Hatch Show Print has grown from creating handbills for tent revivals headlined by Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, in the late 1800s to posters announcing the latest headline acts. They are highly regarded for their signature letterpress style. The work celebrates American history, entertainment and southern culture. Guests can tour the print shop and see these unique works of art roll off the presses and a gallery containing many of the shop’s famous prints. While visiting the workshop, you can even try your hand at designing and printing your own poster.
If you track the history of art, music and culture of the American South, you will soon notice posters and other advertisements that bear memorable images and letters. The distinctive look was created by Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest continually working letterpress-format print shops in the country.
The History of Hatch Show Print
William Hatch ran a print shop in Prescott, Wisconsin in the mid-19th century where his sons, Charles and Herbert, learned the letterpress style of printmaking. The family would move to Nashville in 1875 and four years later, the brothers founded Hatch Show Print. Their first job was to print handbills announcing an appearance by Henry Ward Beecher, a preacher and brother of famed author Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The company’s creations were tacked to the sides of barns and buildings all over the South. Their letterpress style was known for its simplicity and balance between type size as well as the distinctive vertical and horizontal layout. Designed to stop people in their
tracks and draw them in for a closer look, the posters advertised a variety of public gatherings, including circuses, operas and sporting events.
Hatch Show Print flourished from the 1920s until the 1950s as their posters captured the thrilling era of country music’s golden age. During this period, the company operated from a shop adjacent to the Ryman Auditorium, which forged a connection with the Grand Ole Opry. In addition to solidifying its link to country music, the company also produced posters and advertisements for well-known African-American performers, including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Bessie Smith. Over the years, ownership of the shop changed hands several times. In order to survive, the company produced handbills and small advertisements featuring its distinctive style for gas stations, grocery stores and other small businesses.
The company experienced a renaissance during the late 1990s due to renewed interest in its artwork from creative directors and advertising agencies from around the world. The style and texture of the company’s design techniques are the antithesis of modern digital formats.
Although letterpress printing dates from the 1400s and is slower than the more modern offset printing techniques, the company continues to produce between 500 and 600 custom-designed posters per year. Clients continue to request the same traditional letterpress printing techniques that made Hatch Show Print famous. The company often uses the large, hand-carved wood blocks that were designed by William Hatch in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They also design new blocks fashioned from wood or linoleum to add to their ever-expanding archival collection of letters and images. In addition to making posters for touring entertainers, the company generates distinctive posters for venues from around the world as well as a variety of businesses and organizations from an assortment of industries.
Hatch Show Print operates a large print shop with a gallery from which visitors can observe the printing process. A retail store displays various posters and other items offered for sale. The Haley Gallery features historic restrikes of original, well-known posters. The Hatch Show Print Space for Design provides clients and visitors the opportunity to learn about letterpress printing through hands-on demonstrations.
Tour the Print Shop
The artistic quality of the posters makes observers pause and reflect on the masterful combination of attention-grabbing headlines, snazzy graphics, humor and irony. The posters reflect American history, entertainment and Southern culture. You can experience the creation of this American art form up-close during a tour of the company’s print shop and design studio. Learn more about this iconic print shop as you listen to the presses crank out the latest vivid posters and advertisements. Compare today’s trendiest designs with the historical works that hang on the walls. You can handle some of the company’s tools of the trade and try your hand at making your own unique keepsake poster.
The shop, design studio and store are located in the Fifth Avenue lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Look for the bright neon sign halfway down the block between Korean Veterans Boulevard and Demonbreun Street. The Hatch Show Print production shop is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Guided tours take place weekdays at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Space is limited, so reserve a space online before your visit. And for those aboard the Old Town Trolley, hop off at Stop #2 to explore Hatch Show Print. When you’re done at the print shop, hop back on the next trolley and continue your tour of Music City.
Thing to Do Nearby
Housed in a distinctive bass clef-shaped building, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum chronicles the history of this uniquely American musical genre and the careers of many legendary performers. Visitors enjoy a variety of interactive exhibits that feature photos, costumes and other memorabilia associated with different aspects of the country music industry.
Opened in 2006, the Nashville Walk of Fame honors Music City residents who have made a lasting contribution to the community’s musical heritage. Honorees are commemorated with a large terrazzo and stainless steel star embedded in a pathway contained within a park bordered by the Bridgestone Arena, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
The Johnny Cash Museum features concert costumes, photographs and personal mementos as well as other artifacts and memorabilia associated with the life and musical career of “The Man in Black.”
The Goo Goo Shop offers a wide assortment of vintage retro candies as well as their namesake handmade confection. A Nashville tradition, the goo goo cluster is a delicious treat that features chocolate, caramel, marshmallow and peanuts.
Completed in 2006, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center is home to the award-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Boasting amazing acoustics, the Neoclassical structure features several performance venues and unique architectural details. Must see features include irises, the Tennessee state flower, as well as a courtyard with a fountain and lush landscaping.