Washington state once had a little-known, offbeat publishing company, Frank McCaffrey’s Dogwood Press. Quality and good taste have always been the guiding principle of this little-known business. Abetted by a unique logo from the hand of Rockwell Kent, McCaffrey turned out rare and special books, invitations, and pamphlets beginning in 1919. The publisher has now moved to Mississippi, specializing mystery, Southern humor, and non-fiction.
McCaffrey entered the little-understood world of printing and bookbinding after moving to Ferry County in Eastern Washington as a child. Raised in Pittsburgh, his early memories were of a log cabin near Spokane. He attended North Central High School, worked in a neighborhood grocery store, and delivered newspapers until the ripe age of 10. At that point, he found employment in a trade that would change his life. Charles B. Nash, superintendent of the Spokane print shop, Shaw and Bordon, hired McCaffrey as a go-fer.
As the youngest apprentice to join the Spokane Typographical Union, McCaffrey was cast into a stream of printer’s ink. He worked as a journeyman printer in several Oregon and Washington communities, eventually landing in Seattle in 1913 at the Lumberman’s Printing Company in the old downtown Henry Building. By 1919 he and pressman Jay F. Horst formed a partnership and bought the Acme Press.
Eventually going into business on his own, McCaffrey’s Dogwood Press emerged as a high-quality printer for a bustling Seattle. McCaffrey’s dozens of finely crafted books, programs, invitations, and pamphlets, most sporting his clever Dogwood Press logo, created a happy combination of design, binding, color, paper, and cloth that were known and cherished by only a few. McCaffrey, who died in 1985, served for a few years on the Seattle City Council.
That early quasi-anonymous circumstance would change with the handsome examples of his work that circulated as a result of wealthy realtor Henry Broderick’s Christmas list. The first of these rare publications was called “Timepiece.” Its title page, adorned with bold print and fine, orange-colored line drawings, noted that the chapters were “Done into a Limited Edition by Frank McCaffrey at his Dogwood Press in Seattle, 1953.” The cover was festooned with blue and yellow dogwood blossoms on delicate cotton cloth. Copies were registered with the Library of Congress.
Another major McCaffrey product at this time, as noted by H.L. Mencken, the Bard of Baltimore and America’s premier book critic, was Broderick’s navy-blue cloth-bound treatise on beige paper and boasting a so-called ragged cut: The Commandment Breakers of Walla Walla. This collector’s piece resulted from Broderick’s experience on the Parole Board of the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, Washington.
For over 25 years the McCaffrey-Broderick Christmas books circulated in the Seattle area, interspersed with a variety of other quality jobs on menus, programs, business cards, pamphlets, and certificates.
If you come across the Dogwood Press imprint on one thing or another, cherish and save them, or send them to the Penrose Library at Whitman College in Walla Walla, where they are collected, appreciated, and sometimes displayed in glass cabinets as rare examples of a little-known trade. Dogwood Press gems also represent a gentle man’s life in a skilled trade now largely taken for granted.