John C. Patrick Pilsworth

John C. Patrick Pilsworth

John C. Patrick Pilsworth (1871-1933) – A San Francisco commercial artist who improved the screen printing process of printing posters, destination boards and advertising signs by attaching the stencil to a piece of silk bolting cloth. Later, along with his brothers; Edward S. Pilswoth (1870-?), Eugene (1878-1917), Henry Arthur Pilsworth (1873-1934), and working with Edward Arthur Owens (1885–1959), Charles Merriman Peter (1878–1965), Roy Christian Beck (1893–1984) and Jacob Harris Steinman (1881–1933) created and patented a multi-color screen printing from a single screen, which became known as the Selectasine Method.

Pilsworth in 1871 Born in Birmingham, England. He came from a family of printers – his father a lithographer, was born in Ireland. Pilsworth had six siblings, three of which were also active in the graphics industry; Edward, Eugene, and Henry.

In 1890 he emigrated to the United States, and settled in New York. In the following years, his parents and siblings lived in various parts of the U.S. East Coast. Edward Pilsworth (1870 -?) Was a commercial artist and “artist engraving”. He was the author of three books about illustration techniques. Henry Pilsworth (1873-1934) was a lithographer at the “American Can Company” in New York and worked for the company some years in China and Eugene Pilsworth (1878-1917) was a commercial artist and illustrator, as well.

John Pilsworth moved to Portland, Oregon in 1911. There he became friends with fellow commercial artists, Charles Peter and Edward Owens. In 1912 the three men moved to San Francisco and opened a graphic design studio. John’s brothers, Henry and Eugene followed John to California and joined the studio. The Pilsworth brothers and partners began experimenting in 1914 with the screen printing method for printing posters.

This would prove to be the first commercial use of the screenprinting process in the U.S.A. The group foresaw the need for the quantity production of destination boards and advertising signs for the newly motorized buses. John Pilsworth is cited as being the leader of this team, which used bolting cloth as the means of supporting their hand-cut paper stencils. Bolting cloth was the name given to the material woven from natural silk which for many years had been used for sieving flour in the milling industry. Its ready availability and relatively low price assisted the development of the new process and a company was formed to market the signs – The Selectasine Company.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mayhew, who was a member of a milling company in Britain, obtained the United Kingdom patent rights from Selectasine in 1918 and set up a similarly named company, Selecticin, in London. Largely due to Colonel Mayhew’s efforts, news of the new printing technique spread and it was adopted by a number of companies in the advertising and signwriting trades. Early development was largely hampered by lack of suitable materials and the screen printers had to solve all the technical problems that the new technique produced.

John Pilsworth was married to Fanny and had two children; Dorothy V. Pilsworth (1904-?) and Oliver J. Pilsworth (1906-1968). He died in 1933 in Berkeley near San Francisco. His brother Eugene Pilsworth died in 1917 in Oakland, near San Francisco.

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