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Jacquelyn A. Ottman Collection of J. Ottmann Lithographing Company
1880-1920 (bulk 1880-1890)
 PR 281

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Paula Wagner with additions by Susan Kriete

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 03, 2012
Finding Aid is written in English.
using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical Note

Jacob Ottmann was born in Meisenheim, Prussia in 1849 and immigrated to New York with his mother and seven brothers and sisters in the 1860's. The only brother not to join his uncle's Fulton-market meat business, Jacob began his lithographic career around 1870, as a clerk at Ferdinand Mayer & Company. A few years later, in 1874, Ottmann signed on as junior partner with a firm started by Vincent Mayer and August Merkel, located at 22-24 Church Street; the firm was then renamed Mayer Merkel & Ottmann. In 1879 Mayer Merkel & Ottmann moved to 21-25 Warren Street, which was also the business location of the firm's most renowned client, Puck magazine -- the first weekly magazine in America to offer color illustrations.

In addition to printing the cartoons of Puck, the firm attracted a wide variety of other commercial clients. Indeed, according to  The Color Explosion by Jay T. Last (Hillcrest Press, 2005),

By the mid-1800's Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann had become one of the largest American lithographic firms. They did a wide variety of work, including advertising posters, pamphlets and reproductions of oil and watercolor paintings. In the 1880's and 1890's Mayer Merkel & Ottmann shared the honor with the Donaldson Brothers of being the largest American trade card producers. In contrast to most trade card lithographers, Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann made practically no stock cards, but instead produced specially designed cards for individual advertisers. The varied designs documented everyday life in America.

In 1885, Mayer and Merkel retired from the firm and Ottmann took over the business, renaming it J. Ottmann Lithographing Company. That same year Ottmann joined with the publishers of Puck magazine, Joseph Keppler and Adolph Schwarzmann, to commission construction of a new office building on Houston Street. By 1886, the Puck Building, today a New York City historic landmark, was ready for occupation. Four years later, at the age of 41, Ottmann died. The J. Ottmann Lithographing Company continued in business until the first decade of the 20th century, after which it was merged into the United States Printing & Lithographing Company.