while back I was in a little antique shop looking for rare Texas books. It turned out to be a dry hole, but as I was leaving, I noticed something on the floor in front of an old china cabinet.
I knew right away it was a print block, but I had never seen one that big. I picked it up and read the reverse text: "GALVESTON." And below that "Murdoch's Bath House."
Murdoch's is a Galveston institution. Generations of vacationers would head down to the Island City, rent bathing suits at Murdoch's and change in one of the 700 dressing rooms before wading in and enjoying the Gulf waters.
The print block was used to print souvenirs sold at Murdoch's (probably silk pillow shams) during the Prohibition era. I date it to between 1929 and 1932.
How did I come up with those dates?
Take a look at the vignette on the right. That's the Buccaneer Hotel, which opened in 1929, so that's the earliest possible year.
That leaves the later date to justify. See the bathing beauty with the fancy umbrella? She's not just another pretty face.
People of the time would understand her presence refers to Galveston's world famous International Pageant of Pulchritude. That's what they called it. Pulchritude just means beauty. The pageant was held each year from 1926 to 1931. The winner was awarded a very special title. She was called Miss Universe.
So you can imagine I was quite happy to find this very special print block. And I guess I let it show, because when I asked the price, it was way higher than I expected and the dealer wouldn't budge. Well, you only live once. I bought it.
Of course I couldn't buy it and not attempt to print from it. But I had doubts about how well they would turn out. The block is well worn and nicks and divots don't transfer ink. Would it be recognizable? Only one way to find out.
And that's how we ended up with 60 fresh prints from this antique block. 30 in black and 30 in red. They came out better than I had any right to expect.
Technically, these are relief prints. That's a very old method of producing illustrations. It pre-dates Mr. Gutenberg. It's also a lot of work, and messy.
Each print is different due to how the ink clung to the block and transferred to the sheet. Pressing the paper to the block also leaves the shape of the block impressed in the paper. That's called a plate mark.
If you need digital perfection, this isn't for you. But if you like things that are authentic, made by hand with care, you will love it.
- 22 by 22 inches
- Open Edition
- On 100% cotton watercolor paper
The paper is acid free, cold press cotton watercolor with an elegant ever so lightly textured finish.
The ink is traditional block printing ink and will remain color-fast for longer than anyone alive today will be around.
It's an instant heirloom. Get yours before they're gone...and get one to give to a friend. He'll owe you!
- Shipping is $5 for this item.
- Allow two weeks for delivery.
- Ships in a sturdy tube.
We will gladly buy it back if you decide you don't want it anymore. There's no time limit on that.