Levy family business papersCreation: 1888-1920
Brothers Louis Edward Levy (1846-1919) and Max Levy (1857-1926) founded a photoengraving business in Baltimore in 1875. In 1877, they moved to Philadelphia and reorganized the firm as the Levytype Company. Here they introduced their invention (jointly patented on January 4, 1875) of a new photochemical engraving process, which they called "Levy-type." The bulk of the papers consists of incoming correspondence relating to orders and shipments from 1895 to 1920, and includes letters from all parts of the United States, Europe (especially England and Germany), and more distant places such as India, Australia, and Chile.
- Creation: 1888-1920
13.6 Linear Feet
Brothers Louis Edward Levy (1846-1919) and Max Levy (1857-1926) founded a photoengraving business in Baltimore in 1875. In 1877, they moved to Philadelphia and reorganized the firm as the Levytype Company. Here, they introduced their invention (jointly patented on January 4, 1875) of a new photochemical engraving process, which they called "Levy-type."
In 1887, Louis E. Levy, assisted by his brother, invented the engraved glass grating known as the "Levy line screen," which became universally used for producing half-tone photoengravings. This was of immense value to the field of graphic arts. Other inventions followed, most notably the acid blast, or etching machine, in 1897, and the etch-powdering machine in 1901. In 1900, the firm was renamed the Graphic Arts Company, and the brothers added a printing and publishing department to their business.
Outside of their work in the photography industry, the brothers were prominent members of the Philadelphia Jewish community. Most notably, Louis was the founding president of the Association for the Protection of Jewish Immigrants, known today as HIAS Pennsylvania, and wrote extensively on immigration-related issues.
Scope and Contents
The bulk of the papers consists of incoming correspondence relating to orders and shipments from 1895 to 1920, and includes letters from all parts of the United States, Europe (especially England and Germany), and more distant places such as India, Australia, and Chile. The firm had important agents abroad, particularly A. W. Penrose & Co. (also Penrose & Co.) in London and Friedrich Hemsath in Frankfurt, Germany.
There is also extensive correspondence with Taylor, Taylor & Hobson, Ltd. of New York and Leicester, England; scientific instrument makers Bausch & Lomb Optical Co. of Rochester, New York; optical instrument makers Carl Zeiss of Jena, Germany; the Fuchs & Lang Manufacturing Co. of Chicago; and the Scovill & Adams Co. of New York. Copies of customer billing from 1907 to 1913 and bills and receipts from 1916 are among the papers.
Patents and related papers, 1888-1915 (58 items), include records of patents received by the Levys in the United States, as well as in Germany, Russia, Hungary, Spain, Cuba, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain, France, Australia, Canada, and Belgium, all relating to their inventions in the field of photoengraving. Papers relating to the halftonometer invented by them are included, from 1912 to 1914; also, others concerning the civil suit of the Graphic Arts Co. vs. Hunters, Ltd., in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, London, 1910, with official testimony (188 pages) and supporting evidence (75 pages).
A few personal items are included, including letters of condolence upon the death of Louis E. Levy in 1919; lithographic proofs; dividend notices for the East Empire Syndicate from 1899 to 1900; some speeches and writings by unidentified authors, 1909 and undated; a resolution of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, and award of its Elliott Cresson Gold Medal to Louis E. Levy for his invention of the etchpowdering machine, 1907.
The correspondence, aside from orders and requests, deals with various aspects of the photoengraving business. That from Penrose in London discusses competition of other screens abroad. The elaborate letterheads of the various engraving companies are detailed examples of that art.
This collection is open for research.
Louis E. and Max Levy photograph album (Accession 1976.252), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.
- Levytype Co (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Levy family business papers
- John Beverley Riggs
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- 2021: Laurie Sather