Monday, June 20, 2016

Lettering: Dick Blick, Show Card Writer and Mail Order Art Supplier


Dick Ernest Blick was the founder of a mail order art supplies company, in Galesburg, Illinois, that became the Blick Art Materials chain stores. A timeline is here.

Family History

From page 844 of Portrait and Biographical Album of Knox County, Illinois (1886): 

ALFRED H. BLICK, Recorder of College City Lodge, No. 214, A.O.U.W., and salesman in the noted dry goods house of G. A. Murdoch, Galesburg, Ill, is a native of Stroud, in the county of Gloucestershire, England. He was born July 27, 1846, and came to America in 1869. He was educated in England, and there served an apprenticeship at the dry goods trade, something unheard of in this country. His first position in this country was as a clerk in a large dry goods house on Broadway, New York, where he remained about eight months, coming thence direct to Galesburg, he having made arrangements with Mr. G. A. Murdoch, as salesman, and with whom he has since remained.

In 1882, at the organization of College City Lodge, No. 214, A.O.U.W., of which he was a charter member, he was chosen their Recorder, which position he has since held.

Mr. A. H. Blick was married on Thanksgiving Day, 1872, at the Episcopal Church in this city, to Miss Marion Dick, also a native of England, and their children are named respectively Alfred James, Bertha Elizabeth, and Dick Ernest Blick.
Blick was born in Galesburg, Illinois, on June 17, 1882, according to his World War II draft card. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Blick as the youngest of three children born to Alfred, a dry goods salesman, and Marion. Also in the household was the younger Alfred’s wife, “Margarette”. The family resided at 947 North Seminary Street in Galesburg. Blick was an assistant bookkeeper.




Blick was listed at the same address in the 1902 Galesburg city directory which included his occupation as subscription clerk at the Republican-Register newspaper.

Window Trimmer and Show Card Writer

At some point, Blick was a student at the Koester School in Chicago, Illinois. The school offered instruction in many subjects including window trimming and lettering. Blick’s address was unchanged in the 1904 directory which said he was a window trimmer in Muscatine, Iowa, where his sister, Bertha, was a vocal teacher. Blick was not listed in the 1907 directory which noted that his father passed away February 19, 1906.

In the 1910 census, Blick had returned to Galesburg. He and his mother lived with his sister, Bertha, and her husband and head of the household, William Mowat. Their address was 1055 West Main Avenue. Blick was a window trimmer for a dry goods store.



The Blick website said, “Dick Blick’s first catalog originated in 1911 in the form of a small pamphlet issued by the company’s founders, Dick and Grace Blick. Their first product was a lettering pen, which quickly became a bestseller. Their ‘warehouse’ was their kitchen, and their ‘shipping department’ was the Galesburg, Illinois, post office.” However, Mary Bacchus said her aunt, Grace Atherton, married Blick in 1914. A 1911 issue, possibly from December, of Merchants Record and Show Window mentioned Blick.

Blick’s show card writing instruction was featured in four issues of The Druggist Circular.

March 1912

March 1912

May 1912

May 1912


June 1912

June 1912


July 1912

July 1912


Blick’s work for the O. T. Johnson Company, in Galesburg, was recognized in an advertisement in Dry Goods Reporter, August 17, 1912. In the second column, the text called the second prize winner, “Richard E. Blick”.


The Boot and Shoe Recorder, August 21, 1912, said, “Another contributor to the Recorder, Dick E. Blick of the O. T. Johnson Co., Galesburg, Ill., who recently gave us a complete new system of card writing, utilized the same type of letter in the prize show card for which he won a silver medal, and a special prize of a gas outfit to be used in air brush work.”

The Dry Goods Reporter, November 16, 1912, reproduced Blick’s prize-winning card (bottom right).


Blick’s prize-winning was noted in Merchants Record and Show Window, January 1913. In the same periodical, Blick began advertising. The April 1913 issue had a classified advertisement for the Payzant lettering pens. Blick was the manager of The Card Writers Supply Company in Galesburg. The May 1913 issue had an article and two advertisements: the same classified one and a display one.


May 1913


Merchants Record and Show Window, June 1913, featured six cards by Blick and mentioned his Card Writers Supply Company.


A photograph of Blick’s paint display window for the O.T. Johnson Company appeared in the July 1913 Merchants Record and Show Window. The same issue had a small display advertisement for Blick’s company.


Merchants Record and Show Window, August 1913, announced the winners at the 16th Annual Convention of the National Association of Window Trimmers of America. Blick was a second prize winner.

The advertisement, below, referred to the 1913 convention as the “1914 Convention”. Blick was one of several Koester students to win prizes.


Blick’s prize-winning card is on the right.


Blick’s winning was also mentioned in Boot and Shoe Recorder, August 20, 1913, and Dry Goods Economist, August 23, 1913.

Blick promoted the Master-Stroke Brushes in the September 1913 and October 1913 issues of Merchants Record and Show Window.

September 1913

Pennsylvania Library Notes, October 1913, recommended Blick’s company. 
And it pays to buy two or three good red sable hair brushes of some card-writer's supply company. A Payzant pen, No. 1, is a very desirable tool for the average librarian. This may be had of Dick E. Blick, Box 437, Galesburg, Ill., for $1.00. It is much easier for the average person to manipulate than a brush, though it does not entirely take the place of a brush.
In 1914, Blick copyrighted his 48-page book
Card writers supply co.*, Galesburg, Ill. Insist on Blicks guaranteed supplies. cover-title, 48 p. illus. 8vo. [6434 (C) Mar. 20, 1914; 2 c. Mar. 23, 1914; A 372292.
The cover of the book appeared in Merchants Record and Show Window on April 1914 and May 1914.

May 1914
The June 1914 issue of Merchants Record and Show Window mentioned the book and published a Blick advertisement.

June 1914


Some time in 1914, Blick married Grace Atherton.

Throughout 1915, Blick advertised in the Merchants Record and Show Window. The classified advertisements appeared in February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October. Blick placed display advertisements in the October, November and December issues. Merchants Record and Show Window, in its November and December numbers, also put in a good word for Blick’s holiday products.

December 1915


Blick’s instructions for show card writing appeared in The American Hatter. The issues available for viewing are from February to July.

February 1915

February 1915


March 1915

March 1915
April 1915

April 1915
 May 1915

May 1915
June 1915

June 1915
July 1915

July 1915


Blick’s company received a recommendation in the Wisconsin Library Bulletin, May 1915. 
Very successful desk bulletins can be made in a short time with a lettering pen. One that can be recommended as easy to use and practical is the Payzant, No. 2, single stroke free hand lettering pen, sold by Card Writers Supply Co., Galesville, 111. Price is $1.00
Merchants Record and Show Window, May 1917, reported Blick’s new catalog. 
This trade mark is familiar to hundreds of sign and show card writers throughout the United States and Canada. It will direct you to the announcement of Dick Blick, Galesburg, Ills., elsewhere in this issue telling about their new 1917 catalog, which will be mailed free to all readers of The Merchants Record and Show Window, on request.
The Jewelers’ Circular-Weekly published Blick’s “Show Card Writing for Jewelers” in four parts from December 5, 1917 to January 16, 1918.


December 5, 1917


December 5, 1917


December 5, 1917
December 19, 1917

December 19, 1917

December 19, 1917
January 2, 1918

January 2, 1918
January 16, 1918

January 16, 1918


Blick still had a day job. Merchants Record and Show Window, May 1918, reported his new position.
The many friends of Dick Blick will be pleased to learn that he has been appointed advertising manager for The O. T. Johnson Company, Galesburg, Ill.

Mr. Blick has served the Johnson Company in capacity of display manager for the past twelve years, and has a large acquaintance with display men throughout the country.

In addition to his new position, Mr. Blick will still continue the general supervision of the Card Writing and Display Departments, assisted by Mr. Tom Stone and Harry Botsford and Howard Looney. Mr. Blick is not a novice at the advertising game as his younger days date back to several responsible advertising positions with some of the best newspapers in the middle west, and together with his past experience with many of the large department stores as a combination man should assure his success.
The next issue of Merchants Record and Show Window highlighted Blick’s work. The September number had a Blick classified advertisement.

On September 12, 1918, Blick signed his World War I draft card. He was a Galesburg resident at 1047 West Main. His occupation was display and advertising manager at the O.T. Johnson Company on 126 East Main. He was described as medium height and build with brown eyes and hair.




Merchants Record and Show Window, March 1919, once again recognized Blick’s work. In Merchants Record and Show Window, January 1920, show card writer G. Wallace Hess said Blick was his friend.

Blick’s address in the 1920 census was 1047 West Main in Galesburg. His occupation was advertising manger at a dry goods store.




Blick advertisements and articles appeared in Merchants Record and Show Window on March 1921April 1921 and June 1921.

March 1921
April 1921
June 1921


A 1929 city directory listed Blick at 43 West North in apartment two. The same address was in the 1930 census. It said Blick was the proprietor of an artist supplies business. 


Galesburg city directories recorded the locations of Blick’s office and residence. In 1931 Blick’s sign writers supplies business was in room 520 of the Bank of Galesburg building. His home was at 893 North Prairie. The 1932 business address was 311 East Main on the second floor. Blick’s residence was 1189 Beecher Avenue, apartment two. In 1938 and 1939 the business location was the same, but Blick’s home address was 1137 North Kellogg. The same home address was in the 1940 census.


Blick signed his World War II draft card April 27, 1942. The card said his business was mail order sign writer supplies in room 211 of the Bondi Building in Galesburg. 


His business remained at the same address in the 1943 and 1946 directories.

According to the Blick website, Robert Metzenberg purchased the company from Blick in 1948.

In 1956 Blick and his wife continued to live in Galesburg at 1137 North Kellog. Blick passed away in 1958. Blick’s wife, Grace, passed away in March 1980.

The Dick Blick Company celebrated its 100th anniversary on May 18, 2010. 


(Next post on Monday: Kickstarter: The Calligraphy of Alice)