Signed, Sealed, Soapbox
By Jessica Spring and Chandler O'Leary
Tacoma, Washington: Springtide Press / Anagram Press, 2011. Edition of 176.
10 x 18"; single-sheet broadside. Printed letterpress on archival 100% rag (cotton) paper. Handset wood type. Signed and numbered by the artists.
Springtide Press: "This hand-pulled letterpress print is printed from hand-lettered original typography and hand-drawn illustrations and patterns (in fact, everything was done by hand, the hard way!). This piece is a collaboration between Chandler O'Leary of Anagram Press and Jessica Spring of Springtide Press, in solidarity with those stand up for the rights and equality of all, despite the considerable might of the powerful few.
"This is our first broadside that features two Dead Feminists at once—and includes our very first male Dead Feminist. Signed, Sealed, Soapbox is a correspondence between Jane Mecom and her brother, Benjamin Franklin. Their quotes are accompanied by excerpts—word-for-word, including any original spelling errors and colonial-era grammar—from their letters to one another, each in a hand-lettered style based on Ben and Jane's actual handwriting.
"There are few Founding Fathers more famous than Ben Franklin, but his sister Jane was somewhat of a mystery. What we do know is that Jane had a very different life than her illustrious brother. Thanks to the simple fact of having been born female, her youth was spent having babies rather than obtaining an education. Her life was marked with misfortune, poverty and the deaths of nearly everyone she loved. Yet through it all she craved knowledge, and read everything she could get her hands on. She was a skilled craftsperson, making the famed Franklin Crown Soap and teaching the trade to others. And she followed her brother's career with pride—and he supported her in return, both financially and emotionally.
"Signed, Sealed, Soapbox is illustrated with the sweeping curves of ornate penmanship and the detailed lifework of colonial engravings. A faux-bois forest of branches and flowers resembles the printed toile fabrics of the day. The swoops and swirls of the calligraphy rest in stately Wedgwood blue (complimented by a telltale vase at the bottom!), while Ben and Jane's correspondence occupies a butter-yellow letter edged like a vintage postage stamp. And though there is no surviving likeness of Jane Mecom, she deserves much more than the portrait of a Jane Doe. Instead, she is made in the image of the 'Comtesse d'Haussonville' by French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
"In honor of Ben's positive brotherly influence, a portion of the proceeds from Signed, Sealed, Soapbox will be donated to the Puget Sound chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters—an organization dedicated to providing children facing adversity with mentor relationships that change their lives for the better, forever."
Chandler O'Leary: "It’s hard to ignore the news of protests occupying the attention of cities around the world—of the many and diverse thousands of people unified under one simple, yet infinitely faceted mantra. As members of the, well, vast majority of folks without any real political or financial clout in the world, Jessica and I can get behind their message—but that’s not so much the point. What really amazes us is that with a little tenacity and strength in numbers, the powerless can suddenly become very powerful, indeed.
"It made us think of a woman who, despite having a famous sibling, would have disappeared into obscurity but for the simple act of picking up a pen.
"Jane had both energy and persistence in spades, although we marvel at how she managed it, with twelve kids, a family business and a house perpetually full of boarders to occupy her attention. Yet of Benjamin’s sixteen siblings, Jane is the only one whose story has survived the 200+ years since her death—all because she committed her thoughts to paper. So in honor of Ben and Jane’s relationship, and in solidarity with those who find the strength to speak up, we present our first dual Dead Feminist broadside, Signed, Sealed, Soapbox."