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The History of Nashville's Iconic Hatch Show Print

Hatch Show Print

Hatch Show Print, one of North America’s oldest letterpress print shops, celebrated its 140th birthday this year. The shop has played an essential role in Nashville’s booming music scene, creating iconic concert posters to everyone from Earl Scruggs to Led Zeppelin. While Hatch’s clientele has changed throughout the years, the company’s instantly recognizable poster design has remained true throughout its existence.
 
Right now, ArtistWorks is offering the opportunity to sign up for a six month plan for any bluegrass course, and get a custom, limited-run Hatch Show Print poster for free! To celebrate this very special offer, we figured it's a perfect time to share the famous poster maker’s storied history. 
 
Hatch Show Print’s origins can be traced back to the mid-19th century. William Hatch ran a print shop in Prescott, WI, where his two sons, Charles and Herbert, grew up learning the craft of letterpress printing. William moved his family to Nashville, TN in 1875, and on April 12, 1879, his two sons founded C.R. & H.H. Hatch, Printers.
 
For their very first print job, the Hatch brothers were tasked with designing a handbill announcing a lecture by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the brother of abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe. The brothers’ final design struck an effortless balance between type size and style, and is a prime example of what we now call “poster style” layout.
 
The shop saw an influx of customers shortly thereafter, and the brothers began creating posters that would cover buildings throughout the country. Circuses, vaudeville acts, and live entertainment of all sorts had the Hatch brothers to thank for their increased sales. The message became clear — if you wanted to put people in seats, you went to Hatch Show Print for your advertisements.
 
Many consider the golden age of Hatch Show Print to be the mid-1920s to the 1950s. It was during this time that Charles’ son William took over the business. William, a master woodblock carver, used his talent to produce stellar images of his shop’s clients. The shop would then relocate to 4th Avenue, just behind the mother church of country music, the Ryman Auditorium. Here, Hatch Show Print provided their services to nearly every musician that performed at the venue. Artists like Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith would simply walk across the street, place orders, and take their posters on the road with them.
 
Hatch Show Print Posters
 
Following the death of William Hatch in 1952, Hatch Show Print experienced competition from other shops using the quicker method of offset printing. Hatch began printing small runs for grocery stores, movie theaters, and gas stations in order to survive. However, the shop’s positive reputation with musicians guaranteed that “old faithfuls” continued to purchase posters from them. On top of bluegrass, country and jazz artists, the shop saw customers in newer forms of entertainment, including professional wrestling and rock and roll.
 
The shop went through another major transformation during this time — after being synonymous with the Hatch family for nearly 100 years, Hatch Show Print became owned by several private investors. From 1952 to 1981, the shop went through five owners and three name changes. One of these owners was Gaylord Entertainment, who donated Hatch to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992. The shop then relocated to Nashville’s lower Broadway in the same year.
 
As Nashville’s city center began a revitalization, Hatch Show Print began a metamorphosis of its own. The shop experienced a revived demand from artists and venues from around the world, designing 500-600 posters annually. The shop also launched several non-music related projects, including a photography art book, food packaging, and a United States Postage stamp design.
 
In 2013, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum began an expansion project that included a relocation for Hatch Show Print. Hatch’s new home, at 224 5th Avenue South, is comprised of four different spaces — a classroom, a retail store, a fine art gallery, and the print shop itself. The new shop directly resembles the layout of William’s old location behind the Ryman Auditorium, and still uses the same techniques that were used by the Hatch Brothers. 
 
Still creating posters by hand and operating printing presses that are anywhere between 50 and over 100 years old, today’s Hatch Show Print remains a fixture in Nashville’s musical landscape. We hope you’ll try out an ArtistWorks bluegrass course to get a very own Hatch poster of your own! Remember, these custom posters are limited-run, so be sure to sign up today.
 

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