For the last four years Gary Stephenson has been on a mission. Stephenson took over the task, from his father, of getting a 1934 Leoni Illuminated Constitution Lithograph in the courthouse of all 99 counties in Iowa and on Tuesday he finally made it to Jasper County.
“I just (now) stopped by Jasper, because I originally thought you had a print,” Stephenson said. “I found out you do not have a print and I’m here to see if you’re interested.”
During Tuesday’s Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting, Stephenson received approval to have it the work placed in the courthouse and he vowed that he would find local sponsors and not use tax payer money for the endeavor.
Stephenson explained what makes the lithograph print so special.
“A lithograph is a special print process, where basically the artist did a mirror image of all this writing with a greasy pen or like a crayon,” Stephenson said. “They would put (the print) on flat stone and they would actually poor up to four colors (on it) to make the pictures and such.
“Each stone had a different color and they would pour oiled-based paint and then water over it,” Stephenson said. “Oil and water don’t mix, so it would adhere to the heavy duty cotton fiber paper and they would press over it lightly, let it dry and move over to the next stone until they had it completed.”
Stephenson said that in 1934 there were only five places in the country that a person could get a lithograph type of print now that number has dwindled to three. He also said that the prints went through an additional process after they were finished.
“I also found out that when they were finished, they sent it to a place in Chicago called Goes Lithography,” Stephenson said. “They did gold washing around the border. You can tell it’s a 1934 print, but the gold leaf leaking through the paper. That’s how you can tell it wasn’t digitally reproduced.”
The elder Stephenson first started selling the prints in 1990 to public institutions. When the younger Stephenson took over his father had done 25 courthouses, that number has grown to 88 and Stephenson wants Jasper County to be the 89. He is saving Polk County for last.
“I’m just going around finishing up,” Stephenson said.
The prints come in two framing styles that Stephenson has custom-made from Nature’s Wood Shop in Rowan. The prints themselves measure 52x40 and cost $850 total. That cost includes the print, the custom framing and a plaque thanking the sponsors for support. He said he usually looks for ten sponsors to donate $85 each.
Stephenson said he also uses this as an opportunity to honor veterans and said that his older brother served for years..
“It’s a debt we can never repay,” Stephenson said. “From the one’s that fought in the American Revolution to Afghanistan and Iraq vets. I feel it’s a debt we can never repay and the Constitution is the bedrock of our great country.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121, ext. 426, or at email@example.com