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Letterheads: Introduction

by Alethea Drexler, archives assistant
I’ve been suffering with computer-related ailments for the past week, but our tireless and good-humored IT department has me back up and running.  So, really, this week’s blog post is made possible by them.  Thanks, y’all!
When I re-boxed some of the Hermann Hospital Estate papers five years ago, I found a lot of beautiful, engraved, letterheads.  Some of them take up a solid quarter of the sheet of paper and incorporate all kinds of pictures and fanciful scripts.
I’m sure I will post more of them later.  Let’s start with some that are specific to Houston.

Click on the images for larger versions.

City of Houston, 1931, under mayor Walter E. Monteith (served 1929-1933).  Clean and fairly modern, but he included not only the skyline but the ship channel on the right, and a locomotive on the left.
This skyline does not show the J.P. Morgan Chase Bank Building[1], which opened in 1929, was for awhile the Gulf [oil] Building, and was for decades the tallest building in the city.

City of Houston, 1931

City of Houston, 1933, under mayor Oscar F. Holcombe (served 1921-1929, 1933-1937, 1939-1941, 1947-1953)[2], similar to Monteith’s but with fancier shaded lettering.
The Chase Bank is the tall building in the middle of the skyline.
City of Houston, 1933

City of Houston, 1958, under mayor Lewis Cutrer (served 1957-1963)[3], with a nice picture of City Hall:
City of Houston, 1958

Remember the Houston Post?[4]   This one is rather plain and modern but still includes a proud picture of the paper’s headquarters.  Notice the “KPRC” letters along the antenna–the Post was run by the Hobby family, who also ran KPRC, the city’s first AM radio station.  The KPRC television station was purchased later and named for the radio station[5].
Houston Post, KPRC 1933

The Post was later absorbed by the Houston Chronicle[6].  This letterhead is from 1918; notice that it’s much more elaborate than the 1933 one above it.
Houston Chronicle, 1918

Houston Electric Company, 1934.  This style is really classic: Clean, streamlined, and friendly.  It’s similar to the artwork you see in 1930’s children’s books: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel (1939)[7] is the first one that comes to mind for me.
Houston Electric Company, 1934

In contrast is the G.D. Scott Live Stock Commission Company (1935), which has a Victorian look with a wild-eyed longhorn.  The G.D. Scott company was founded in 1931[8].
G.D. Scott Live Stock Commission Company, 1935

The City Sign Company went for a dramatic, mythology-inspired, Art Deco Atlas:
City Sign Company, 1939

The Pyramid Asbestos & Roofing Company cashed in on the 1920’s craze for all things Egyptian.  King Tutankhamun’s tomb was rediscovered in the early 1920’s[9], setting off a fad for Egyptian-styled clothing and design.  Egyptian artwork also happens to lend itself particularly well to blending with Art Deco, and the two commonly show up together: DeKalb, Illinois, has a wonderful 1929 Egyptian – Art Deco movie theater[10], and this theater in Philadelphia[11] has stylized lotus flowers over the windows.
Pyramid Asbestos & Roofing, 1935

This sheet was never used and has no date, but leave it to the venerable Rice Hotel[12] to go for classy and understated:
Rice Hotel, no date

And, last but by no means least, the Houston chapter of the Arabia Temple[13]–we know them as the Shriners–spared no detail. We can manage the palm trees here, and maybe the sand, but I don’t think we’ve actually had camels in southeast Texas since the failed camel-trekking experiments of the late 1850’s[14].
Arabia Temple (Shriners) 1934

[1] J.P. Morgan Chase Bank Building, Glass Steel and
[2] Oscar Fitzallen Holcombe, Wikipedia.
[3] Lewis Wesley Cutrer, Wikipedia.
[4] Houston Post, Handbook of Texas Online.
[5] KPRC (AM), Wikipedia.
[6] Houston Chronicle, Handbook of Texas Online.
[7] Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
[8] G. Dave Scott, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
[9] Tutankhamun, Wikipedia.
[10] Egyptian Theater, DeKalb, Illinois, at
[11] Sam Eric 4 theater, Philadelphia, Little Black Car, Flickr
[12] Post Rice Lofts (Rice Hotel), Wikipedia.
[13] Shriners, Wikipedia.
[14] Camels, Handbook of Texas Online.