The Old Try

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Over the holidays his freshman year, my younger brother Ben came home from college and shared with the family his favorite new maxim. It was originally said by John F. Kennedy in reference to something about Washington, D.C., where Ben was in school.

“All the charm of the North. All the efficiency of the South.”

He saw it as the perfect description for our hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri, which falls one degree South of the imaginary latitudinal line drafted by surveyors Mason and Dixon. Since that time, it has become apparent that there is something of a cultural melting pot through the midsection of the country, particularly in the East and middle West.

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Upon first meeting them and seeing their killer “The Line” print which celebrates the work of Monsieurs Mason et Dixon, I relayed this story to Marianna and Micah Whitson of Boston, Massachusetts-based The Old Try. They were less than impressed. True Southerners — he’s from Alabama; she’s from North Carolina — they understood Saint Louis has very little to do with the South or the North for that matter.

“Really, it’s the West,” I said. “The Gateway to the West.”

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With that, I became wistful. Born in a small farm and rail town in Kansas, we grew up taking vacations to Colorado whenever we could. “Go West Young Man” is a phrase my father would often exclaim from the front seat of the Wastler family Wagoneer as we headed off on another adventure. It’s attributed to Horace Greeley, but it became a mantra of mine, a byproduct of my fascination with The West, which grew by leaps and bounds after my family headed East from Kansas to Missouri.

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You can imagine my excitement upon seeing their print collaboration with Buffalo Jackson, prints whose profits are promised to the National Parks.

These are letterpress posters, printed in Boston, Massachusetts on old machines with moveable type and wood blocks, just like what would have been used a hundred years ago. I’d suggest investing in one or both of the Buffalo Jackson prints. They’re nice looking, made right here, and they benefit a good cause. If you’re unable to purchase a poster, please support our National Parks.

“Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles…. It is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go…. It is all room away from the pavements.” – Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, in conversation with Horace Greeley

Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    Max,
    Love the blog, this post, and the prints. Just wanted to point out that it was Greeley who purportedly said the bit about going west. To be fair, Greeley’s quote appeared in Grinnell’s book, so attributing the quote can be a bit complicated.
    Does citation really matter? Nope. Go West.

  2. If the quote perfectly describes your home town, I’m afraid that’s not too flattering. The north is known for efficiency, and the south is known for charm. So when Kennedy said that D.C. had “All the charm of the North. All the efficiency of the South”, he was really saying that D.C. was neither charming nor efficient. Get it?

  3. Yes.

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