Decorative Designers (firm, 1895–1931)

Decorative Designers monogramThis firm was unique in that it employed a number of designers, and each was responsible for certain aspects of a design—an early example of division of labor in creative work. The founder of the firm was Henry Thayer (1867–1940) who was trained as an architect (following the example of Stanford White, architect-book cover designer). Thayer was responsible for much of the lettering produced by the firm, and Emma Redington Lee Thayer (1874–1973), another important woman designer, executed the beautiful decorative borders and designs. For an example, please see pba00056, Warwickshire Lad: The Story of the Boyhood of William Shakespeare by George M. Martin (D. Appleton & Co., 1916). Henry Thayer and Emma Redington Lee Thayer were married in 1909 but later divorced in 1932 on the grounds of desertion.

Decorative Designers monogramCharles Buckles Falls (d.1960) and Jay Chambers (d. 1929) were in charge of drawing the figures featured in narrative designs. For an example, please see pba00113, Molly Brown of Kentucky by Nell Speed (A.L. Burt, 1917). Their designs were often initially sketched by hand, then transferred to brass plates and engraved by Rome K. Richardson and Adam Empie, both of whom occasionally designed covers individually using the monograms RR and a conjoined AE, respectively.

Decorative Designers monogramGullans described Decorative Designers’ work as original and in some cases “extraordinary.” For an example, see Henry Thayer’s design for William E. Henley’s Hawthorn and Lavender (Harper, 1901). Note, this title does not appear in PBO to date.

The Decorative Designers monogram appeared on over 25,000 book covers, dust jackets, and text decorations.

Monogram: overlapped DD, with the second D reversed.

Click here to search the PBO database for bindings designed by Decorative Designers.

Sources: Charles Gullans and John Espey, “American Trade Bindings and Their Designers, 1880–1915” (1979). Obituaries, New York Times. 13 May 1940.

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