Saturday, November 9, 2019

Regional Lithographic

One of the longer lasting comments threads on this blog belongs to a post about Zabel Brothers from August of 2010. There are some very informative comments there, a good number by former Zabel employees or children of employees.  The latest comment posted by an alumnus really caught my eye as it mentions Topps printed the backs of their cards at a different plant than the fronts, whcih explains a few things but so far as I know, is something never before mentioned anywhere.

I'm still trying to determine all the nuances of this revelation but I have to say it's something I've never heard before.  The story is a plant in Connecticut printed the backs and then they went off down (and potentially up) I-95 to Philly or Providence or northwest to Rochester, NY.  There is much more to come on this but I thought I would revisit the various Topps lithographers here and see if anything else comes through the pipeline before revisiting.  So.....

Lord Baltimore Press (Baltimore, Maryland) - I believe they printed the majority of Topps cards from 1948-58 or so and also did gum tab wrappers (and probably a lot more) for the company, very possibly all the way back to 1938 but certainly in the 1948-49 time frame as their logo appears on some issues of that era.  Bought out by International Paper in 1958 and converted to a carton printing operation by 1960.  I have a bit here on them but check the links at right as well. They had a major sales office in New York when Topps used them.

Zabel Brothers (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) - A printer for Bowman, they almost certainly produced the 1956 U.S. Presidents set after Topps bought Bowman from Connelly Containers earlier that year and then slowly but surely became the main Topps printer until 1981 when a strike ended things.  This then led to the Engravers Union pillaging of a large historical store of printed, uncut sheets used for reference. Some sheets were later found after the plant was abandoned and before it burned down. The firm was founded in 1885 and was a major printer of sheet music, possibly the largest in the country before World War 2. Zabel was bought by Wagaman Brothers Printers of Lititz, Pennsylvania in 1980 and the Philadelphia plant was closed in the wake of the strike.

Wagaman in turn was bought by American Bag & Paper Corp. (later called American Packaging), also of Lititz, in 1981 and stopped commercial printing in 1983. Topps seems to have stuck with them until the shutdown, then switched to Panel Prints of Old Forge, Pennsylvania. The link at right is your best bet for more Zabel Brothers details. I found this over at

Case-Hoyt (Rochester, New York) - Founded in 1919, they were the biggest lithographer in Rochester and opened a New York City Sales office in 1954.  Some good information is found here. Purchased in 1984 by Bell Canadian Enterprises, they bought Great Lakes Press a year later. They survived until about 2004.

Lebanon Valley Offset (Annville, Pennsylvania) - The firm did work for Topps starting in the 1990's when production switched to smaller sheets.

Chromographic Press (Hamden, Connecticut) - Owned by P. Peter Shorin at the time it was shut down in 1971 (as Topps got ready for their IPO) I think this was previously the Stecher-Traung plant but am not positive. Some firm in Hamden did work for Topps from at least 1962, that I do know.

Federated Lithographers (Providence, Rhode Island) - Friend o'the Archive Bob D'Aangelo best summarized their Topps involvement here.  They did a lot of work for Topps when the big baseball card boom hit in the mid-80's. Bought out by Quebecor in 1989.

A. Hoen & Co. (Baltimore, Maryland) - Not much is known other than they were founded before the Civil War, did some work for Topps at some point and shut down in 1981.  The best information I have on them is here.

Great Lakes Press (Rochester, New York) - The infamous 1962 Baseball second series Green Tints may have been printed by them.  Founded during the Depression, they were acquired in 1985 by Case-Hoyt.

Stecher-Traung (Rochester, New York) - Possible printer of the 1962 Green Tints (I'm starting to lean toward no though, after many years of thinking yes), also believed to have printed some portion of the 1952 Baseball set.

Topps Chewing Gum (Duryea, Pennsylvania) - Len Brown once indicated in an interview that Topps printed cards at their plant in Duryea at some point and Friend o'the Archive Lonnie Cummins sent along some information about this I will get into fairly soon here. I believe this began in the early 1990's. (UPDATE 4/10/20: John Tassoni Jr., former pressman and union man at Quebecor in Providence says that the items purportedly printed at Duryea were actually printed at his plant and not the Topps plant). 

Who did what when is the thing to suss out! The standard sized issues were cut down from 264 sheets to 132 card half sheets, palletized and trucked to Topps in Brooklyn (until 1966 for the most part), then thereafter to Duryea, PA, before actually being printed locally in Pennsylvania.

Thanks to Karl Schoettle, who worked at Zabel Brothers, American Packaging and Panel Prints for much of the above information. He mentioned sometimes sheets were stolen enroute to Topps!

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