Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our ancestor was ... a lithographer

Natural History Bird Print - Lithograph
circa 1879

Thursday I took a vacation day and headed to the Maryland State Archives. Really wish I could be there every single day. So looking forward to retirement!

The main focus this trip was the Gaphardt family. Putting pieces of the puzzle together for these ancestors has been a bit tricky. The surname has been spelled with so many variations.

Bernard John Gaphardt, grand uncle
born - July 6, 1920 in Baltimore, Maryland
died - November 15, 1966 in Baltimore, Maryland
While searching death certificates this one caught my attention. Here we see Bernard's "usual occupation" as "lithographer". I was not clear about this occupation. Made a quick notation for further research and moved along.

This morning, the hunt begins!

Here are resources discovered and possible connection to Bernard.

Wikipedia describes lithography - "invented by Alois Senefelder in Bohemia in 1796. In the early days of lithography, a smooth piece of limestone was used (hence the name "lithography": "lithos" (λιθος) is the ancient Greek word for stone). After the oil-based image was put on the surface, a solution of gum arabic in water was applied, the gum sticking only to the non-oily surface. During printing, water adhered to the gum arabic surfaces and avoided the oily parts, while the oily ink used for printing did the opposite."

 Lithography from the University of Delaware Library

Lithography by Joseph Pennell - copyright, September, 1912

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Practical Lithography, by Alfred Seymour

Another clue under "kind of business or industry" we see "Crown Cork & Seal Co". I really do not know much about this history. Luckily, there is plenty of information on the Internet.

Here is what I discovered and how it may complete the story.

"Crown Cork and Seal Collection" from Maryland Historical Society, tells us that by 1930 half of the world's supply of bottle caps were produced at the plant. Also, we learn about the photolithographic process of printing bottle caps.

Brewing in Baltimore by Maureen O'Prey, published by Arcadia Publishing, 2011, has pictures and detailed history. One photograph in particular looks familiar! I have seen quite a few crown cork bottle closures in my day.

Is this where Bernard's skill came into play? Did Bernard imprint the bottle tops?

It was fun and educational to dig deeper into Bernard's life. Sheds light on details I am miss by just inputting vital records data.

To that end, I have decided to continue with this theme. Each week there will be a post "our ancestor was ..."

Another genealogy adventure!


  1. Splendid idea fir a series of posts. What a shame my lot were mostly labourers.

  2. Jill, thank you for the comment. Hoping to learn more day-to-day about my ancestors. Many of mine are what you would term "laborers", but what exactly was their place in their community? Everyone has a "work history" story. Come along for the ride!