- Color Sign Graphic Services
- Wide Format Equipment
- Survey Equipment
- Support Services
It all began, somewhat inauspiciously, over a hundred years ago. In 1895, Bertrand L. Makepeace was 23 years old and determined to try his luck in the fledgling blueprinting industry after a series of false starts. Born in Foxborough and raised in Mansfield, Massachusetts, he completed high school and spent the next year at Bristol Academy in Taunton. In the manner of a Horatio Alger hero, he worked a year for his father and then struck out on his own.
His first job, stock boy at the R.H. White & Co. department store in Boston was followed by employment at Coleman, Mead & Co., a wholesale dealer in underwear and hosiery, where he rose to head the domestic hosiery department. Lured by prospects of better income, he jumped to a competing firm as a traveling salesman. This move proved a mistake, coinciding with the panic of 1893 and leading to a series of short-lived jobs alternating with bouts of unemployment. Things got so bad that he took a job as bellboy at a summer hotel at Sorrento, Maine.
Returning to Boston at season's end, he found work as an outside salesman for Charles Spaulding of the Spaulding Print Paper Company. A subsequent merger of Spaulding with the Charles E. Moss Company created the Spaulding-Moss company, a pioneering blueprint firm. Enthusiastic about the prospects of this new industry after a year in harness at Spaulding-Moss, Mr. Makepeace decided to go into business for himself.
He raised startup money from friends and relatives, and went to New York to establish connections with suppliers of the paper and equipment needed to produce blueprints. He received a traditional New York welcome: nobody wanted to listen to him, let alone extend credit to an unconnected young man and his fledgling business.
Rebuffed in New York, Mr. Makepeace travelled to Philadelphia, finding a warmer reception in the person of Frank A. Brunner, owner of Keystone Blue Paper Company. Brunner quickly came to terms with the young Makepeace, setting him up with the necessary equipment and providing a line of credit for blueprint paper.
Returning to Boston, he hired an errand boy and opened shop on the top floor at 345 Washington Street. After three months of operation, net profits fell slightly short of $25.00; he reached his first anniversary in business with a weekly income of about $18.00.
In those days, blueprinting was a volatile business because it was largely at the mercy of the elements. Prints were made by placing tracings atop sensitized paper, clamping them in a flat frame under glass, and rolling the whole business out the window on rails - hence the early preference among blueprinters for the upper floors of buildings. When the sun didn't shine, printing stopped. Fancier print frames could pivot and tilt on special carriages to follow the sun for maximum effectiveness throughout the day. Exposure times were very slow, and each print had to be individually exposed and developed by hand in a bath of water and chemicals that turned the exposed image areas a rich Prussian Blue.
Our first technological leap forward came with the installation of one of the first blueprinting machines in New England equipped with carbon arc illumination. The advantages of the new technology were obvious - a blueprinter could now operate around the clock if necessary and maintain consistent production levels rain or shine. Rich in the ultraviolet light essential to exposure of the sensitized paper, the three arc lamps in Mr. Makepeace's first unit shortened exposure times to about 25 minutes per print! We also began to manufacture our own blueprint paper for both production and resale. Our coating department, the only operation of its kind in New England, occupied the entire third floor at 387 Washington Street. Mr. Makepeace also installed the first vacuum print frames in New England - and the second such installation in the United States - for the highly accurate reproduction of dimension-critical drawings. The company delivered larger items via horse and wagon, replaced by an early Maxwell Auto Truck, one of the first seen on the streets of Boston. In addition, we maintained a messenger staff of between 20 and 25 boys covering the downtown area. With all of these innovations, the blueprinting and photoreproduction business grew rapidly.
Beginning in 1898, Makepeace added lines of drafting supplies and drawing instruments from Keuffel and Esser Company of Hoboken, New Jersey. From its founding in 1867 until its demise during the freebooting 1980's, K&E was the preeminent manufacturer and innovator of drawing supplies and equipment. Wilhelm Keuffel introduced the slide rule to America in 1880, and began producing them here in 1891. Until the advent of low-cost calculators in the 1970s, the K&E slide rule was the engineer's constant companion, coveted for its carefully selected mahogany body and beautifully engraved, highly accurate scales. Our long association with K&E established our position as the preeminent firm of its kind in New England. This affiliation represented the most important business alliance in the company's history, and was the engine for continued strong growth and expansion.
By 1909, the business had taken just about all of the available space at 345 Washington Street. Faced with a need for even more room, Makepeace moved the company to roomier quarters at 387 Washington Street, at the corner of Bromfield, where it remained until 1947. A retail store was opened at 10 Bromfield Street in 1934, to make room for upstairs expansion at 387 Washington. In 1919, the business was formally incorporated, and in 1922 a branch was established at 394 Boylston Street in the Back Bay, which moved to more spacious quarters at 462 Boylston in 1930. A second branch opened at 10 High Street, which was closed during the depression.
During the second decade of the century, the company became actively involved in the sale and repair of surveying instruments, and during World War One contracted with the government to produce illuminated peloruses (a form of navigational compass) and similar technical instruments for the U. S. Navy and Coast Guard.
After the Armistice in 1919, Mr. Makepeace bought an instrument manufacturing business established by brothers Stephen and Carl Heinrich, who had emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary. He established a factory at the corner of First and Main streets in Cambridge, with Stephen Heinrich as Superintendent and brother Carl as Assistant Superintendent. There were as many as fifty machinists on staff at the Kendall Square shops during the 1920s. Makepeace began producing the Loxo farm level (a rudimentary instrument for coarse grading work), the Loxo dumpy level, the Loxo compound level (a combination of level and simplified transit for the building trades), the Makepeace preliminary transit, and an alidade (a directional sighting instrument used to establish the location of fires) which found wide use in the fire towers of the northern forests. These instruments were based on patents which Mr. Makepeace acquired with his purchase of the Heinrich business. The farm level was especially popular, and for many years we supplied an o.e.m. version to Montgomery, Ward and Company of Chicago, shipping 300 units per month for several years.
In 1921, Mr. Makepeace bought the assets of the Kinkead Manufacturing Company at 7 Water Street. A pioneering firm in the use of optical methods for the alignment of industrial drive shafting, the Kinkead acquisition enabled Makepeace to add higher order transits to its instrument line.
In 1927, Mr. Makepeace was one of the original incorporators of the International Association of Blue Print and Allied Industries, the blueprinters' trade organization. The IABPAI (now the International ReproGraphic Association) held its first national convention in Boston that year, and Mr. Makepeace remained an active member of the organization to the end of his life.
In 1931, Makepeace purchased the Boston branch of H. H. Sullivan Company at 54 High Street. Headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., Sullivan had gained its foothold in Boston through the acquisition of Frost and Adams Co., founded in 1848 and thought to be the oldest dealer in drafting supplies and artists' materials in New England. The acquisition of these diverse operations enabled the company to maintain steady growth.
Our relationship with K&E continued to strengthen, and in 1932 we were appointed their exclusive New England agent. At that time, Mr. Makepeace ended the manufacture of surveying instruments and instead marketed the complete K&E line. Despite the severe economic downturn, the company remained strong through the thirties. Mr. Makepeace took pride in not only surviving the depression, but also in having avoided a single layoff during that time. During World War II, the company grew at a pace which was moderated by widespread shortages of paper and other strategic materials diverted for use in the war effort.
Bertrand Makepeace died on August 14, 1946. Of his three children, only one, a daughter, survived him, and neither she nor his third wife, Florence (his first and second wives had died in 1927 and 1940, respectively), had any interest in continuing the business. In 1947, the Makepeace estate sold the business to partners Stephen Joyce, assistant treasurer and office manager, who had joined the business in 1941, and Joseph Edwards, the K&E representative responsible for the Makepeace account.
In 1948, the company moved to new quarters at 1266 Boylston Street near Fenway Park and closed its branch locations. The decision was subsequently made to concentrate on the engineering and architectural markets to better exploit our relationships with K&E and Hamilton Manufacturing Company, the preeminent manufacturer of drafting room furniture. We withdrew from the fine arts supply business in the mid-1960s, bringing to a close our long-standing relationships with Winsor & Newton, F. Weber Co, and other noted manufacturers of artists' materials.
In 1956, Makepeace established a fully equipped converting department to better meet the demand for sensitized materials and drafting media. The only operation of its kind in New England, our converting department, fed by continuous mill roll shipments from K&E's coating plants, allowed unprecedented control over product availability and freshness. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the introduction of the Blu-Ray tabletop diazo whiteprint machine for office use led to further growth in the popularity of diazo media of all kinds.
In 1959, Makepeace purchased the Henry Johnson Company, a printing firm established in 1932. The acquisition of the Johnson Company broadened our market base and provided us with valuable expertise in small format printing. We maintained an offset department until 1987, when we decided to concentrate on high speed xerography to better support the needs of our customers.
In 1966, Makepeace purchased the Providence Blue Print Company, a venerable firm in a new market for us. We maintained this branch operation until late 1969, when it was sold to its present owners.
In 1977, Joseph Edwards retired, and his stock was subsequently purchased by the corporation. Stephen Joyce served as president and treasurer of the company from 1976 until his retirement in 1980, when management of the company passed to the next generation of owners. Steve Joyce, who died in 1990, is remembered by all who knew him for his integrity, fairness, and kindness. The high standards he established continue to guide us in our dealings with the business community, with our employees, and with our neighbors.
By the late 1970s, we had all but outgrown our Boylston Street quarters, and the search for a new location was begun in 1981. In 1983, the company purchased a 30,000 square foot building located at 125 Guest Street in Brighton formerly owned by Clorox Corporation, and renovated the interior space to accommodate our varied operations. With the exception of the reprographics division, which remained at Boylston Street until 1987, the company occupied its new quarters in 1984.
In August of 2014, we moved to 575 University Avenue in Norwood.
A reading of our catalog archive, ranging from 1909 to the present, provides a clear picture of the almost glacial pace of change in our industry through most of those years. The principal manufacturers provided the research and development which led to improvements in existing products and, occasionally, an innovation seen as a radical breakthrough in its day. In the decades when innovation was driven from within our industry, Keuffel & Esser Co. was widely acknowledged to be the most important innovator, with a strong commitment to research and development.
One of the most important innovations of the postwar era was the introduction of the diazo process, which used ammonia, heat, and moisture to develop prints, instead of the slow and costly wet bath needed for blueprinting. Because of its speed, convenience and low cost, diazo printing quickly supplanted blueprinting. Our last blueprint machine was taken out of service and scrapped in 1972.
The application of text to drawings has undergone steady evolution from the early years of handwork using special pens and calligraphic techniques, providing an apt metaphor for overall changes in drawing practice. The demands of productivity forced the abandonment of ornate lettering in favor of more simplified letterforms. The 1935 introduction of the Leroy lettering system of engraved templates, scriber, and pens in numerous line widths guaranteed consistent results independent of the skills of the user. As microfilm and microfiche became important archival tools for engineering drawings, controlled lettering methods enjoyed universal use, and specialized fonts were introduced which best withstood the effects of extreme reduction and enlargement. In the 1960s, transfer lettering from Chartpak, Letraset, and others introduced an incredible variety of typestyles and sizes, though the slow process of burnishing one letter at a time significantly restricted its use. In the 1970s, the introduction of type-on-tape lettering systems led to the rapid decline in the use of both Leroy and transfer lettering. Today, the powerful text management tools in today's CAD software have effectively eliminated the use of mechanical lettering methods.
The development of techniques to manufacture thin polyester film resulted in the adoption of polyester as a base material by Eastman Kodak and others who recognized its stability and strength as the ideal medium for photographic films. The need for greater durability and permanence in engineering and architectural documents led K&E to pioneer the use of polyester as a base material for drafting media in the early 1960s. In less than ten years, drafting film had replaced costly tracing cloth (a finely woven cotton fabric transparentized with starch), and led to the introduction of technical pens with carbide or synthetic jewel points hard enough to withstand the abrasive effects of the kaolin-based drafting surface applied to polyester. The wash-off process, enabling photographic duplicates to be erased with a moistened vinyl eraser, was originally introduced on tracing cloth, and quickly migrated to polyester base products
A watershed change occurred in the early 1970s. For the first time, technological innovation driven by external forces revolutionized our industry beyond its power to deflect or control those changes. A dividend of the space program, the simple four-function electronic calculator introduced by Texas Instruments was quickly followed by advanced models whose accuracy, features, and low price quickly put incredible calculating power in the hands of students and professionals in all the technical disciplines. The impact of the calculator on the slide rule was immediate and devastating. Within two years, scientific calculators had entirely replaced the slide rule in education, science, and industry. The implications were even more chilling to traditional engineering suppliers. Those who tried to maintain a presence in the engineering calculator market soon found themselves forced to abandon the field to mass market discounters.
The calculator was the harbinger of the personal computer revolution. Defense and manufacturing industries began to adopt computer-aided design based on mainframe computer systems as early as the 1950s. The software was typically created for a specific, narrowly defined task, and was difficult or impossible to adapt to other uses. Despite the existence of these pioneer CAD systems, conventional drafting techniques embodied in the drafting machine (introduced in rudimentary form by K&E as early as 1909!), drafting furniture, and drawing tools remained the unchallenged method of design development.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, innovative companies like Applicon and Computervision introduced turnkey CAD workstations based on minicomputer architecture and proprietary software customized to specific end uses. These powerful new systems, which cost about a quarter million dollars per station, found immediate acceptance in large engineering environments, and included a choice of plotters, both pen and electrostatic, which for the first time automated the production of hard copy engineering documents. We began to sell papers and films, pens and toners developed specifically for these plotters - and, it might be noted, hundreds of Hamilton drafting table bases to Applicon for use in its workstations. The move toward CAD began to develop momentum among major corporate users, while the rest of the design community remained wedded to traditional methods.
In the early 1980s, Charles Bruning Company and Bausch & Lomb pioneered low-end CAD systems, priced at between fifty and eighty thousand dollars, aimed at companies who found the Computervision and Applicon systems priced beyond their reach. Such systems enjoyed a brief popularity, but were hobbled by proprietary software, and were soon made obsolete by the introduction of the personal computer.
The introduction of the personal computer by IBM in 1982 has changed everything. Relative to its predecessors, the PC was inexpensive, and its open architecture produced dozens of clone systems and an astonishing variety of software, good and bad. Among the many competitors for preeminence in the CAD world, Autodesk introduced Release 1 of AutoCAD at the Comdex show in November, 1982, and it began its steady climb to the top of the heap. The migration to CAD began slowly; rapid adoption was inhibited by the relative slow performance of early PCs, the lack of uniform document format standards, and uncertainty about the best software to choose and learn - no easy task, given the almost complete lack of experienced users and competent training facilities. In time, however, as personal computers delivered greater and greater performance at steadily lower prices, AutoCAD emerged as the de facto standard for desktop CAD applications, and training became readily available. Soon, digital documentation became a project requirement, forcing adoption of CAD by even the most reluctant firms. All of this momentum built and in the early 1990s reached a sort of critical mass; the CAD flood has become a torrent.
Our involvement in CAD hardware and software sales began because of advances in surveying technology. Surveying equipment manufacturers introduced the field-to-finish surveying concept, linking digital total stations which combine electronic angle measurement and infrared distance measurement, linked by electronic recording field notebooks to office-based CAD systems. The need to support this advanced technology led to the addition of computer workstations, peripheral devices, and software products to our line. Today, Makepeace sells products from Hewlett-Packard, Oce, Canon, Topcon, and other leading manufacturers.
As we begin our second century, the long reign of diazo has reached its end. In the commercial environment, wide format xerography made its appearance with the Xerox 2080 in 1980. Its ability to copy and change the scale of opaque documents on demand and at extremely low cost immediately impacted traditional photographic services. Competing models from Shacoh and Daito offered more features and full 36" output width matched by Xerox with the 5080 Engineering Copier in 1989. The subsequent introduction of xerographic printers operating at speeds comparable to commercial diazo printers has resulted in the displacement of commercial diazo printing by plain paper imaging.
The introduction of the affordable Xerox 2510 Engineering Copier in 1986 brought the convenience of xerography to end users large and small, and all but eliminated the once ubiquitous tabletop diazo whiteprinter from drawing offices. Successive models introduced by Xerox, Oce, and others continue to add productivity and flexibility to office-based plain paper imaging.
Analog plain paper printing is itself rapidly yielding ground to fast digital printers, driven by high volume file servers where scanned and CAD-generated files are stored. These new products will again revolutionize our industry, led by Oce, who introduced the groundbreaking 9800 digital print system at the International Reprographic Association convention in May, 1995.
Reprographic firms were quick to grasp the growing importance of short run color imaging as their clients migrated toward computer-based design. The use of color to better communicate information began with the use of different colors in multi-pen plotters to better distinguish elements of architectural and mechanical designs, and with the adoption of Versatec color electrostatic plotters in geological and mapping applications. The introduction of the first Canon Color Laser Copier in 1987 brought affordable photorealistic copy technology to market.
The PostScript page description language by Adobe Systems established a standard for printing computer-generated images. Pioneers Colossal Graphics and Bowers Imaging developed front end systems to process PostScript images and print them on wide format color electrostatic plotters, giving birth to an entirely new industry which Makepeace joined with the introduction of large-format digital printing in New England. Canon Color Laser copiers were soon paired with powerful front-end image processors like Fiery and Cyclone, enabling small format color printing direct from digital files. The introduction of large-format color inkjet printers by Hewlett-Packard has further expanded the large format graphic imaging market and produced numerous affordable, turnkey systems which smaller reprographic firms and many end users have adopted. Today, our digital imaging services are an increasingly important part of the reprographic spectrum.
The universal use of color - especially digital color - has blurred the once sharp distinction between the technical design worlds of architecture and engineering and the graphic arts professions. Traditional reprographic firms like Makepeace now provide imaging services to design professionals of every stripe, and have developed fluency in the language of desktop publishing and PostScript imaging.
The comfortable era when firms like Makepeace could prosper on the basis of long-standing relationships with key suppliers has ended. Technology forces us to make frequent, often vital judgments about the future on the basis of innovations and trends which in many instances are just beginning to evolve. Though our supplier relationships are an important source of information, we also rely upon the collective experience of our peers. We track overall industry trends through active involvement in both the International and Eastern Regional Reprographic Associations. Our grasp of technology is significantly strengthened by memberships in industry trade groups such as RSA. Most important of all, we listen carefully to our customers, a vital source of information about trends in the design professions, who provide us with a real world, local market focus. All of these alliances have provided us with strengths which a single firm, acting alone, could not easily acquire. Our industry is a microcosm of an increasingly interdependent world where cooperation is key to survival and growth.
Makepeace has undergone a greater transformation in the last quarter century than in the seventy-five years which preceded it. As we move forward, we will continue to explore and develop new ways to help you succeed in an increasingly competitive world. The certainty we face is that technology will continue to fuel profound and frequent changes in the way that information is created, managed, and distributed. Thanks to the many talented, dedicated men and women who have helped Makepeace grow and prosper since 1895, and to those who continue our proud tradition of service and innovation, we welcome the challenges which lie ahead.