I recently received a question about the Warner’s Nervine Tiger from Daniel McHenry. Daniel has been fortunate enough to obtain what he believes is an original of this great advertising lithograph. From his description, he may well be correct. In any event, Daniel did some research about the origins of this particular piece and correctly found that it was the product of a company call Mensing & Stecher of Rochester. Those of you who collect Warner’s advertising in addition to the Safe Cure bottles are familiar with this company, which, during the 1880’s apparently did some, but not all of Warner’s lithography. Daniel’s research prompted me to assemble this post on Mensing & Stecher.
First, what is lithography? Without going into excruciating detail, which I will let others do, it is a printing method developed in the late 18th Century, which divides a flat stone surface into regions that accept ink and those that do not, using an oil or gum material. It was used extensively both in advertising and print making in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
The firm of Mensing & Stecher started as Charles F. Muntz & Company in 1871. According to an articles entitled “Nineteenth-Century Rochester Fruit and Flower Plates” by Karl Sanford Kabelac published in the University of Rochester Library Bulletin (Vol. XXV 1982), Muntz, Frank A. Stecher and Anton Rahn formed the business. When Muntz left in 1874-75, the company was renamed Mensing, Rahn & Stecher and later Mensing & Stecher. The firm ran ads in the Rochester City Directory from 1875 through 1881. In 1882, Mensing & Stecher opened a new plant on St. Paul Street (the same street where Warner would open his building in January, 1884). In 1886, Stecher bought out Mensing and renamed the company the Stecher Lithographic Company, which by 1888 employed 100 people with $125,000 in equipment. While the company handled advertising graphics, it is perhaps most well-known for it fruit and flower prints and nurseryman’s plates, which are still reproduced. By 1897, the letterhead of Stecher Lithographic Company lists offices in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Mensing & Stecher has continued to the present and is located in Detroit. It is now known as Stecher-Traung-Schmidt. The Rochester Plant was closed in 1980.
The Mensing & Stecher name appears on a variety of Warner advertising, including trade cards and advertising posters including the famous Warner’s Safe Yeast Comet trade card.
The relationship between Warner’s Safe Cure and Mensing & Stecher does not appear to have been exclusive of other lithographers. When Warner opened his new building in 1884, it included an extensive advertising department, which may have handled artwork that had previously been contracted out. Also, the names of other lithographers appear on Warner’s advertising, including Cosack & Company Lithographers of Buffalo, New York, which appeared on the 1887 Artist’s Album.
The legacy of H. H. Warner is not only his bottles, but his extensive advertising materials. Mensing & Stecher played an important role in those materials that deserves attention. Thanks to Daniel for raising this interesting topic.