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CLARKE AND COURTS PRINTING

CLARKE AND COURTS PRINTING. Clarke and Courts Printing, with original headquarters in Galveston, was in business in Texas for over 100 years. Until the 1930s the company was the largest printing and lithography company in the region. It produced forms for state and local governments throughout Texas, for businesses, banks, and railroads, in addition to wedding invitations, stationery, and blank books. It also sold office furniture. Clarke and Courts developed from M. Strickland and Company, Printers, Lithographers and Blank Book Manufacturers, organized at Galveston by Miles Strickland in 1857. Strickland moved his printing press to Houston during the Civil War but subsequently returned to Galveston. After the war Samuel Burke, an expert printer, became a partner in the business, and a bindery was added to the plant. After Robert Clarke purchased Burke's interest in the firm in 1870, the business came to be known as Strickland and Clarke. Known for its quality work, the company received a first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition for its blank-book business in 1876. George M. Courts, who had previously handled stationery for the Thompson Drug Company, purchased Strickland's interest, and in 1877 the two printers brought the first lithograph press in the state to Galveston, along with a crew to operate it. Clarke and Courts dates its origins to the partnership formed by the two men in 1879, in which Clarke managed the printing aspects of the business while Courts supervised the rest.

Traveling salesmen for Clarke and Courts marketed its products throughout Texas, western Louisiana, New Mexico, and Mexico. In the 1880s the firm's employees numbered between seventy-five and 100. In 1887, when the company won a blue ribbon at the State Fair of Texas, it incorporated as Clarke and Courts. By 1890 the firm had completed its office on the Strand in Galveston, designed by Nicholas J. Clayton, as well as a plant and warehouse. The office came to be known as the "Texas House." In 1902 the firm subscribed $5,000 for seawall bonds to protect the city after the devastation of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, which damaged the company's building and killed its head bookkeeper. Clarke and Courts printed the first newspapers after the disaster. In 1907 the firm installed the first offset press west of the Mississippi; thus began the company policy of acquiring every innovation in printing machinery as soon as it appeared and limiting the competition by refusing to sell old equipment. Eventually, Clarke and Courts offered customers an array of services ranging from printing, electrotyping, stereotyping, and book-binding to box-manufacturing, lithographing, and zinc-engraving. Among its numerous printing projects was the printing of San Antonio city directories. In 1936, when the company renewed its charter and moved its headquarters to Houston, its service extended to customers in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mexico, and Cuba. By 1976 Clarke and Courts operated plants in Galveston, Harlingen, and Houston, but faced growing computerization in the industry. The business closed in 1989. In 1994, as part of its rehabilitation and revitalization program, the city of Galveston planned to convert the Texas House into a residential building known as the Strand Lofts; its first floor was allocated to the Museum of Printing History. At the same time, space at the Houston building of the firm, renovated into a residential building known as Tribecca Lofts, was allocated to a display of printing machines and memorabilia curated by the Museum of Printing History.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Andrew Morrison, The Industries of Galveston (Galveston?: Metropolitan, 1887).

Diana J. Kleiner

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Diana J. Kleiner, "CLARKE AND COURTS PRINTING," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ehcgy), accessed September 23, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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