E.O. Vandercook’s grandson reminisces

Today I received an email from Kurt Vandercook Osenbaugh, a grandson of Vandercook & Sons President Edward O. Vandercook who shared some interesting family anecdotes. He says his grandfather’s middle name reflects a relation to “the Oatman girls,” two girls who were captured by [Yavapai] Indians in 1851. “One died in captivity, the other escaped, and later lived a relatively normal (non-Indian) life, albeit with facial tattoos.” [An 1857 book about the ordeal sold 30,000 copies. Co-incidentally the University of Nebraska Press just published a new book The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman by Margot Mifflin.]

Mr. Osenbaugh noted that “the Vandercooks were an old-line, wealthy family historically, tracing their ancestors to the Mayflower. But my grandfather was not exactly a pampered fellow, because of various setbacks in their fortune. Unlike his forefathers, he didn’t go to college. He worked in mines in the Rockies as a teenager, and in World War I was an airplane mechanic, I think stationed in France. They first ran the company, I’m told, out of the basement of my great-grandparent’s home.” [This may be R.O. Vandercook’s former house that April Sheridan showed to a group us after a visit to the Vandercook family graves in March.]

“I don’t know about the details of the operation of the company as many of the folks posting on this site may, but certainly have heard many stories from my family, who were very proud of not just my grandfather, a thoroughly lovely and generous man, but also the fine Vandercook company and employees. Many former employees attended my grandfather’s funeral in the mid-80s, and we were touched by their kind words. When I was a child, and through my college years, my grandfather helped support my family during difficult times, and a goal of mine is to try to be like him.” [During phone interviews with former employees Stanley Metza and, Mr. Osenbaugh’s uncle, Bill Critchlow, I was told that E.O. Vandercook was a gentleman and an effective leader.]

“Another thing in the ‘it’s a small world’ category: My father-in-law, Joe Alden, was a co-founder of a still operating Chicago company, Alden + Ott Inks. After he passed away, my mother-in-law sent my wife the first company checkbook he used to start the company in the 1950s. The first check he wrote was to Vandercook & Sons for a small proof press.”

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