Jack Stauffacher Passing

I received this obituary from Eric Holub about Jack Stauffacher’s recent death:


I first met Jack when I was one of his students at Carnegie Tech, ended up being one of his teaching assistants instructing fine arts students about letterpress, later met up with him at Stanford University Press, lent him the use of my C&P one Christmas when he was without any printing equipment and last visited with him at his San Francisco shop about the time of his 75th birthday.

Jack had quite an influence on me and I highly regarded his work all these years. He had some of the first Stemple Optima and later Hunt Roman at Carnegie Tech and brought Hermann Zapf to campus for a series of typographic lectures. He was quite the character, but intensely passionate about type, printing, and design.

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Thanks for posting this, Fritz. There are some wonderful oral history interviews posted here for anyone who may be interested.



Good morning Fritz and Daniel — Daniel, the interviews are interesting reads for sure. On pages 76-78 of the interview (pages 175-179 of the PDF) Mr. Stauffacher makes mention of a Vandercook he purchased and his comments about them:



I just read the parts of Jack’s interview that covered his Carnegie Tech years and subsequent years at Stanford. But I also read where his Army years started off at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, an Army post where I also lived as a kid where I started my letterpress career, some years after Jack’s stay there.

I have the Vandercook records of Jack’s SP-15 that he purchased new, and it has since become part of the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. It does not have the motorized inking system but the hand operated ductor roller.

His stay at Carnegie was ended when the School of Printing Management was discarded in favor of a non-craft approach to teaching printing, or graphic arts as they preferred the term. I believe the fellow he didn’t name was Kenneth Scheid, the new head of this new school and I think Scheid’s efforts floundered for a long time. An interesting read.

An additional observation about Jack. His shop in San Francisco was located in a building built for printing. When I used to visit that building, each floor was devoted to printing—trade pressrooms, typesetting, and the like. The ATF dealer, Griffin Brothers took up an entire floor where they sold new type as well as had a large composing room. They did Linotype work for me on several projects. One floor was mainly large flat bed cylinders, so the building was built for the mass and weight of the letterpress era. By the time Jack was working there, he was the only printing related use in that building.

For those on the list who live in SF, Ruth Teiser’s interviews are a wonderful insight into local printing lore. She was able to bring out the personalities of many of the historically important Bay Area printers and craftsmen.

For me as a late blooming printer, the history is also fascinating. I have 2 ATF oak type cabinets and one furniture cabinet that have 300 Broadway written on the back. Treasures in a sense. Jack will be missed.

Great point, Mike. I wholeheartedly agree. Fritz- have you seen Ruth Teiser’s other interviews?


I saw the list and will read some of her interviews in time. There were many fascinating personalities in the San Francisco fine press era. I have collected a few samples of the work produced by people like John Henry Nash and have a couple of pieces of work done by the Grabhorns. I recall as a teenager reading about the Grabhorns and soon after my mother asked if I wanted to stop by their shop and go in and meet them. We did drive by but I guess I was too timid and didn’t venture in—now I really regret that.

I was fortunate to work for a large San Francisco printer, Carlisle Co. in the 1960s. They had about 250 employees and did it all—letterpress, offset, hand bookbinding, and steel die engraving. It was a wonderful place to learn the ropes and see all of that in action on a daily basis. I was an estimator and had to work with all the department heads as I was doing estimates. Then I ran the engraving operation for a year and that process is dear to my heart. Most of that is gone now but we still have a vibrant letterpress community in Northern California. Jack Stauffacher was was one of our last links to that earlier era. Andrew Hoyem of M&H Type is the other link to those San Francisco printers who he worked with early in his career.

I read this obit the other day but did not connect him to you Fritz. You must be realy old?

Yes, I am really old but not as old as some geezers I know.

I should add that at Tech, Jack was very serious, maybe too serious about his work. During one class he wanted a couple of the guys to trim a job he had printed on deckle edge paper that was in a French fold. He said to wait until he could come across the hall where the cutter was located before they trimmed the stock. Just as he came in the door, the one fellow ran the paper cutter through its cycle on a pile of waste stock and as the trimmed edge fell off the stack, he announced something like “well, we got that ragged stuff off this paper.” Poor Jack about had a heart attack as he rushed over expecting to see his beautifully printed job ruined. Everyone but Jack thought that was pretty funny—he was upset for days afterwards. I should add for gac’s benefit that Jack was very young at the time. Here is a nice photo of Jack taken in 2012:


So it was the mid-70’s in downtown San Francisco and I had just scored two nice amounts of handset type from two different SF typography shops. The start of my collection. The bug bit hard!!!!!! With that behind me, I quickly realized that all this stuff was disappearing fast.

I worked near the Transamerica Pyramid and I recall a time I walked up to North Beach and popped-in on Jack Stauffacher. All I knew is that he did letterpress printing. I introduced myself as a novice just getting into letterpress and wondered if he had any handset type he wanted to sell? I recall he was cordial and told me he was happy with what he already had, and that was the end of it.

I had NO CLUE what I was doing at the time be do remember learning more about Jack later and being totally mortified about barging in on him like that.I do wonder what the Hell he made of my visit?????


Pino Trogu, who is on the faculty at San Francisco State University, sent me this obituary that he wrote about Jack Stauffacher in the Italian design magazine Domus:


Pino had worked with Jack over the years. There are several nice pictures of Jack in the article. Jack died one month shy of his 97th birthday. When I was in San Francisco over the recent Christmas holiday, I saw the latest book being published at Orion Press—a scroll type of presentation using type handset by Andrew Hoyem that once belonged to John Henry Nash, and printed on a Vandercook Universal III. It is nice to see the letterpress traditions that San Francisco typifies continuing in this day.

Thanks Fritz for Pino’s elegant obituary for Jack. The wind chill here yesterday was 44 degrees below zero and this warmed my soul this morning. Its 13 below right now.


And a note from Les Ferris, who is working with Jack’s SP-15 at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley:

” San Francisco proclaimed December 19 Jack Stauffacher Day, it would have been his 97th birthday.”

Les visited with Jack several days before his death and said his passing was simply “old age.”

I think Les had a unique relationship with Jack. Before Jack returned them to 300 Broadway (the onetime Printer’s Building), he used his Gietz platen and Vandercook SP-15 in a corner of the Lapis Press letterpress shop in Emeryville, where Les was the printer. Lapis was started by the artist Sam Francis, who was a childhood friend of Jack’s, and Jack designed at least one Lapis Press artist’s book.