The Rotograph Company, based in New York City, was a prominent publisher and printer of postcards from 1904 to 1911. Founded by Germans Arthur Schwarz and Ludwig Knackstedt, it served as the American branch of Neue Photographische Gesellschaft, renowned for its high-quality photographic products.
Rotograph merged with the National Art Views Company in 1904, gaining access to an extensive collection of American views. The company boasted over two million photographic views from across the United States and emphasized high-quality printing in various styles, including black and white, hand-colored, and colored smooth finish view cards. Despite the influx of cheap souvenir postcards flooding the market, Rotograph maintained a commitment to excellence, earning a reputation for producing postcards of quality.
Rotograph’s success was attributed to its expertise in collotype printing, a technique requiring skilled printers and capable of short print runs. The company retained proprietary rights to many images but also produced postcards from photographs supplied by clients, with Rotograph serving as the printer while local businesses acted as publishers.
However, the imposition of tariffs on imported cards printed in Germany in 1909 proved devastating to the company, as it heavily relied on German printers for its high-quality output. In 1911, the company was absorbed by the Illustrated Postal Card & Novelty Co., with its assets, including a vast collection of real photographs, being transferred. Despite the acquisition, the anticipated success of the new company did not materialize, and the rise of American printers, notably the Curt Teich Company from Chicago, further altered the dynamics of the postcard industry.
Views were printed in sharply defined black-and-white collotype, with their titles printed in a separate press run in letterset.
Views that were printed as tinted halftones with divided backs.
Views that were printed in a sharply defined collotype that was hand-colored.
- Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City
- “Rotograph and Cowles & Casler Post Cards.” Canada Lakes Conservation Association. [Link]
For more Rotograph Co. images not in this collection, check out The Rotograph Project by Chris.