Provenance note by Alisa Zahller, Curator Art & Design, 10/21/2013--see artifact file for additional information and source citations for this note
The Historical Wood Block Project was planned and sponsored by The State Historical Society of Colorado (History Colorado) under a National Art Administration Project (operated independently of the WPA). Documentation in the artifact accession file indicates that the project number was No. S-F-7-102 with Dr. L. R. Hafen as the supervisor of the project and Edgar C. McMechan as the Historian, Curator and Assistant Supervisor. In general the prints made from this project were for educational use in schools; the project was developed in consultation with the research officials of the Denver Public School System.
In 1938, assistant supervisor for the project McMechan wrote an article for Colorado Magazine in which he described the woodblock project as educational and a way “to carry information to the outside.” He also noted that the project included designing, cutting and printing original designs based on Colorado history with the purpose being “to furnish prints from these blocks to educational institutions where they may be used as the basis for lectures.” In the article he describes the subjects and themes and notes that the size of the large blocks as unusual with the smaller size blocks to be used on the portfolio covers. The article also notes that some completed prints were exhibited (by the National Art Administration) in Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Santa Fe with some exhibits in Colorado.
Overall documentation for this project (including the prints) is limited. Over time the prints were assigned various accession numbers with many noted as found in the collection. At this date 10/21/13 it appears that the blocks and prints from the project were part of the Graphic Art Series. Documentation in the artifact files shows that at one point an idea for 2 portfolios for distribution to schools was presented; one (1) with 10 prints all related to Pre-historic People, Mesa Verde and another (2) with 10 prints related to Nomadic Indian Tribes. Other documentation in the file suggests that another series was suggested called the Colorado Periods of Colorado History (Mixing of Races, American Fur Traders, The Great White Migration, Mining, Agriculture and Live Stock). See the inventory sheet dated 2013 for a complete listing of the series and blocks produced and summary of executed blocks/prints found in the collection in 2013. Note: not all titles listed were found and it is unclear if the project ended early. Also, some blocks exist with no prints and some blocks appear to be missing. It is possible that further information may exist in the Society Archives (currently unprocessed) and manuscript collections held by the Archives department for Society staff at the time the projects were completed (these collections are currently minimally processed).
In 1937 it was reported that:
-Original Designs (by outstanding wood block designers)…20
-Number of Blocks Cut…………………58
-Number of Prints made……………….743
-Original Designs (by outstanding wood block designers)…42; large blocks are physically numbered 1-42 with 3 missing (4, 23, 39)
-Number of Blocks Cut…………………85 (large)
-Number of Prints made……………….743
Note: In 1979 a traveling exhibit titled “BLOCKS OF HISTORY” was publicized by the Colorado History Society (History Colorado). It is likely that around this time the blocks were numbered (both with the block numbers on the block and the use numbers U.78.113). It is also possible that prints were made from the blocks; because further materials testing would be needed to determined prints made between 1935 and 1943 and those possibly printed in 1978, all prints are dated between 1935 and 1943. As for the blocks, if they are dated to a certain time period, that date is listed. If not, the general dates for the graphic art projects are noted as 1935-1943.