Monoprint of Bill Monroe, a legend of bluegrass music. Courtesy Hatch Show Print


American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print title bar

Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

  Like all art, the posters of Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tennessee, are designed to stop us in our tracks, draw us in for a closer look, and make us pause for a moment of reflection. Pure artistry and masterful composition are what make Hatch posters part of the story of American art and culture. Snappy graphics, punchy titles, humor, and irony are what make them irresistible. Hatch Show Print, founded in 1879, is still a working letterpress and design shop, creating posters today using the same letterpress methods as yesterday.

The technology at this Nashville institution has never changed, only the faces of the customers: from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello, Buddy Guy to Bruce Springsteen, Etta James to Emmylou Harris, the Carter Family to Coldplay, and many, many others. While Hatch’s name is synonymous with the music business, its posters promoting football games, vaudeville shows, state fairs, stock car races, and picture shows reflect the breadth of American popular culture.

Quote: Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms.-The Hatch Brothers

Whether an archived classic or a cutting-edge advertisement, a poster crafted by Hatch is a work of art steeped in the traditions of American graphic design that embraces both low and high art. Organized in collaboration with Hatch Show Print and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (owners of Hatch Show Print since 1992), American Letterpress illustrates the fascinating fusion of art with popular culture and music history. This visually compelling exhibition includes vintage, hand-carved wooden blocks, authorized restrikes,, and a diverse collection of original posters.

American Letterpress is supported by America’s Jazz Heritage, A Partnership of The Wallace Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

>>Exhibition designs


Exhibition Specifications

Contents Approximately 120 original posters (including authorized restrikes from vintage blocks), 20 hand-carved wood blocks, typeset poster form

Exhibition poster, educational and promotional resources, speaker list, bibliography

Participation Fee

$18,000 per 10-week booking period, plus prorated shipping

SITES Contacts

Marquette Folley, 202.633.3111 (Content)

Tour Through August 2012

Tour Itinerary

Opening Closing Host Institution Status
10/11/2008- 07/16/2009 Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA Booked
08/12/2009- 10/11/2009 Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA Booked
10/31/2009- 1/10/2010 Durham Western Heritage Museum, Omaha, NE Booked
02/13/2010- 05/09/2010 Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX Booked
08/28/2010- 11/07/2010 Boston University Art Gallery, Boston, MA Booked
08/27/2011- 11/06/2011 Georgia Museum of Art,
Athens, GA
12/05/2011- 02/04/2012 Library of Virginia,
Richmond, VA
03/05/2012- 07/29/2012 California University of Pennsylvania,
California, PA

Related Publications

Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Poster Shop, by Jim Sheradden, Elek Horvath, and Paul Kingsbury, 2001.
Hard cover with black-and-white and color illustrations, 160 pages.

Written by those who are closest to the Hatch Shop, this text reads like a lyrical walk through this Nashville establisment. Recounts local history while revealing the nuances of American popular culture and music.

>> Look inside this book


Hatch Show Print: The History of a Great American Print Shop book jacket

American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print
Exhibition brochure, color.

>> Download

American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print exhibition brochure

Press Release

June 27, 2008

Media only:    Jennifer Schommer (202) 633-3121
Public only:   (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285

New Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Celebrates American Graphic Art Tradition of Hatch Show Print

Adverting without posters is like fishing without worms.
—The Hatch Brothers

This sentiment was certainly true in 1879 when brothers Herbert H. and Charles R. Hatch opened Hatch Show Print, a printing shop in Nashville, Tenn. Their handcrafted posters screamed slogans such as “More Power, More Pep,” “So Many Girls You Can’t Count Them All” and “Always Clean, Always Good.” Almost 130 years later, Hatch posters hold their own as a stirring and refreshingly tactile contrast to the digital advertising world.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates this time-honored graphic art tradition. American Letterpress: The Art of Hatch Show Print will open at the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle on Oct. 11, 2008. It will then tour to an additional 13 museums over the next four years. The exhibition is supported by America’s Jazz Heritage, A Partnership of the Wallace Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.

American Letterpress features 126 historical and contemporary posters and 29 hand-carved wooden blocks—some on view for the very first time. Whether in posters promoting a Johnny Cash concert or a carnival performance; advertising the rodeo or the Grand Ole Opry; or capturing the modern-day verve of a concert by Coldplay or The Strokes, posters printed by Hatch Show Print capture the heralded traditions of American letterpress printing and graphic art at their very best.

“Hatch is a survivor. We keep ink on the blocks and dust off their backs,” said Jim Sherraden, the exhibition’s curator and chief designer at Hatch Show Print. “We’re in constant production, and we’ve survived all the changes in printing technology to become the antithesis of contemporary digital design. I’m thrilled that we can share our story and our art through this exhibition.”

For much of the 20th century, Hatch’s vibrant posters served as a leading advertising medium for southern entertainment—from vaudeville and minstrel shows, to magicians and opera singers, to Negro League baseball games and B-movies. Many of Hatch’s most loyal clients were Grand Ole Opry stars. Each Hatch Show Print poster is a unique creation, individually handcrafted and inked onto paper in a painstaking process that dates back to the 15th century. This process, known as letterpress, involves inking hand-carved wood blocks and metal photo plates and type that are then pressed onto paper to form an image.

The shop that produces these colorful posters has long been a downtown Nashville landmark and the guardian of a very special piece of Americana. Now owned and operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, Hatch Show Print not only carefully re-strikes some of the original, hand-carved wood blocks to reproduce classic images on the massive, old letterpresses, but also designs and prints over 600 new compositions each year, continuing in the firm’s tradition.The mission of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music and to educate its audiences. Functioning as a local history museum and as an international arts organization, the museum serves visiting and non-visiting audiences including fans, students, scholars, members of the music industry and the general public—in the Nashville area, the nation and the world. Visit online at





Exhibition Specifications

Tour Itinerary

Exhibition Prospectus

Related Publications

Press Release

In the News

Hatch Blog!

Letterpress Video

Johnny Cash poster by Hatch Show Print

If you like this exhibition, you might also like:

American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music (Archives)

Elvis at 21, Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer (Archives)

More Exhibitions from SITES


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