They framed a fortune


Un hobby que les traería reconocimiento y dinero a una pareja, Clint y Alys Litchfield, durante la Gran Depresión. Un artículo de Mechanix Illustrated de la década de los ´50s

An anemic used-car business struggling to stay ahead of the waning depression in 1937 was Clint Litchfield´s main source of income when he and Alys were married. Clint´s side line of framing pictures was, from the profit standpoint, more of a hobby. As for Alys she was an ardent collector of old original color prints, the hand-colored kind, and books published in the days before modern lithography and linotype machines.
The used-car business occupied most of Clint’s time but the stack of rare prints became the basis for an idea “We wondered why we couldn´t mount and frame this antique art and sell it to collectors,” Alys said.

Actually Clint’s woodworking and framing were of first-class quality while Mrs. Litchfield´s background included Miss Wier´s School of Design and Liberal Arts in Newark, N. J.
When they decided to try to sell their art they soon learned that there weren´t enough collectors in the immediate vicinity to carry such a business. Some research disclosed that as good as their own frames and finishes were, there were dozens of woods, grains and various styles and finishes which could be easily adapted to their ancient pages.
Clint at his workshop
Clint at his workshop
Further study along these lines introduced them to old-time printing processes like wood blocks, wood engraving, etchings, etc. Moreover, if they hoped to make a paying business out of their idea, they had to know the different kinds of paper and the markings, lines and watermarks found in them. For instance they discovered that the vertical lines which appeared on many old papers were not an intentional design of the manufacturer of that paper. Digging deep into the paper-making lore, they learned that these vertical lines were caused by the overlapping of the sheets as they were laid out to dry after having been rolled from the pulp.
The more old prints they mounted and framed, the more they studied and the more they studied, the less time Clint spent at his used-car lot. The bills began piling up but after about a year word began getting around northern New Jersey that the Litchfields were offering rare specimens of old book art in attractive, modern frames suitable for any home. People began to visit the modest dwelling that lacked even a sign. Litchfield´s Fancy Prints without advertising other than word-of-mouth was becoming a veritable gold mine of 100 to 200-year-old… (They framed a fortune, by Joseph Wherry, from Mechanix Illustrated, July 1954)
Alys at work
Alys at work

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Para saber
La gran depresión fue una severa crisis económica que tuvo lugar alrededor del mundo en la década del ’30. En la mayoría de los países comenzó en 1929. La depresión se originó en EEUU después de una gran caída de los precios de las acciones. En algunos países las economías se comenzaron a recuperar a mediados de la década del ’30. El desempleo subió al 25 por ciento. La construcción virtualmente se paró. Las comunidades rurales sufrieron al caer los precios de los productos agrícolas. Las áreas dependientes de los sectores primarios, como la minería y la explotación forestal, fueron las más golpeadas.
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