The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]
McKee and Gamble
McKee and Gamble (Arthur McKee see page 728), Publishers, Engravers by all modern methods, Art Lithographers and Printers, Electrotypers and Stereotypers, Advertising Specialists, Paper Merchants, Manufacturing Stationers, etc. Telegraphic and cable address, “McKee, Wellington”: Code, A.B.C., 4th Edition and Special. Telephone 709; P.O. Box 240. Bankers, Bank of New South Wales. Private residence: Mr. McKee, Mein Street. To describe the progress of this business is to record the most rapid development of any firm in the printing trade in New Zealand that has yet come under the notice of the compilers of the Cyclopedia. The business is not an old-established one; it was started in 1891 in a very small way. Prior to that time Mr. H. Gamble, single-handed, carried on business as an electrotyper and stereotyper, and when Mr. McKee came along and a partnership was effected, a small office was taken in the Bank of New South Wales buildings on Lambton Quay. Here a series of experiments were carried on with a view of producing process engravings—an art unknown in New Zealand at that time. The work was surrounded by many difficulties. The plant was of an improvised character, as may be judged from the fact that an unusually large-size packing case did duty as a dark room. At the end of the first year's operations, the partners were confronted by a very stern reality—a diminishing bank balance; and the fascinating, but delusive experiments had to be abandoned (save in space time) for work of a more practical and lucrative character. A secondhand printing plant of very modest dimensions was bought, and the real start of the business was made. At the end of the second year more commodious premises were taken at 6 Customhouse Quay, and a year later half of the large four-storied building at the rear was annexed. It must not be supposed that during all this time the pet “process” experiments were abandoned, for in the odd hours Mr. Gamble was hard at work, as zealous and enthusiastic as ever. It was at this time that the process engravings were put on the market, and since then the quality of the work has gradually increased, and page 734 today it is claimed that no better average work is turned out anywhere in the colonies. During the past two years the growth of the business has been by leaps and bounds. The description appended will give an idea of the various branches of work carried on. Altogether, employment is found for between sixty and seventy people, and, it need hardly be added, the wages sheet represents a considerable sum. The general management of the business is in the hands of Mr. McKee. A dissolution of the partnership took place in 1897 by mutual arrangement; Mr. James Gamble remaining in the business as overseer of the factory, and his brother leaving the Colony for another sphere of work. The floorage space occupied by the firm is estimated at over 18,000 square feet. It is generally conceded that Messrs. McKee and Gamble have the largest and best-equipped printing factory in the Empire City, and the excellent quality of the work turned out has done much to improve the artistic standard. Messrs. McKee and Gamble were the first printers in the Southern Hemisphere to adopt electricity as a motive power. The machinery was driven for some time entirely by an electric motor, but as the number of machines rapidly increased it was found necessary to add a twelve horse-power gas engine. The electric light is used throughout, and includes in the photographic department the most powerful lamp in the Colony. The ramifications of the business extend throughout Australasia.
McKee & Gamble's Trade with Australia,—The First of a Series of Fortnightly Shipments to Melbourne and Sydney.
Photographers.—It may seem somewhat singular that a printing, engraving, and publishing house should claim a place under this head, but justification is found in the fact that photography is a very important adjunct to the business carried on. The general acceptance of the term photographer is intimately associated with the art by which portraits “are taken.” Messrs. McKee and Gamble, however, do not “take” portraits. Their photographic work is confined to the branch which is connected with their own process-engraving department; the photographing of landscape, of machinery, of articles of merchandise for catalogues, or indeed of any objects intended for ultimate reproduction in the form of engravings. Prospective publishers of books, catalogues, pamphlets, and the like would do well to bear in mind this fact.page 736
General Engravers.—In addition to the photo-mechanical processes all the modern methods for the making of “blocks” are in full swing. Engravings on copper, brass, wood, or any metal or material are supplied, but this class of work is being rapidly supplanted by the cheaper and in most cases equally effective “process block.” Engravings are also made at a very cheap rate by the “wax” process.
Electrotypers and Stereotypers—Here the visitor will and a most interesting feature of this remarkable organization. If space permitted, a description of the modus operandi would be worth the reading, but if must suffice to state that the work carried on is confined to the duplication of original engravings. The customer who incurs the expense of a high-class engraving may have duplicates made equal to the original at a merely nominal cost. The stereotype consists of lead and antimony, and the electrotype is made of the same material with a surface of copper, which gives it at least thrice the durability of the stereotype. Here as in all other departments the latest in the way of machinery and appliances is in evidence. Messrs. McKee and Gamble's warehouse contains several thousand stock engravings, used by the newspapers and printers throughout the Colony, and duplicates are supplied at a very low price. Two proof catalogues have been issued. For the convenience of country newspapers, stereotype columns of interesting reading matter are supplied at a surprisingly low rate.
Art-lithographers and Photo-lithographers.—A very interesting limb of the business is this. Anything from a tiny label of a single printing to the mammoth poster with the flame of innumerable colours is set forth. If the rattle of machines is an index to the quantity of work produced, the volume of trade must be considerable and in the colonies it may be taken as a safe axiom that quantity and quality go hand in hand. Great care has evidently been exercised in the selection of artists and workmen, and to this fact is attributable the production of the really excellent work which has spread the reputation of the firm far afield. Label and ordinary commercial work are strong points, but it is particularly in the higher class of work that Messrs. McKee and Gamble excel. Some very fine show cards are on view, especially those of the Empire Tea Company, Messrs. Staples and Co., K[unclear: a]ngarette leather and Messrs. Birnbaum and Sons' waterproofs; and in chalk work the life-size portraits of Sir George Grey, Bishop Jul[gap — reason: illegible], Rev. L. M. Isitt, and Archbishop Redwood, and a view of Old Wellington, have not been excelled in the colonies. Then, there is an excellent display of calendars, menu cards, almanaes, advertising novelties and the like, all of which are remarkable for chasteness of design and colour. Photo-lithography is applied to many branches of the art, but it is chiefly used for the re-production in reduced sizes of architects and surveyors' plans. The camera does the work of the draughtsman, and accuracy and economy are ensured.
Manufacturing and Wholesale Stationers.—A large number of hands are engaged in this department, the output of which includes numerous varieties of books used in mercantile offices—exercise books, and the like.
Publishers.—The head of one of the biggest publishing houses in the Old Country once remarked, “It needs talent to write a book but genius to sell it,” and in all probability, if it were necessary to rake up evidence, the charnel-house of literature would bear eloquent witness to the truth of this sage declaration. The aspiring literateur may take heart of grace, for Messrs. McKee and Gamble have a far-reaching organization for the distribution of really good works.
Music Printers.—This is the most recent addition to this many sided business. An expert draughtsman, who is also a music-composer of note, has charge of the preparation of the work on the stones, and it is generally conceded by experts that the quality of the work will bear favourable—and in many cases more than favourable—comparison with the work that comes into the colonies from the Old Country. The trade extends throughout Australasia. The compositions of our best composers have been published; and it may be mentioned that the work of Mr. Alfred Hill is becoming very popular. His “My Fairest Child” and “When I am Dead” have been very flatteringly received in Melbourne, Sydney and London.
Cardboard Box Manufacturers.—This department is under the supervision of a skilled box-maker and the rapidity with which raw material under the manipulation of deft fingers assumes the desired shape is a marvel to beholders. The boxes made are those in everyday use by chemists, drapers, hatters, confectioners, and cigarette makers.
Advertising Specialists.—There is no essential of successful business more important than judicious advertising, and yet the art of catching the public ear and eye receive but scant consideration. Speaking generally, the art is not studied and therefore is not understood. The average business man has not time “to work it out,” and therefore it is no matter for surprise that he is unable to detect the great leakage that goes on daily. With Messrs. McKee and Gamble it is purely a matter of business to keep in touch with the latest notions supplied by correspondents and trade papers from the four corners of the globe, and clients on the lookout for “something new” are invited to come along and state their requirements. It may be added that contracts for advertising in the country newspapers are arranged.