Dard Hunter’s Passion for Paper

textbox“If you’re into hand papermaking or paper conservation or you’re into the paper industry, Dard Hunter’s the main name,” Doug Stone told me by phone a couple of snowy Saturdays ago.

Mr. Stone, formerly of Appleton, is a paper conservator who worked as a consultant to the Dard Hunter Museum when it was located within the Institute of Paper Chemistry there. He also helped unpack and catalog the Hunter collection after it moved to the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1989, and he is a founder and past president of the Friends of Dard Hunter Museum.

An artist, a historian, a world traveler who collected artifacts and original scholarship relating to paper, Dard Hunter was a remarkable being. He’s said to have created the first “one-man book:” for The Etching of Figures (1915), he made the paper himself, cut and set the type and printed the book on a hand-operated press. (See a brief video of Mr. Hunter printing at his Mountain House Press here.)

“It was Hunter who created an upsurge in hand papermaking in the 50s and 60s, because of the books he wrote on the topic and because of his ability to get people interested,” says Mr. Stone.

Mr. Hunter spent time in New York with the Roycrofters, the colony who, propounding the superiority of quality handmade art over mass-produced pieces, helped launch the American Arts and Crafts movement. There, he designed leather, glass and books; and the fonts he used at Roycroft Press, so associated with the Arts and Crafts style, can now be purchased on cd from Dard Hunter Studios (operated by grandson Dard Hunter III in Chillecothe, Ohio).

Dard Hunter, Sr. was inducted into Appleton's International Paper Industry Hall of Fame last year. Photo: Paper Discovery Center.

Dard Hunter, Sr. was inducted into the International Paper Industry Hall of Fame last year. Photo: Paper Discovery Center.

As Mr. Stone says, “You could call Dard Hunter the father of modern paper history. He was the preeminent collector of things to do with papermaking and paper history of his era. And he traveled everywhere–to the South Seas, China, Japan–and brought back anything he could get his hands on.” Mr. Hunter died in 1966 at age 82, and while he acted as curator of the Appleton museum for the 15 years before his death, Mr. Stone says failing health prevented him from being closely involved.

“For its day, the museum [in Appleton] was fine, but there wasn’t a lot of funding for cataloging and display back then, so basically Dard Hunter crammed everything he had into the small building. Harry Lewis, one of the great old professors at the Institute of Paper Chemistry, took it upon himself to catalog and explain [the artifacts] to people … we started cataloging the objects but did not finish, due to the enormity of the job and the lack of funds,” Mr. Stone says.

He adds that the Hunter collection is irreplaceable, containing everything from the first papers ever milled in the U.S. by 17th century entrepreneur William Rittenhouse to 1930s era tapa (also known as bark cloth) made by craftworkers in the South Pacific, along with the beaters they used to flatten wood into sheets of paper, to some of the first ever forge-proof bank notes created in the 19th century by William Congreve for the Bank of England.

Mr. Stone explains, “Forgery was really a problem at that time in England, so Congreve actually came up with this amazing set of tri-color watermark notes for the Bank of England. Dard Hunter obtained some of those notes along with [the details of] Congreve’s process–and I went to the Bank of England a few years ago, and they did not have this process. They did not have it, but somehow, Dard Hunter got it.” Of course, it’s all in Atlanta now, at Georgia Tech’s Robert C. Williams Paper Museum.

On Monday, Dard Hunter III will discuss his father’s and grandfather’s legacy at Appleton’s Paper Discovery Center . His presentation is connected to the 2009 Fox Cities Book Festival taking place throughout the Fox Valley, April 14-19. In anticipation of his appearance, I also spoke with Doug Dugal, the former director of the Institute of Paper Chemistry. Mr. Dugal acted as curator of the Dard Hunter Museum as well, before the whole operation (the IPC and the museum) was shipped to Atlanta. He has met all three Dard Hunters–father, son and grandson–but says he knew Dard Hunter II the best.

“Dard Hunter II, I can say for sure, was a very soft-spoken, courteous man. In a nutshell, if you would have seen him you would have hugged him … he was an expert printer who was dedicated to his father’s legacy,” says Mr. Dugal. The late Dard Hunter, Jr. printed his father’s magnum opus, Papermaking by Hand in America, using a new font that he developed and cut himself.

Appleton's Paper Discovery Center will host Dard Hunter III next week.  Photo: Paper Discovery Center.

Appleton's Paper Discovery Center will host Dard Hunter III next week. Photo: Paper Discovery Center.

“Art is pleasing to the eye and the ear, but it has to come from some sort of drive. People in the arts professions are not really looking for money all the time. They are driven.” adds Mr. Dugal.

“Dard Hunter printed something like 15 or 16 books, but he printed eight or nine of them by his own hand. He set the type; he cast the alphabet himself. How would a guy do that, if not from some internal drive? Who knows what drives these people [the Hunters]? But thank God, they are driven.”

–Tammy Kempfert

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