Sunday, October 9, 2011

The A. Hoen & Company Lithography Plant: The Stones Speak

The A. Hoen & Company was founded by Edward Weber and August Hoen under the name of Edward Weber & Company. In 1839 they printed the first color cards ever produced in the United States. They also printed the first lithographic maps in the country and in 1842 they lithographed the maps and illustrations for the Fremont Reports. In 1853 the company become the largest printer of smoking and chewing tobacco labels in the western hemisphere. A. Hoen firm’s corpus included posters, cigar boxes, sheet music covers, as well as maps.

August took the firm over with his brother Ernest Hoen and cousin Henry Hoen in 1848 upon Weber's death. August Hoen patented several methods of lithography which globally accelerated and refined the process for both business and art.

The firms main building (they had other buildings just a couple of blocks away), the Hoen Building, on Lexington Street was built across the street from City Hall in1880 and was destroyed by fire in 1902. The building was designed to complement City Hall and had a mansard roof and iron embellishments. After the fire gutted the building, the city bought it in hopes of renovating it for an annex to City Hall. The cost was too much and the city ended up demolishing this beautiful building in 1926. The Municipal Building now occupies this site.

Copyright © The New York Times
A Hoen & Co. rebuilt at 2101 E. Biddle Street. At their peak, they employed more than two hundred and fifty people. They extended their operation and built another plant in Richmond, VA.  that was run by one of August's sons, Ernest August Hoen assisted by his younger brother Edward Weber Hoen.
A. Hoen & Co. 1954.
Photo courtesy of the BGE Collection at the BMI

The Richmond branch continued into the early 1930s under Edward Hoen, concentrating on the envelope business. Albert Hoen, the youngest of the six sons and three daughters of the founder, continued to run the Baltimore office as president of the firm until his death on May 1, 1956 at age 93. The original Baltimore office of the Hoen firm continued in the lithography and printing business until around 1981 when it dissolved after filing for bankruptcy. The building has sat vacant ever since. I am happy to report that the building is being repurposed.

Above the entrance on Biddle Street a Latin inscription is written: "Saxa Loquuntur" or "The Stones Speak." 
Go Here for more info on the process that was perfected by A. Hoen & CO.:

Check out the digital collection at the Baltimore Museum of Industry:
BMI Collections


Hud said...

Hi, BaltoGirl.

I enjoyed reading this piece on A. Hoen & Co. August Hoen was my great-great grandfather.

Best regards,

Hudson Hoen

RGM22 said...

Hello BaltoGirl,

Thank you for publishing this piece. I went by the beautiful old Hoen building while on the train to Philadelphia last week and happened to take a photo of it with my phone. Intrigued, I googled the name and found this. I learned something, and I appreciate you taking the time to do it. And to Mr. Hoen, thank you for writing in and revealing your connection.

Robert Murphy

Liz Lockett said...

Baltimore Girl, interesting piece. In your resersach did you find out what became of the companies records?

TDButler said...

Would love to know more about what is left of A. Hoen, especially the father & grandmother worked there until they shut the door.
Lived next door on Henneman Ave as well until 1958. I've stopped by to take pics when time permits over the last 5 yrs.
My family started there...nice to see more info about it.

Steve said...

I have just found a small booklet of what I believe to be cigarette papers. The front is marked "BYRD Antartic Expedition II 1933" North American Made, Cigarette Books by A. Hoen & Co. Inc Lithographers, Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.

rusty hill said...

I have a 1907 postcard from A. Hoen & Co. advertising Kenmore Shoes for the Wingo, Elliot & Crump Shoe Co. It's pristine and "virgin-backed". I'm listing it on ebay under "rustyhillantiques"

Deb Felmey said...

On 8 June 2013 Baltimore Heritage arranged access for a tour group to see the building in it's current state and hear from the developer for the proposed reuse of the building. The brick work on the interior remains in relatively remarkable shape for the years of un-use. The son of the last owner and his daughter actually showed up - and he gave us a feel for what it was like to grow up in and around the functioning plant. Walking through in the dark - one could only imagine how it must have looked in it's heyday! Pictures to be posted to flickr soon (jerzeegolfer) if you're still interested.

Anonymous said...

The city owns it now to the best of my knowledge. That is scary... Someone please save that piece of history!

Mark Praetorius said...

My great grandfather, Philip Praetorius worked for A. Hoen & Company from 1886 until 1908. He was a concept artist and created designs that were transferred to the lithographic process for reproduction. He worked at the original building that was destroyed by fire and also at the new building on E. Biddle Street. A. Hoen & Company was known for the vivid hues they achieved, especially reds.

Anonymous said...

Hey, my Great-Great-Granduncle was Henry A Schroeder the famous Lithographer, Illustrator and Painter of A. Hoen & Co. He immigrated to Baltimore about 1858.
I am very interesting in Pictures of him. So please contact me, I am from germany mail (at)

Cathy Doyle said...

Hi from The UK. In sorting through my late great grandfather's effects I found a cast metal stick pin badge with exactly the same crest and motto that is photographed above the door of this building. Is anyone able to explain the provenance of this item? As far as I'm aware my great grandfather had no connection with Baltimore.