Today’s Vandercook operators may know that most models were designed to meet the needs of the bygone photoengraving industry. A central figure of that industry was the German-born American Louis Flader (1877-1963): technician, labor leader, executive and author. As editor of Photo-Engravers Bulletin he wrote the articles “Story of a Visit to the New Vandercook Plant” (June 1954) and “The Vandercook Story” (posthumously published January 1964), both issued as reprints by Vandercook. In the earlier text, Flader remarked that he had known the business and its management almost since its beginning. He was impressed by the new plant’s “cleanliness and orderliness which prevailed throughout,” its state-of-the-art research facility, and especially the cast metal “Lite-Base” for mounting photoengravings—a key element of their Minimum Makeready System.
Flader rose to prominence in 1901 when he was elected president of the International Photo-Engravers Union of North America, which had just broken away from the then-powerful International Typographical Union. After a distinguished tenure, he resigned in 1906. During these years he had been repeatedly promoted by his employers from foreman to various executive positions and finally general manager. In 1911 he was persuaded to become executive secretary of the American Photo-Engravers Association, a manufacturers trade group, where he immediately launched the Bulletin and later the short lived, but well regarded, journal More Business “the voice of letter press printing and photoengraving” (1936-42).
Flader was known as a polished public speaker and possessed a tireless, inventive mind. In 1938 he was issued a U.S Patent for a “combined half-tone screen and negative,” and with Joseph S. Myrtle he co-authored the textbook Modern Photoengraving (1948). But Flader’s legacy is having edited the comprehensive Achievements in Photo-Engraving and Letter-Press Printing (1927), a massive volume featuring step-by-step explanations of engraving processes and hundreds of full color illustrations and photographs by over 350 photoengravers. (Among its advertisements is a full page for Vandercook’s new 219 Proving Machine.)