History Page-Content

History of The Hoen Lithograph Building

The Stones Speak

Oldest Continuously Operating Lithographer

Hoen & Company, established in Baltimore in 1835, was the oldest continuously operating lithographer in the United States. The Hoen & Co. Complex, constructed from 1885 to 1963, is the only site that survives to represent the company’s long and illustrious history. The earliest buildings in the complex were constructed for the Baxter Electric Co., which manufactured motors for street railways. From 1898-1902, the Bagby Furniture Company occupied the site until Hoen & Co. relocated to the building after their downtown headquarters was destroyed in a fire. Hoen & Co. occupied the property from 1902 to 1981, when the firm declared bankruptcy.

This stone bust is inscribed with mysterious Latin text that reads "Saxa Loquuntur", in English "The Stones Speak".

This stone bust is inscribed with mysterious Latin text that reads “Saxa Loquuntur”, in English “The Stones Speak”.

Innovative Print Processes & Mapping Conventions

Edward Weber and his cousin August Hoen brought the Senefelder lithographic process, invented in Germany in the late 18th century, to Baltimore. This process allowed artists to draw directly on lithographic stone from which prints could be made, eliminating the need for time-consuming engraving. A. Hoen & Co. specialized in high-quality, sophisticated work that elevated the technique and art of lithographic printing. August Hoen, who took control of the firm after Weber’s death in 1849, patented the lithocaustic process resolving images into light and dark squares—the forerunner to half-tone printing. Hoen also developed topographical color patterning and map conventions still used by the U.S. Geological Survey. On a commercial level, the company produced labels for cans and for tobacco, opening a secondary plant for this work in Richmond in 1879.

Lithograph by A. Hoen & Co.: A map of Granites and Gneisses in Maryland (1898)

Lithograph by A. Hoen & Co.: A map of Granites and Gneisses in Maryland (1898)

Influential Maps & Scientific Illustration

The significance of the company’s work in an age in which printing was the medium for disseminating visual images that conveyed scientific knowledge cannot be overstated. Hoen specialized in precise cartographic, scientific, and pictorial illustration, producing maps that were influential in the settlement of the west and setting national boundaries. The company printed the maps and illustrations for the Fremont expedition that mapped the 39th parallel, arbitration maps that set the boundaries of Venezuela, and the maps for the joint commission drawing the boundary between Canada and the United States. Their important work continued in the 20th century with the publication of the National Geographic Society’s first bound atlas as well as all the insert maps in their magazine. The firm printed Ridgway’s Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, the American Geographical Society’s famous “Millionth Map” of South America—charts printed at a scale of 1:1,000,000. Its Atlas of Historical Geography of the United States, produced for the Carnegie Institute, was a 20 year project costing over $200,000.

A map found at the site reveals a glimpse into the building's past.

A map found at the site reveals a glimpse into the building’s past.

Storage boxes with their original labels that were found in the building.

Storage boxes with their original labels that were found in the building.

Contact & Social Media Links

Want To Learn More?
Looking For A Space?







Pre Footer

The Stones Speak


white_h_200

2101 E Biddle St Baltimore, MD 21213