Come Up and See My Etchings

Rome in the Rockies

WHAT was once a Denver bakery is now a plant which houses one of the most unusual enterprises in the Rockies. The lettering on the window announces that this is the home of Rome Creations. Fifteen years ago, Rome Creations sold an occasional box of stationery, each sheet of which bore the imprint of an original etching by Richardson Rome, an artist with an idea. The idea had sufficient merit so that today twelve million pieces of etching stationery have passed through the Rome office in New York, en route to all corners of the United States.

The founder and head of this unique enterprise in commercial art is handsome, graying Richardson Rome, who has a friendly manner and a shrewd head for business. Born in Minneapolis, he traveled extensively in his early youth and received his formal education at Colorado Springs and Berkeley, California. He decided to become an artist along the way, and, in order to earn his schooling, took on many odd jobs.

Rome worked as a caddy so that he might pay for a correspondence course in art. He was a student at the University of Minnesota Art Institute from 1920 to 1925, and was trained under Ella Witter and S. Chatwood Burton.

Richardson Rome became art director for Fawcett Publications' Minneapolis office in 1929. The Alden Galleries of Kansas City hired him as manager-lecturer later that year.

The depression put the hex on the market for etchings—an art form which had always been associated with the well-to-do collector. Etchings cost around $35 to $40 in those days, and even the avid collectors were inclined to let these luxuries go off their budgets. This situation, in .part, gave Rome his inspiration.


IN 1931, Rome arid a friend, Dave Sterling [sic Stirling], opened a studio in Estes Park, Colorado, where they proceeded to combine the esthetic and the practical to meet the situation. With a small press and a quantity of fine French paper-which they were lucky enough to get hold of they started to produce various types of stationery , each bearing the print of an original etching. The subject matter for the pictures came from the surrounding beauty of the mountain country, and the idea caught on immediately with the tourist public.

Soon afterward it became necessary to expand-to set up a shop in Grand Lake over the Trail Ridge Road from Estes. And then a shop was started at Boulder, the mountain university town, where the present-day Rome etchings are cut, Next came a processing plant at Denver; sales were made throughout the nation; and a New York outlet was established. Rome Creations had arrived—solidly.

Today, boxes of attractive Rome stationery-postcards, notepaper, greeting cards, and writing paper can be found in stationery and department stores allover the country.

The initiative of the Rome enterprise lies in two factors: all the etchings are printed from the first plates rather than from a secondary photo engraving taken of the original; and the subject matter of the etchings is governed by the section of country in which it will be sold. Etchings of mountain scenes are made in the high-altitude West for sale there. Pacific views are designed for the West Coast trade. Old sailing ships and dignified white churches are authentically New England for New Englanders.


BY catering in this manner to the regional public taste, Rome has turned his art into a well-paying industry and a distinctive one. His etchings are originals, yet mass-produced for a nation. The quality of the delineations is unquestionably good if not great; the subject matter is not intended to delight the sophisticated, or overwhelm the connoisseur with the unusual. It's success lies with those who "don't know anything about art, but know what they like"—just to drag in an ancient phrase.

However, certain of Rome's etchings have met the criterion of the most discriminating. They are to be; found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Brooklyn Museum of Art; and the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City.

Rome has made the etching a household property, and has removed this art medium from the narrow category of a carriage trade item.: Here is one artist who doesn't have to die to be recognized.-B. L,


July 1946