Ritchie, Ward, 1905-1996

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Ward Ritchie was born in 1905 in Los Angeles, and grew up in a series of residences in the Los Angeles and Pasadena areas. His father was in the pharmaceutical trade. He attended Marengo Avenue School and Occidental College, transferring to Stanford, University of the South, and back to Occidental again. After a brief try at law school at USC he decided to make a career the book arts, influenced by a reading of T.J. Cobden-Sanderson's Journals. By examining examples of fine printing, mainly at the Huntington Library, he learned the elements of book design, and a semester at Frank Wiggins Trade School gave him some technical knowledge. He began printing in 1929. The next year he talked himself into an "apprenticeship" with François Louis Schmied, the French art-deco designer, illustrator, and printer. After four months with Schmied he returned to Los Angeles and a brief job with bookseller Jake Zeitlin.

Ritchie became one of the principal figures in the fine-printing movement in Southern California. He printed for the Primavera Press, and took commissions as the Ward Ritchie Press, which he incorporated in 1932. Gregg Anderson entered into partnership, and the printing firm was subsequently called Anderson & Ritchie, with the name Ward Ritchie Press being retained for publishing ventures. At the outbreak of World War II, Anderson joined the Army (he was killed in 1944), and Ritchie left the press for Douglas Aircraft, where he produced technical manuals. The press continued under the management of Joseph Simon and became a large commercial establishment. Between 1943 and 1950 Ritchie worked as production manager at the advertising agency Foote, Cone and Belding, though he remained associated with the press and did designs for them. In 1950 he returned to the press full-time, and the firm (renamed Anderson, Ritchie & Simon) kept growing until Ritchie retired in 1972. (The press continued under different ownership until 1978.) In his retirement, in Laguna Beach, he bought a hand press and began printing small editions himself under the name Laguna Verde Imprenta. He died early in 1996. Ritchie married, first, Janet Smith (with whom he had two sons), and second, Marka Detrick, who brought three sons from a previous marriage. His close friends included librarian Lawrence Clark Powell and actress and printer Gloria Stuart.

From the guide to the Ward Ritchie Papers, ca. 1930-1978, (William Andrews Clark Memorial Library)

Biography of Harry "Ward" Ritchie

Harry "Ward" Ritchie was born in 1905 in Los Angeles, California. His interest in literature and publishing developed at an early age; as an eighth-grader at the Marengo Avenue School in South Pasadena, he and a fellow student launched a printed paper called The Marengo Literary Leader. They printed student writings, including several of the early efforts of classmate Lawrence Clark Powell, future University Librarian at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Ritchie's lifelong friend. In high school Ward Ritchie worked on the school paper and yearbook, and as an undergraduate at Occidental College, he took a keen interest in the poetry of Occidental alumnus Robinson Jeffers and that of Occidental English professor Carlyle MacIntyre. As a printer he would go on to publish editions of both their works. After graduating from Occidental College in 1928, he entered law school at the University of Southern California. He quickly realized, however, that law was not congenial to him. After discovering the journals of the great English printer Thomas J. Cobden-Sanderson, co-founder of the Doves Press, who was once himself a discontented lawyer, Ritchie decided to give up law and become a printer and book designer. He enrolled in a printing class at a nearby trade school and got a job at the Abby of San Encino Press in South Pasadena.

Soon thereafter, with limited printing experience but ample enthusiasm, he traveled to Paris to seek an apprenticeship with internationally renowned printer Francois-Louis Schmied. Upon his return in 1931, Ritchie resettled in Los Angeles, and in 1932 he started the Ward Ritchie Press. His exceptional talents as a book designer were evident from the beginning. The first piece he published was an eight-page insert for the Colophon entitled "First Book: Robinson Jeffers", which attracted national attention. In 1934, one of Ritchies pieces, an edition of A Gil Blas in California by Alexandre Dumas, was selected by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the "Fifty Books of the Year", the first of many of Ritchies designs to be thus recognized.

During the 1920s and 1930s, fine printing in Southern California experienced something of a Golden Age. Many new private presses emerged during this unique and dynamic period, and printers collaborated not only with each other but with artists, publishers, booksellers, and authors. Bookseller Jake Zeitlin once aptly referred to this era as a "Small Renaissance: Southern California Style". Indeed, A Gil Blas in California is notable not only for its typographical excellence, but because it represents the synergy and zeitgeist of this Small Renaissance. It was designed by Ward Ritchie, published by Jake Zeitlin's Primavera Press, illustrated by artist Paul Landacre, and printed by Saul Marks at the Plantin Press.

Over the next few years the Ward Ritchie Press flourished, and soon became too big for Ward to operate alone. Printer Gregg Anderson joined the company in 1935. When he was killed in the Normandy invasion, his wife took over his interest in the firm. Joseph Simon became a partner in 1945, and the Ward Ritchie Press evolved into Anderson, Ritchie & Simon. This larger press handled mostly commercial printing work, while the Ward Ritchie Press published keepsakes, limited editions, cookbooks, and books about local history or Western Americana. In 1976, Ritchie retired as president of Anderson, Ritchie & Simon, and moved to Laguna Beach to pursue hand-press printing. He bought an Albion hand press, and called his press the Laguna Verde Imprenta. Some of his best and most interesting work comes from this period.

Throughout his life Ritchie remained closely connected with his alma mater, Occidental College. From 1936 to 1938 he taught a bookmaking course for the fine arts department. Also during the 1930s, Occidental's Mary Norton Clapp Library, then under the direction of Elizabeth McCloy, began collecting Ritchie's graphic work, an endeavor which continued until his death in the 1996. For his part, Ritchie contributed generously to that collection throughout his life to help make it complete. The library held several exhibits of his work over the years, most notably in 1937 and 1957. In 1960 Ritchie was awarded an honorary doctorate by the College, and from 1961 to 1973 he served as chairperson of the Library Patrons.

Ward Ritchie died in Los Angeles in 1996 at the age of 90. He is internationally recognized as one of the finest American printers of the 20th century.


  • June 15, 1905: Ward Ritchie is born in Los Angeles, California.
  • 1924: Ritchie graduates from South Pasadena High School, along with Lawrence Clark Powell. The two friends both enrolled at Occidental College.
  • 1928: Ritchie graduates from Occidental College.
  • 1930 - 1931 : Ritchie travels to Paris to apprentice with internationally renown French printer Francois-Louis Schmied.
  • 1931: Ritchie and other young Los Angeles printers and book enthusiasts found the Rounce & Coffin Club, a book collector's society.
  • 1932: Ritchie opens the Ward Ritchie Press in South Pasadena.
  • 1934: Ritchie is invited to become a member of the Zamorano Club.
  • 1934: Ritchie publishes XV Poems for the Heath Broom, a collection of his own poetry published under the pseudonym Peter Lum Quince. The piece is selected as one of the "Fifty Books of the Year" by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.
  • 1932 - 1974 : Ritchie is president of the commercial press Anderson, Ritchie & Simon as well as the Ward Ritchie Press.
  • 1960: Ritchie is awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Occidental College.
  • 1974 - 1995 : Ritchie continues to design and publish fine-press books on a hand press at his Laguna Beach home, under the name of Laguna Verde Imprenta.
  • June 15, 1980: Ritchie and his friends celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday and honor his work as a printer with a party at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.
  • 1996: Ritchie dies in Los Angeles, California at the age of 90.

From the guide to the Ward Ritchie collection, 1922-1996, 1932-1974, (Mary Norton Clapp Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Freedman, Ted, 1906-. Ted Freedman papers, 1935-1966. University of California, Los Angeles
referencedIn Lawrence Clark Powell papers concerning John Steinbeck, 1935-1941. Houghton Library
creatorOf Cohen, Elaine Lustig, 1927-. Elaine Lustig Cohen papers concerning Alvin Lustig, 1982. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Van Patten, Nathan, 1887-. Memorial Library of Music : files, 1947-1953. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Rounce & Coffin Club Collection, 1932-1991 William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA
creatorOf Barclay, Julius Preston, 1924-. Papers of Julius P. Barclay [manuscript], 1957-1976. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Ward Ritchie Press. Archives, ca. 1930-1978. University of California, Los Angeles
referencedIn Fine Press Printing Ephemera Collection, 1898-2010, 1924-1948 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsGraphic Arts Collection
referencedIn Nathan Van Patten Memorial Library of Music : files, 1947-1953 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Ward Ritchie Papers, ca. 1930-1978 William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA
creatorOf Ritchie, Ward, 1905-1996. Autograph letter signed Ward Ritchie to:"Mrs.Goodman" April 8, 1986. Wellesley College
creatorOf Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946. Gertrude Stein - Conference Press papers, 1936-1946. Wake Forest University - ZSR Library, Z. Smith Reynolds Library
creatorOf Ritchie, Ward, 1905-1996. The Ward Ritchie Collection, 1922-1996. Occidental College Library, Mary Norton Clapp Library
creatorOf Ward Ritchie collection, 1929-1995. The Claremont Colleges, Claremont University Consortium
referencedIn Daves, Delmer, 1904-1977. Delmer Daves papers, 1930-1965. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Memorial Library of Music collection Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Ward Ritchie Press. Ward Ritchie ephemera and prospectus collection. 1929-1947 1940-1941 Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Rounce & Coffin Club. Rounce & Coffin Club collection, 1932-1991. University of California, Los Angeles
referencedIn Sowers, Roy Vernon, 1897-. Papers, 1920-1984. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Ward Ritchie collection, 1922-1996, 1932-1974 Mary Norton Clapp Library
referencedIn H. Richard Archer and the Hippogryph Press Collection, 1928-1978 William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Archer, H. Richard (Horace Richard), 1911-1978 person
associatedWith Barclay, Julius Preston, 1924- person
associatedWith Cohen, Elaine Lustig, 1927- person
associatedWith Daves, Delmer, 1904-1977. person
associatedWith Freedman, Ted, 1906- person
associatedWith Goodman, Elizabeth Ehrlich, 1912-1990. person
associatedWith Keating, George T., b. 1892 person
associatedWith Mary Norton Clapp Library. corporateBody
correspondedWith Powell, Lawrence Clark, 1906-2001 person
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections. corporateBody
associatedWith Rounce & Coffin Club corporateBody
associatedWith Sowers, Roy Vernon, 1897- person
associatedWith Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946. person
associatedWith Van Patten, Nathan, 1887- person
associatedWith Van Patten, Nathan, 1887-1956 person
associatedWith Ward Ritchie Press. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
California--Los Angeles
Printing--History--20th century
Bibliography--Fine editions
Printers--California--Los Angeles
Private presses--California--Los Angeles
Los Angeles (Calif.)--Imprint--History
Book design--History
Private presses--Imprints
Printing--California--Los Angeles--History--20th century
Fine books


Birth 1905-06-15

Death 1996-01-24




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