Dempsey & Carroll produced Thomas Edison’s wedding announcement in 1886. This is a reprinting made from a replica of the original engraving plate.

An Article in “The Home Journal,” 1879

We love learning about our history here at Dempsey & Carroll, so imagine our excitement when we unearthed this 1879 article from The Home Journal, the publication that would become Town & Country in the new century. Reading an outsider’s perspective of the company’s operations was a real treat for us.

The love of elegance and exquisite finish in stationery is no new love, but elegance and finish are not in themselves artistic, they are simply the last result of mere mechanical execution. We take especial pleasure, therefore, in calling attention to the work of Messrs. Dempsey & Carroll, who have earned for themselves the honourable designation of “Art Stationers.”

The writer goes on to describe how visiting the “retail order department” of Dempsey & Carroll, on the floor of The Meriden Britannia Company’s showroom, is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Once conducted upstairs by “one of the genial Mssrs. Carrolls” (referring to George and his son Manfred) a much more complete picture of the company was illuminated.

This floor, what with its designers, its engravers, its lithographers, its various steam and hand driven presses, their attendants, and others variously occupied, presents a scene of most animated life, and one might spend an hour or two here very profitably, studying the inner mysteries of this stationer’s art.

The turn-of-the-century phrasing is really delightful, though some of the more flowery sentences seem to go on for entire paragraphs! 

Then & Now

Thanks to the New York City Department of Records we were able to obtain this image of our storefront on Madison Avenue in 1942. If you live in New York City, you can order a print of your building’s photograph on their website.

Our current store on Lexington Avenue opened in 2008. We’re quite comfortable here tucked between William Poll Gourmet and Joe the Art of Coffee. It’s a great neighborhood!

The Engraving Process

As a form of printing, engraving is in the intaglio family, meaning it is a technique in which the area carved away is the intended shape or letter. This differs from relief printing processes, like letterpress, where everything but the intended shape or letter is carved away. In other words, an engraving or intaglio plate will have letters that recede into the metal, and a letterpress or relief plate will have letters that stick out.

An engraving plate on the press

After the final hand-cutting of the image or letters, the die or plate is placed into the engraving press.

Press with ink

The press quickly inks the plate and wipes off the excess before each impression, leaving ink in the recessed areas of the letters.

Final product

When paper is fed by hand into the impression area, the press applies approximately three thousand pounds of pressure, causing parts of the soft, cotton paper to be pushed into the recessed areas. The ink that was in these areas now adheres to the paper.

Dempsey & Carroll is one of only a handful of stationers still using these distinctive hand-engraving techniques. Using handcrafted steel dies and copper plates, we create beautiful luxury paper products with their own unique stamp of history and tradition.

For a more detailed explanation of the engraving process, please click here.

Social Etiquette in the Late 19th Century

Correspondence in the late 19th century was much different than today. There were no cell phones, internet, voicemail, e-mail, text messaging and other forms of communication we rely on every day.  Our archives have revealed to us that calling cards, hand painted menus and engraved wedding invitations were a constant favorite of Dempsey & Carroll’s female patrons.  

The importance of the calling card was very significant to social circles during the 19th century. In 1881 one of our founders, George Carroll, explained “Leaving cards is one of the most important of social observances, as it is the groundwork or nucleus in society of all acquaintanceships; it is the first step towards forming a circle of fulfillment of its prescribed rules, would result in the probable loss of desired acquaintanceship, or the risk of being characterized as ill-bred.”