Antony and Cleopatra. Romeo and Juliet. Scarlett and Rhett.
We love a good love story.
But our favorite is that of Pen and Paper.
Thus, we were delighted to pick the brain of Rick Propas — a specialist for Swann Auction Galleries, where he directs the newly created Department of Fine and Vintage Writing Instruments — whose first pen was given to him more than 50 years ago.
Rick Propas, lefty.
“In the Jewish tradition, it’s customary to give a boy a fountain pen at his bar mitzvah,” Propas explained. “I didn’t get one, and when I complained to my dad, he pulled out his own pen and gave it to me.”
Propas has been collecting vintage pens ever since.
And so, we went on a mission to piece together the history of engraving. There is, we found, quite a bit of information available on the engraving of images, which goes back a long, long time: cavemen did it; so did the Egyptians.
But we were more curious about that point in history when someone thought, My, wouldn’t this piece of paper that I’m sending look so much lovelier engraved?
How can you pick out the guy who loves what he does? He’s the one who smiles when you ask him about it. And then keeps smiling throughout the entire interview.
That’s Bob Gregory, a native of North Adams, Massachusetts (where our paper magic happens) who works an engraving press like no one’s business. He’s also a Red Sox fan and could never work at a job in which he was “just sitting there.”
That’s good news for us, and whoever has the pleasure of receiving a box of stationery created by Gregory’s skilled hands.
Here, he chats with us about being a “wedding man,” naming his engraving press and his one degree of separation from a certain blue-eyed crooner.
One of Crane & Co.’s engraving machines, where workers personalize each piece of stationery. Some of the machines are more than 100 years old.
As a 200-year-old paper company that still calls the same New England town home after all these years, there are two things we here at Crane & Co. put at the top of our ‘important’ list: Writing (without it, we wouldn’t exist) and Americana (since 1801, remember?).
So we were quite excited to hear that a Seattle lawyer with a penchant for all things American was writing a book on businesses born and raised right here in the U.S.A., including little old us. It’s called Simply American: Putting Our Extended American Family Back to Work, and while a date hasn’t been set yet for publication, we decided to chat with the author, John Briggs, about everything from brooms and sneakers to the American Dream.
What inspired you to write this book?
Chronic unemployment in this country. We’ve had this alleged recovery, but we’re not getting people back to work. I started thinking about unemployment, and what struck me is we could create a lot of jobs in manufacturing. A simple errand started my thinking in this direction. Continue reading →