The poster depicts a man hurrying along in a topcoat and top hat, his legs comically elongated and angled to convey an impression of extreme haste. His left hand reaches up to hold his hat in place while his hair streams behind, and his right holds what are no doubt orders for Propeller Printing, where H. N. Hastings “will put them through “Quick, Neat and Cheap!”” The large size and sheer energy of the image make this a most appealing display piece.
The Propeller Press, ca. 1849-1869
The American Antiquarian Society and OCLC together record a relatively small group of broadsides, periodicals and trade cards bearing the Propeller name, most held only at the AAS. The earliest are two broadsides (AAS #206230 and 209550) printed at the “Propeller Power Presses,” 142 Washington Street, Boston, promoting travel to California and tentatively dated to 1849. In 1864 the “Propeller Printing, Advertising and Publishing Agency,” still at 142 Washington Street, began printing the semi-monthly advertising paper The Conductor, of which the AAS holds but two issues (#471797 and 471798). The AAS also holds a number of trade cards (for example #380220 and 381547) printed by the “Propeller Press” at 21 Cornhill, Boston. The AAS dates these to 1849-1860, but the new address suggests they were issued some time after 1864. The latest imprint I find is an 1869 broadside (#388287) printed by the “Propeller Lightning Steam Press” at 21 Cornhill, Boston.
According to the Boston Directory, at least from 1850-1855 the premises at 142 Washington Street were occupied by printers Davis & Thomas, presumably operating under the Propeller name. Thus the H. N. Hastings named on the broadside was likely not the owner but rather the lead pressman. He could be the same Hastings who “in 1857… started a small sheet, in connection with his printing-office, which he called The Woburn Budget.” (Samuel Adams Drake, History of Middlesex County, vol. II p. 548) If so, he would of course have had to leave Propeller by, say, early 1857 at the very latest. This suggests that the broadside be dated between roughly 1849—the earliest known date for Propeller—and late 1856 or early 1857. Further biographical research on Hastings would likely make it possible to tighten further this date range.
Flattened and lined with tissue on verso, with some offsetting and light staining and a few small areas reinstated in facsimile.