Letter from Grandson of John Ohnimus

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Mike Jackson
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Letter from Grandson of John Ohnimus

Post by Mike Jackson » Fri Apr 09, 2004 9:46 am

Hi all,
Last night I received an e-mail from the grandson of John Ohnimus. I used some of the premium illustrations from the Henderson Book in the new Americana Collection of Panels and Ornaments. They are the best of the group by far. John Ohnimus was living in Denver at the time he did the artwork.
My granddaddy is the John Ohnimus who's work you have on CD. He would be flipping over in his grave if he knew his work was still being admired. He died 10 years before I was born. Wish I could have met him.

He trained his youngest son Tony Ohnimus (my daddy) to be a very fine artist / illustrator / designer. Tony' brilliant career as art director for "The Courier Journal" in Louisville Ky. ended early when he died at 36. I was only 5 years old. I went to University of Louisville and studied graphic design. I am now retired and am 61 years old.

Thanks,

John A. Ohnimus
Louisville, Kentucky


I have always felt good about using the artwork from the Turn of the Century masters, partially as a tribute but also to give their artwork new life. The Henderson book is quite hard to find and not many people might ever have a chance to see some of their artwork.

Mike
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Ron Percell
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Post by Ron Percell » Fri Apr 09, 2004 9:53 am

What a great letter to receive, it's as if he reached out to talk to you.
Just another fine example of the Letterhead spirit courtesy of Mike jackson.

Well done, Thanks for sharing that with us!

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photo

Post by Mike Jackson » Fri Apr 09, 2004 11:40 am

Image

Here's one of John Ohnimus' plates from the Henderson Sign Painter book. I think it speaks for itself. He was a very strong designer, especially in his black and white plates. The color plates in the old book are simple and beautiful, too.
Mike Jackson / co-administrator
Golden Era Studios
Vintage Ornamental Clip art
Jackson Hole, WY

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Post by Danny Baronian » Fri Apr 09, 2004 1:46 pm

Nice design! I love black and white, mainly because my original profession was in illustrative photography. Strip away color and you have to have a good design to really pop. This plate proves it!

It was great to get the letter from John Ohnimus's grandson. What a compliment.

Danny

Mike Jackson
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ohnimus

Post by Mike Jackson » Fri Apr 09, 2004 2:50 pm

Image

Hi again,
I invited John (the grandson) to visit the site and join in on the discussion. He is 61 now. I believe he would get a warm fuzzy feeling getting to talk to people who admire his Grandfather's work so much. From what I read in his letter, he visited Mexico to see some of the churches his Grandfather decorated, so maybe he has some photos. We wrote a nice letter giving some history of his Grandfather, Father, and himself. John moved to Denver to help improve his health and worked for several businesses there. He was part owner of Ello Sign Shop in Denver.
Mike Jackson / co-administrator
Golden Era Studios
Vintage Ornamental Clip art
Jackson Hole, WY

Photography site:
Teton Images
Jackson Hole photography blog:
Best of the Tetons

Mike Jackson
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henderson

Post by Mike Jackson » Fri Apr 09, 2004 3:27 pm

Image

While on this subject, some people might not know that Signs of the Times reprinted the Henderson Sign Painter in 1991. Henderson's name is on the title, but I've never actually seen any plates designed by him. Henderson had published "The Signist" in 1905 and then "Henderson Sign Painter" in 1906. Signs of the Times combined both books for their reprint. Unfortunately, except for the cover, the rest of the color plates from the 1906 were printed in grayscale.

If you are lucky, you might be able to find the 1991 reprint.
ISBN 911380-94-9
Rick Glawson bought up a bunch of the remaining inventory of reprinted books from ST. There is a chance Esoteric2 has a few, but I didn't call to check on it.

The image above is from the front cover of the 1905 book. The title page states it was printed in 1905, however on another page is copyright date of 1903. This shows the paperback version of the book. It was also printed with a hardbound blue cover with "The Signist" in silver lettering on an angle.

Image

Henderson had already published an earlier, very hard to find book, called "The Modern Sign Writer and Art Ornamenter" printed in 1895. None of those plates made it into the reprint. It is a pretty darned nice book with quite a few color plates. Looking back it probably should replace David's Practical Ornamenter on my Top 25 list. It might not knock your sox off, but you'd still enjoy it.

There are no Ohnimus plates in the earlier Henderson books.
Last edited by Mike Jackson on Fri Apr 09, 2004 7:01 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Mike Jackson / co-administrator
Golden Era Studios
Vintage Ornamental Clip art
Jackson Hole, WY

Photography site:
Teton Images
Jackson Hole photography blog:
Best of the Tetons

Ron Percell
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Post by Ron Percell » Fri Apr 09, 2004 6:48 pm

Mike,
you're killing me with all of the eye candy.

Take a break from a 4x8 and check the posts, now I just want to play with the designs and chip a piece.

Good Stuff!

Mike Jackson
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books

Post by Mike Jackson » Fri Apr 09, 2004 7:32 pm

Hopefully this post won't sound too self-serving, but it's part of the Henderson book history.....

Back when we were still in Oklahoma, I was actively searching for old books. That was way before the Internet, so finding them was generally pretty tough. I created a small business called Carousel Book Search and subscribed to some of the trade magazines, searching for the old books. Obviously, it worked as I bought more than I could afford, especially considering the economic conditions of the state at the time.

I had located an original Henderson's Sign Painter in good shape, then one of the 1905 Signist. Just before we packed up the Jimmy and headed to Vermont to work a few months with Jay Cooke in 1986, I bought 1895 The Modern Sign Writer and Art Ornamenter. It had several of the color plates with the flourishes similar to the green and gold one above. Signs of the Times had used my original books for a couple of previous reprints and I agreed to let them use the group of three. I packaged them up and sent them to ST by Fed-X and Tod Swormstedt received them. The publishers looked them over and began the process of preparing to reprint them.

A month or two into our trip at Jay's, I got a call from Tod. He didn't sound too well. That's when he told me they couldn't find the books. They had disappeared and now one had a clue where they were. I was sick after that, knowing the books were almost unreplaceable. I had never even heard of the last book, much less knew of anyone esle with one. This was in the Spring of 1986 and if you noticed, they didn't reprint it until 1991. They finally found another book to use for the reprint along with the Signist, but never found a copy of The Modern Sign Writer and Art Ornamenter...so it didn't get included in the reprint. Tod had feared a visitor had stuffed them in their briefcase while no one was looking. It was a sensitive subject for a long time. Tod eventually found a replacement Signist for me and I found a beat up Henderson's Sign Painter.

Long after the book was reprinted and I had pretty much written the whole deal off, I got a call from Tod but this time he was much happier. While doing some Spring cleaning, someone cleaned the shelf above the copier. All three books were there, dusty and covered with other papers. Tod Fed-Xd them back to me and they haven't left the house since.

A happy ending with a few heartburns prior.
Mike Jackson / co-administrator
Golden Era Studios
Vintage Ornamental Clip art
Jackson Hole, WY

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Teton Images
Jackson Hole photography blog:
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Jon Harl
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Post by Jon Harl » Sat Apr 10, 2004 2:01 am

What a great story. I'm so glad to hear how honest Tod is. It must have been very hard to call and tell you the books were missing. Plus, it took them quite awhile to clean up. True artists at heart.

Patrick Mackle
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Post by Patrick Mackle » Sat Apr 10, 2004 4:04 am

Uuugg!! Just checked in here from another of those one too many grueling 80HR work weeks.
Aahhh... now receiving a major infusion of whats right in the world. Thank you Mike and everyone. Prepared to do battle once again.
Pat

Kent Smith

Ohnimus Grandson

Post by Kent Smith » Sun Apr 25, 2004 8:17 am

Wow. So great to hear from a family member. Dad was a friend of John's other son, Homer, whom I remember meeting before he died in a train-related accident in '58. I have a copy of John's Obit from the Denver Post, 4 full columns and eulogized as "Painter, Philosopher and Lover of Books". I grew up seeing much of his legacy around the Denver area and here in Greeley, his apprentice was my friend Ted whose work showed a disticnt Ohnimus influence. Dad had some of John's sketches to use in replicating signs for Daniels and Fisher or Gano Downs but they never made it to Greeley. I suspect my uncles who were helping Mom move and saw no value in them as well as many other sign related memorabilia...this was while I was away at college. Anyway, I hope to hear more from or about John, III.

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