It started, naturally enough, with the Hatch family. William H. Hatch ran a print shop in the town of Prescott, Wisconsin, where his two sons, Charles R. and Herbert H. (born in 1852 and 1854, respectively), grew up and learned the craft of letterpress printmaking. In 1875, William moved his family to Nashville where, four years later, Charles and Herbert founded CR and HH Hatch.
From their very first print job—a handbill announcing the appearance of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe)—the Hatch brothers got the look right. Here was the simplicity, the effortless balance between type size and style, vertical and horizontal layout. Here, too, was the distinct whiff of American history, southern culture, and entertainment.
Hatch flourished, for these were the days when show business was get-up-and-go business. Show posters created the excitement that sold the show, covering the sides of buildings and barns in cities and towns throughout the country. Whether circus, minstrel show, vaudeville act, or carnival, if you wanted to fill seats, Hatch got the job done.
The golden age of Hatch was from the mid-1920s, when Charles's son Will T. Hatch took over the business, until Will's death in 1952. It was a golden era for country music as well, and Hatch captured the magic. Will frequently turned his talent as a master woodblock carver to "chiseling and gouging" (as someone once put it) some of the most indelible images of country music performers ever made. To further secure the historic link, Hatch's home from 1925 to 1992 was right behind the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music.
Hatch captured the glory of other musical genres, doing work for the great African-American jazz and blues entertainers of the day, such as Cab Calloway, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong.
Just as eye-catching are the "bread and butter" posters that filled in the blanks during this time, the small jobs for filling stations, laundries, grocery stores, and movie theaters. This openness to the sheer breadth of southern culture and advertising helped Hatch Show Print survive the comparatively lean years that followed the death of Will Hatch. While letterpress printmakers found it hard to compete in the more modern, faster age of offset printmaking, Hatch could turn to country music and other "old faithfuls" for continued support, while embracing newer forms of entertainment such as all-star wrestling and rock & roll.
Ownership of Hatch changed hands several times in these years. Bill Denny (fittingly enough, son of Grand Ole Opry General Manager Jim Denny), Gaylord Entertainment, and others all played roles in keeping Hatch alive. Gaylord was directly responsible for the generous donation of Hatch to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992, and also was instrumental in helping Hatch move to its present location when its old building was razed.