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Let’s Look at Some Fantastic Old Letterhead Designs

Earlier this week I did a post about a letter written in 1952 on gorgeous New York Football Giants letterhead. The letter was sent to Uni Watch reader Ken Guckenberger’s grandfather, Gus Guckenberger, congratulating him his new job with the Ward Baking Company, which had been mentioned in several newspapers.

As it turns out, the Giants weren’t the only ones sending kudos to Gus. He was leaving his job as executive secretary of the New York State Merchants Association, a grocery trade group that he had co-founded, so he had developed a lot of goodwill from contacts across the grocery industry over the years, dozens of whom sent him letters of congratulations. Many of those letters came on spectacular letterhead (my favorite one is shown above), and Ken has now shared a bunch of those with me.

One thing that’s apparent is that Gus was popular in the beer biz, because he received letters from quite a few brewers:

There were also letters from several soft drink brands:

I’ve always been fascinated by trade groups and trade magazines, so it was fun to see so many of them represented:

I’ve always loved this style of business letterhead, showing an overhead view of the company headquarters:

Here are some more that don’t fit in any particular category but are nonetheless pleasing:

A few thoughts about all this:

  • Out of all the letters Ken shared with me, the one from the Giants was the only one that was handwritten. All the others were typed.
  • It’s fun to look at all the signatures — some very flashy, others more reserved.
  • It’s also interesting to see all the sign-offs: “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Yours very truly,” and so on.

One thing that’s also apparent from reading all of these letters is that Gus’s career move was covered in a lot of publications, presumably because his trade group sent out a press release. Here’s the notice that ran in The New York Times on Aug. 7, 1952:

As it happens, the Times sent Gus a clipping of that item about him. Although their letterhead is unremarkable, I was intrigued by the description of the clipping being “from our rag edition, which will not fade and is practically imperishable”:

I’d never heard of the Times — or any other newspaper, for that matter — publishing a higher-quality “rag edition.” I googled it and found this December 1926 Times article, in which the paper announced the rag edition’s impending launch. It was done mainly for archival purposes, because rag paper doesn’t degrade like cheapo newsprint. Other newspapers soon followed, and the resulting rag editions were a hit with librarians. (While I don’t know for sure, I’m assuming that microfilm and microfiche eventually made rag editions moot. Anyone know more?)

Fascinating stuff, and a great example of how you can learn a lot from looking at old letterhead!

Speaking of which, if you’re into old stationery designs, I strongly recommend the great website Letterheady. Enjoy!

(My continued thanks to Ken Guckenberg for sharing these family treasures with us.)


Comments (12)

    How interested are you in hotel stationery, either from chains or independent hotels/motels? I used to collect the stationery on my family vacations in the ’70s and ’80s and actually used it to write letters to my grandparents and others. Even the stationery from the chains were customized with the location of the hotel/motel you were in.

    Alas, as with everything else, email and texting has made that stationery obsolete; now all you find in hotel rooms are notepads.

    Oh, sorry to mislead; it’s all gone, sent out in the mail decades ago. But would love to find a repository of examples similar to Letterheaddy.

    In my recent experience, you don’t even find notepads (or pens) in hotel rooms anymore – due to Covid and/or hotel owners attempting to cut costs.


    “Inclosed” lol.

    I love how football offenses evolved over time, and this is a great example of what I’ll call the “mid-range” plan; Anything pre-1906 really bears nothing upon today’s game, as the forward pass was illegal until then; the early-range involves the 1906->1933, when forward passes were legal, but had to be made from 5 or more yards behind the line of scrimmage. That all changed in 1933 when forward passes were permitted from anywhere behind the line. The “modern” game really didn’t begin until the 1950s or so, and has only been incrementally advancing (which is fine, they pretty much got it right after 1933) since then. Before the 1950s, passes were much more rare and also never thrown “deep.” Yes, the NFL has tweaked its rules to encourage more wide-open offense over the years, but like I said those changes were incremental.

    Great letterhead!

    I also greatly enjoyed the signatures! And the chit-chat language of another time. It really does feel like a time capsule, and speaks to the way Gus went about business. Thanks for sharing indeed!

    Back in the mid-90s I sent letters to the owners of all MLB teams and the commissioner voicing my protest over the move to interleague play. At the time, a lot of the teams either didn’t have a website or had a very rudimentary one, so finding names and addresses for all the owners was a real test but I eventually got them all.

    Several teams wrote back with some version of “thanks for your opinion, but it’s a done deal.” I even got a letter back from Bud Selig.

    What I wouldn’t give to see all that letterhead now.

    I really like the shorthand in the bottom left CMF:AH which indicated that someone (usually the secretary) named, oh, maybe Ann Hartman typed (and probably wrote) the letter.
    You had to know…

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