winfred porter truesdell portrait drawn by Oberhardt

Winfred Porter Truesdell:
Print Maker and Art Publisher

of Champlain, New York

by David Patrick

    Winfred Porter Truesdell was a prolific print maker and art publisher who lived in Champlain, New York.  He amassed a collection of thousands of lithographs and published many books related to printing between the years 1903 and 1939.  His best-known publication was a quarterly periodical called “The Print Connoisseur” which he published for 12 years.  Truesdell started printing in New York City but later moved to Champlain, New York, where he lived for 18 years.

Published Books
    Truesdell’s first publications were books related to engravers from Europe and North America.  His first set of books were published in 1903 and were printed by his Troutsdale Press, a name he would use in later years for other publications.  His first books were called “Edward Edwards and His Book Plates,” and “Herbert Gregson and His Bookplates.” 

    Truesdell was considered an authority on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.  He published several important books related Col. Elmer Ellsworth (the first Northern soldier killed in the Civil War) and President Abraham Lincoln.  His book “Engraved & Lithographed Portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 2” was printed in 1933.  He was working on volumes 1, 3 and 4 when he died in 1939.  The four planned volumes were to catalog all of the know portraits of Lincoln made from photographs.

Periodical - Print Collector
    The “Print Collector” was Truesdell’s first foray into the world of publishing a periodical.  Very little is known about this publication but a note concerning the “The Print Connoisseur” notes that this periodical was discontinued at the outbreak of World War I.

winfred porter truesdell portrait in
Winfred Porter Truesdell in 1921

Periodical - The Print Connoisseur
    Truesdell printed a quarterly periodical called “The Print Connoisseur” which was devoted to publishing articles related to engravers, printers and artists from America and Europe.  The periodical included many printed engravings.  The periodical ran from volume 1, number 1 in October of 1920 to volume 12, number 2 in 1932, with 46 issues published.  The magazine was first published in New York City and later in Champlain, New York. 

    The first periodical was printed in October 1920.  A short article in the “American Art News” newspaper published by the American Art News Company Publishers of New York City described Truesdell’s new magazine.  The article was published on November 6:

The Print Connoisseur
    The "Print Connoisseur," edited and published by Winfred Porter Truesdell at 154 East 38th St., N.Y., a quarterly magazine for the print collector, and a successor to the "Print Collector," of happy memory, discontinued in the early years of the war, makes its initial bow with an October number.  The new magazine is beautifully printed and is most attractive in every way, while its contents bespeak for its editor and publisher the interest and support of collectors and the trade.

    The late W. H. de B. Nelson has written of "Frederick Reynolds—An American Maker of Mezzotint," Mr. George S. Hellman describes "Some Italian Drawings from the Mortimer Schiff Collection," Mr. Walter Pach discusses "The Etchings and Lithographs of Odilon Redon," and Mr. Frank Weitenkampf tells of "New York in Recent Graphic Art." There are book reviews and the illustrations are numerous and excellent.

    Most Print Connoisseur covers were printed in black and white but some were printed in color such as the April 1924 edition which was printed on red paper with gold lettering (shown here).  The periodicals were Perfect Bound, but unfortunately, the binding has not held up after 100 years of aging and wear.  Subscribers could also buy a bound version of the entire years’ periodical at the end of the year. 
The June 1921 edition had a very good engraving of Truesdell by sketch artist William Oberhardt which was found in the article “The ‘Heads’ of Oberhardt” by Ameen Rihani.  Several copies of his portrait were also printed on cardstock and given to Malcolm and Hugh McLellan and subsequently framed (this website author has one original print, shown here, that had been owned by Malcolm and personally signed by Oberhardt and Truesdell).  The January 1926 edition had an article about Rockwell Kent. 

    The April 1924 edition (partially shown below) had six sections and was bound in a bright red cover with gold lettering.  The contents included a story by Warren Wilmer Brown entitled “J.L.G. Ferris, America’s Painter-Historian”; a second article contained a list of the American historical paintings by Ferris; a third article by Thomas H. Thomas was about Charles Bert who was a bank-note engraver; a check list was included for the etchings of Gerard de Latenay; an article by Frank Weitenkampf was about the portraits of printmakers.  The periodical also contained a number of four-color images as well as engravings by the artists described in the periodical.

    The April 1926 edition of the Print Connoisseur was divided into four parts.  Part one included a story called “The Etchings and Lithographs of the Samuel Chamberlain” and included 11 images.  Part two was called “City Types in American Prints” written by Frank Weitenkampf (1866-1962) who was an expert on engraving and head of the art and print departments at the New York Public Library.  Part three was called “Artistic Maps of Early Days” and was written by Lewis C. Karpinski.  The story was about a history of early mapmaking; a number of maps were included in the article.  Part four was entitled “Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth; First Hero of the Civil War” and was written by Charles A. Ingraham.  The article gave a history of Ellsworth who was the first Northern casualty of the Civil War.  Ellsworth was from Malta, New York, and had a farm and homestead on Route 9 off of Exit 12 of today’s I-87.  A number of engravings about Ellsworth were included in the periodical.

Hugh McLellan and the Moorsfield Press in Champlain, N.Y.
    Truesdell’s office was originally in New York City at 154 E. 38th St. when he started printing The Print Connoisseur.  It was here that he became friends with Hugh McLellan who was an architect in the city.  In 1919 McLellan partially retired and moved to Champlain, New York to manage his father’s estate and to found the Moorsfield Press, which was to be a continuation of his boyhood printing hobby. 

    McLellan’s first publication with his Moorsfield Press in 1919 acknowledged Truesdell’s assistance: “The kindly advice of Mr. Winfred Porter Truesdell in the typography of this brochure, and his assistance and encouragement, are gratefully acknowledged.”  Hugh gave him issue No. 3 of his marked and signed publication (No. 1 was reserved for himself).  After McLellan published several more pamphlets, Truesdell hired him to print The Print Connoisseur.  It was previously printed by the Clinton Press in Plattsburgh.

    Between 1924 and 1926 Hugh McLellan used his Moorsfield Press to print Truesdell’s periodical.  These periodicals stand out over the periodicals printed by the Clinton Press due to the unique style of the old-style Caslon typeface.  It is the same typeface that Hugh would use when he issued his own periodical called the “Moorsfield Antiquarian” in 1937 and 1938. 

    McLellan and Truesdell were good friends for many years.  Truesdell’s house was down the road from the Moorsfield Press and the McLellan house.  Besides printing, McLellan and Truesdell were Masons in Champlain Lodge #237.  The published minutes of the Lodge show that Truesdell gave an illustrated talk on George Washington in 1932.  The minutes also describe the following event:

“Other banquets featured unrehearsed speeches on impossible subjects and presentations intended rather to embarrass than to flatter the recipient; the old-timers will recall with glee the apron presentation to Bro. Truesdell and the "address" entirely in French by Bro. Hugh McLellan.  The printed programs and the notices for the meetings are still remembered as minor works of editorial and typographical art.  An unrehearsed mock-trial which aroused much interest was "Foster Strickland vs. Oscar Bredenberg, the Champlain Masonic Club, et al." The opposing attorneys were A. T. Phillips for the defense and Arthur Atwood for the plaintiff.  Porter Truesdell acted as court stenographer. William Hogge and George Allen, as experts, testified on the medical aspects of the case, which was based on the alleged injury to the plaintiff when struck on the head by a large pitcher in the hands of a waiter (Oscar Bredenberg) employed by the Club.  The jury, after deliberation, requested Judge Warren Smith's permission to examine the elaborately bandaged scalp of the plaintiff; no evidence of injury being found, the jury brought in a verdict for the defendant.”

Truesdell’s Life, Education and Marriage
    Winfred Porter Truesdell was born on November 13, 1880, in Lynn, Massachusetts to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Truesdell.  According to a 1939 article, Truesdell liked art and attended an art school in Boston as well as Harvard University but did not graduate.  He also studied art in Europe in his early years. 

    Truesdell died on May 27, 1939, at the age of 58.  He was buried in Glenwood Cemetery on Oak Street in Champlain in lot B-16.  His stone states: “W. Porter TRUESDELL / 1880 – 1939.” 

    Truesdell was married prior to 1902 as noted in one print publication that mentioned “Mr. And Mrs. W.P.”  The article also stated that Truesdell, who lived at 152 Mass Avenue in Boston, had submitted two bookplates, the first designed by the famous artist E.B. Bird.  The second was designed by Mrs. Truesdell and the article was critical of it: “The other, which belongs to Mrs. Truesdell, is an adaption of an old design by Mr. Truesdell, the chief feature of which is a shield bearing three open books.  The design is too large, for it contains little detail, and not dainty enough for a lady.  But it is not fair to criticize it, seeing that it is the work of an amateur.”

    By the late 1910s, Truesdell was divorced.  Hugh McLellan convinced Truesdell to move to Champlain and continue his printing business with him at the Moorsfield Press office.  Truesdell moved to Champlain by the spring of 1924 and quickly married native Champlainer Edythe Gettys in August of that year.  She was four years younger than him (April 5, 1884-Dec. 24, 1970) and was 40 when she married.  Edythe‘s parents were William and Mary Jane (McCrea) Gettys and her siblings included W.W. (Bill) Gettys, Dr. Harold Gettys of Binghamton, Mrs. Foster Strickland and Nellie Hogge (she and her husband operated the Hogge Drug Store in Champlain).   Edythe was a longtime teacher at the Rouses Point High School.  In June, 1970, she fell in her house and broke her hip.  She was placed in the Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh and later the Holiday House Nursing Home in St. Albans, Vt.  She died shortly afterwards at the age of 86 on December 24.  She lived in the Oak St. house for 30 more years after her husband’s death but never moved the pile of books or the printing press that had been set up in the back room.

    Mr. Truesdell had several heirs who settled the estate in 1971 and disposed of his art collection, printing press and house.  Most of Truesdell’s printed books, pamphlets, engravings, lithographs and woodcuts were donated to SUNY-Plattsburgh by the early fall in 1971.  The engravings, lithographs and books are stored in the Special Collections of Feinberg Library.

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