The idea for the Chicago Society of Etchers began with a rooftop meeting at the home of Bertha Jaques in 1909. Jaques laid out the plan for what she called “the Needle Club” to her friends and fellow etchers – Ralph Pearson, Earl Reed and Otto Schneider. Although the “Needle Club” was supposed to be a “club without organization, without dues, without officers and without any special purpose” the idea quickly morphed into the Chicago Society of Etchers with all of the above. The organization was officially chartered in 1910 with a total of 20 members and with Bertha Jaques as the Secretary (and Treasurer).
The Chicago Society of Etchers had two major purposes. First, was to increase the awareness of the general public of the art of etching. Secondly, it was to increase appreciation (and value) of fine original prints. Membership was limited to artists active in creating etchings. However, an Associate member category was created with dues of $5.00 per year. Associate members received a Presentation Print each year. The first Presentation Print was created and sent to Associate Members in 1912 and the last was sent in 1956 – a total of 45 prints (two were sent in 1913 and 1914 and 1953 was skipped). The following is a list of the artists, the prints and some information about each piece. Also included are some of the images of the prints themselves.
1. Ernest D. Roth (American 1879-1964) , A Rainy Day, Etching and Drypoint, 1908, Edition of 325, 7 1/8X4 3/8, 1st Presentation Print 1912
2. Charles K. Gleeson (American 1878-1948), An Old Piece of Masonry, Etching, 1913, Edition of 250, 5X7 inches, 2nd Presentation Print, 1913
3. Roi Partridge (American 1888-1984), L’Ile de la Cite, Etching, 1913, Edition of 275, 9 7/8X7 7/8 inches, 3rd Presentation Print, 1913
4. Allen Lewis (American 1873-1957), The Dead Oak, Etching, 1914, Edition of 250, 9 7/8X5 inches, 4th Presentation Print, 1914
5. Franklin T. Wood (American 1887-1945), The Dry Brook, Etching, 1914, Edition of 250, 5 7/8X7 7/8 inches, 5th Presentation Print, 1914
6. William Auerbach-Levy (American 1889-1964), Torah – The New Talmud, Etching, 1915, Edition of 250, 7 3/4X5 7/8 inches, 6th Presentation Print, 1915
7. Ernest D. Roth (American 1879-1964), Our Neighbor’s Backyard, Cliffside, New Jersey, Etching and Drypoint, 1916, Edition of 270, 8 7/8X5 7/8 inches, 7th Presentation Print, 1916
8. Jan C. Vondrous (Czechoslovakian 1884-1956), The Old Town Bridge Tower, Prague, Etching and Drypoint, 1917,Edition of 200, 9 7/8X7 7/8 inches, 8th Presentation Print, 1917
9. John W. Winkler (American 1894-1979), Kong Tong & Co., Etching, 1916, Edition of 200, 5 1/4X6 1/2 inches, 9th Presentation Print, 1918
10. Frank W. Benson (American 1862-1951), Flying Ducks, Etching and Drypoint, 1919, Edition of 235, 8 7/8X6 3/4 inches, 10th Presentation Print,1919
11. Lester G. Hornby (American 1882-1956), Palais du Justice in the Rain, Etching, 1920, Edition of 250, 7 3/4X6 1/8 inches, 11th Presentation Print, 1920
12. Dirk Baksteen (Dutch, 1886-1971), Les Trois Moulins, Etching and Drypoint, 1921, Edition of 250, 8 1/8X10 5/8 inches, 12th Presentation Print, 1921
13. Troy Kinney (American 1871-1938), Dawn, Drypoint, 1922, Edition of 300, 8 1/4X5 5/8 inches, 13th Presentation Print, 1922
14. Arthur William Heintzelman (American 1890-1965), A Donkey Cart in Montmartre, Etching, 1923, Edition of 300, 9 1/2X7 5/8 inches, 14th Presentation Print, 1923
15. Martin Hardie (British 1875-1952), Sunset at Heybridge Basin, Drypoint, 1924, Edition of 367, 7 3/4X9 3/4 inches, 15th Presentation Print, 1923
16. Sears Gallagher (American 1869-1955), Heavy Surf at Monhegan, Drypoint, 1925, Edition of 375, 5 /78X8 7/8 inches, 16th Presentation Print, 1925
17. Louis C. Rosenberg (American 1890-1983), Rue des Chartres, St. Malo, Drypoint, 1926, Edition of 350, 7 7/8X5 3/8 inches, 17th Presentation Print, 1926
18. Otto Schneider (American 1875-1946), St. Gauden’s Lincoln, Etching, 1927, Edition of 350, 11 1/2X6 3/8 inches, 18th Presentation Print, 1927
19. John Taylor Arms (American 1887-1953), Saint Germaine, L’Auxerrois, Paris, Etching, 1928, Edition of 362, 9 3/4X5 inches, 19th Presentation Print, 1928
20. Alonzo C. Webb (American 1888-1975), Gothic Lace, Etching, 1929, Edition of 350, 9 7/8X6 3/8 inches, 20th Presentation Print, 1929
21. Geoffrey H. Wedgwood (British 1900-1977), Pincian Gardens, Rome, Drypoint, 1930, Edition of 350, 9 3/4X8 1/4 inches, 21st Presentation Print, 1930
22. Kerr Eby (American 1889-1946), Digging Clams, Etching, 1931, Edition of 350, 8 1/4X12 1/2 inches, 22nd Presentation Print, 1931
23. Martin Lewis (American 1883-1962), Night in New York, Etching, 1932, Edition of 125, 8 3/8X8 3/4 inches, 23rd Presentation Print, 1932
24. Gerald K. Geerlings (American 1897-1998), Electrical Building at Night, Etching and Drypoint, 1933, Edition of 100, 11 7/8X8 7/8 inches, 24th Presentation Print, 1933
25. Gustaf Dalstrom (American 1893-1971), An Abandoned Farm, Etching, 1934, Edition of 325, 7 3/4X9 3/4 inches, 25th Presentation Print, 1934
26. Ralph Fletcher Seymour (American 1876-1966), A Paris Wine Shop, Etching, 1935, Edition of 325, 10X 7 7/8 inches, 26th Presentation Print, 1935
27. Gordon Grant (American 1875-1962), Banks Fisherman, Soft-ground and Aquatint, 1936, Edition of 325, 7 7/8X9 7/8 inches, 27th Presentation Print, 1936
28. Mildred Bryant Brooks (American 1901-1995), Companions, Etching, 1937, Edition of 325, 8 7/8X8 7/8 inches, 28th Presentation Print, 1937
29. Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge (American 1889-1975), Pagan Princess, Nigeria, Drypoint, 1938, Edition of 325, 10 7/8X8 3/8 inches, 29th Presentation Print, 1938
30. Bertha E. Jaques (American 1863-1941), Jimson Weed, Drypoint, 1936, Edition of 325, 11 3/4X7 7/8 inches, 30th Presentation Print, 1939
31. James Swann (American 1905-1985), Night in Chicago, Drypoint, 1940, Edition of 325, 6 7/8X10 3/4 inches, 31st Presentation Print, 1940
32. Allesandro Mastro-Valerio (American 1889-1953), Morning Paper, Mezzotint, 1941, Edition of 325, 8 7/8X5 7/8 inches, 32nd Presentation Print, 1941
33. Stanley Anderson (British 1884-1966), Sheep Shearing, Engraving, 1941, Edition of 350, 7 1/2X6 inches, 33rd Presentation Print, 1942
34. Chauncey F. Ryder (American 1868-1949), Road to Bristol, Drypoint, 1943, Edition of 325, 9 3/4X11 3/4 inches, 34th Presentation Print, 1943
35. Arthur W. Hall (American 1889-1981), Bird Creek in Thaw, Etching, 1944, Edition of 325, 8 X 12 7/8 inches, 35th Presentation Print, 1944
36. Reinhold H. Palenske (American 1884-1954), Over the Pass, Drypoint, 1945, Edition of 325, 11 5/8X9 3/4 inches, 36th Presentation Print, 1945
37. Samuel Chamberlain (American 1895-1975), The Harbor Side, Drypoint, 1946, Edition of 300, 8 1/212 5/8 inches, 37th Presentation Print, 1946
38. Carl M. Schultheiss (American 1885-1962), Pastoral II, Engraving, 1947, Edition of 200, 9 3/8X9 1/8 inches, 38th Presentation Print, 1947
39. Ronau W. Woiceske (American 1887-1953), Winter Interlude, Drypoint and aquatint, 1945, Edition of 200, 9 7/8X12 3/4 inches, 39th Presentation Print, 1948
40. Kenneth Holmes (British 1902-1994), Behind the Capitol, Rome, Drypoint, 1950, Edition of 200, 11 5/8X7 1/2 inches, 40th Presentation Print, 1950
41. Lee Sturges (American 1865-1955), Rocky Mountain Lake, Etching, 1951, Edition of 200, 10 5/8X8 1/8 inches, 41st Presentation Print, 1951
*42. Ernest D. Roth (American 1879-1964), The Little Florentine Shops, Etching, 1914, Edition of 200, 7 3/8X7 inches, 42nd Presentation Print, 1952
43. Maurice R. Bebb (American 1891-1986), Yellow-Throated Warbler, Color Etching and Aquatint, 1954, Edition of 150, 6 5/8X8 7/8 inches, 43rd Presentation Print, 1954
44. F. Leslie Thompson (American 1889-1965), Along the Chenango River, New York, Color Aquatint, 1955, Edition of 150, 44th Presentation Print, 1955
45. Leon R. Pescheret (American 1892-1961), Chicago Water Tower, Color soft-ground etching, 1956, Edition of 150, 12 X9 7/8, 45th Presentation Print, 1956
The list itself tells a history of the Chicago Society of Etchers. One can see the formative years through the selection of artists. The first five artists chosen were not original members of the organization. But as the Society grew in stature and its local members grew in skill, selection of prints came to include more and more Chicago works and virtually all of the original members are represented in the list.
One can also see the ebb and flow of the success of the organization by the size of each Edition of a Presentation Print. Since the purpose of the Presentation Print program was to provide a benefit for Associate Members, Edition size is a good indicator of the number of dues paying Associate Members. What we see is an organization that starts off big with editions of 250 and up for the first 7 years. The timing of the founding of the organization coincided with the “second etching revival” in the United States and the Chicago Society of Etchers benefitted from the public’s interest as did the etching revival from the Society’s efforts.
The period during World War I saw a decrease in edition size to 200. But throughout the 20’s Associate Membership grew to over 350 and stayed at this level until the middle of the Great Depression in 1931 and 1932 where edition sizes were 125 and 100 respectively. By 1933 membership again took off to over 300 -spurred on, no doubt, by the Century of Progress World’s Fair that took place in Chicago during 1933-34.
Edition sizes remained at 300 and above until the mid 1940’s. As explained in Joby Patterson’s wonderful book – “Bertha E. Jaques and the Chicago Society of Etchers” – by this time the Society was experiencing a decline brought about by a reluctance to recognize any other print making techniques and a changing taste in art away from the traditional forms preferred by the organization.
Another event also had an effect on the organization. James Swann resigned his position as Secretary. Bertha Jaques was the Secretary of the CSE from 1910 to 1937. Her successor was her close friend and protege James Swann. Swann approached his position with much of the same drive and dedication as Bertha Jaques. For the 9 years of his tenure the organization continued to do OK – despite the fact that the CSE Annual Exhibitions were no longer held in the Art Institute of Chicago. However, without Swann at the helm the Chicago Society of Etchers started to decline relatively rapidly. It takes a special kind of person to run a volunteer organization. That person has to be self-motivated and have an interest is spending a great deal of time and effort to help others. No one else stepped forward to fill that role.
(As it turns out James Swann took over as Secretary of the Prairie Print Makers after resigning from the CSE in 1947. He directed that organization until 1965.)
By the mid 1950’s edition sizes were at 150. The last Presentation Print was produced in 1956.
All in all, it was a good run.
Czestochowski, Joseph S., James Swann: In Quest of a Printmaker with Presentation Prints of the Chicago Society of Etchers, Prairie Print Makers and the Woodcut Society (Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 1990)
Patterson, Joby, Bertha E. Jaques and the Chicago Society of Etchers (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002)
A complete set of the Chicago Society of Etchers Presentation Prints has been assembled by and is for sale at Frederick Baker, Inc., Chicago, Illinois. Their website is www.frederickbakerinc.com.
*Note: Joseph Czestochowski and Joby Patterson disagree on the inclusion of this Roth work in the CSE Presentation Prints. Czestochowski says this was not selected or sent as a Presentation Print while Patterson says that it was. Thus there are 44 Presentation Prints on the one list and 45 on the other. We have included it for the sake of completeness and do not have the information at this time to support either position.
Jim Rosenthal says
Pedro Lemos was a member of the Chicago Society of Etchers and exhibited in the annual show in 1916, 1917 and 1922. According to Joby Patterson, he was not a founder of the CSE. However, he was one of the founders of the California Society of Etchers. Like you, I love his work.
Mauni Mitchel says
This is great information.
I have 2 prints with the stamp of the Chicago Society of Etchers, one a Charles Gleeson but I can’t read the signature of the the other one. It was mounted on paper board that has disintergrated but there is a remnant saying “State Street”.
The signature looks like O Neir or maybe Cle Neia. Any ideas of who this could be?
Jim Rosenthal says
Thanks for the question. I am glad you found the article to be helpful. Unfortunately, I am not able to assist you in identifying the second print. The Gleason print was the second one published by the Society as an official Presentation Print. There were a few issued before the official series began. None have subjects or artists close to the clues you have supplied. Perhaps if you send me a photo of the print I will be able to help you. My email is email@example.com.