Our studio was started by Master Penman Frederick W. Tamblyn, or 'F. W.', as he liked to be known. He was born on a farm in eastern Kansas in 1870. Tamblyn's initial interest in penmanship began to develop at about age 11. When Tamblyn was 16 years of age, he encountered an itinerant penman named Mr. Goss. His pen flourishes captivated the young Tamblyn. His father arranged for him to attend classes. The lessons sparked a lasting fire that helped to focus his ambition on becoming a professional penman. He devoted most of his spare time practising handwriting. His sources of inspiration and technique came from publications of the time such as Gaskell’s Guide, The Western Penman, and The Penman’s Art Journal.
He attended Central Business College in Sedalia, Missouri where he graduated with a grade of 99% in each of his ten subjects. In nine months from the time he entered the college, he was hired as a teacher for the college. He taught there for 5 years.
Tamblyn left the school in the fall of 1894. Using his own calligraphy instruction book, he organized and taught classes throughout the country. In essence, following the footsteps of Mr. Goss by becoming an itinerant penman. With the unexpected death of his father in the winter of 1894, Tamblyn returned to the family farm to help his mother close up the affairs of the farm and relocate her to a place in town.
In the fall of September 1895, he was teaching at South-western Business College in St. Louis, Missouri, where he remained for a year. He then established his own studio for engrossing art and diplomas as well as the Tamblyn School of Penmanship - a correspondence course. Just before leaving Sedalia, he had begun to take students by mail. He believed that he was the first to attempt to teach penmanship by corresponding with the student through the mail. His approach was to use actual pen written copies, typed instructions, and red ink criticisms. This format lasted him some 50 years. We estimate that approximately 40,000 students from all parts of the world have taken the course.
After two years in St. Louis, Tamblyn, wanting to be nearer his mother and his home, moved to Kansas City, Missouri on July 1, 1897. Some of his business followed him from St. Louis and he gained new business in Kansas City. With the gradual growth of the correspondence teaching he soon found himself to be quite busy. Shortly after moving to Kansas City, he was employed by the Brown Business College where he taught penmanship classes. Once his own business began to occupy all of his time, he left the college to pursue his business interests. At this time he established his studio in the Lyceum Building in Kansas City.
Tamblyn first began using magazines for his correspondence courses in 1910. His philosophy was that a volume of business at a fair price was the key to success. For many years he spent from $300 to $1,000 a month in advertising, with enrolments running from 200 to 400 per month. With the decline of business in the late twenties he decreased his advertising. However, he never stopped using it as a tool to develop new business. His labor intensive 'fresh from the pen' copies were sent to his students along with an occasional letter of inspiration urging the students to do their very best work on every lesson.
For over 30 years, he personalized high school diplomas, prepared penmanship copy books for business colleges and art schools, inscribed memorial parchments eulogizing prominent men, including the late William Rockhill Nelson, Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, and several other presidents, and produced a plaque that was presented to Queen Marie of Romania when she visited Kansas City in 1926. He also testified in trials as a handwriting expert.
F. W. Tamblyn was described as always being a hard worker who possessed good judgement was honest, sincere and always endeavored to give students and customers full value and more where possible. He embodied business abilities with his art and had made a success financially as well as made a contribution to society in a way of starting thousands on the road to better penmanship.
As a result of the business conditions in the 1930s, he began to devote greater attention to engrossing and diplomas. After the depression of the early thirties, the manufacturing of diplomas began. He offered lithographed diplomas that were personalized and all kinds of booklet diplomas with handsomely embossed covers of leather that were produced in his bindery.
Tamblyn was fortunate to secure the services of Stephen A. Ziller early on. A 1932 graduate of the Zanerian College in Columbus, Ohio, Ziller was a good designer and fine engrosser with considerable ability. Together Tamblyn and Ziller labored for nearly 5 years. A good share of their success was attributed to Ziller's ability and industry. In 1936, Tamblyn wanted to partially retire, and Ziller wanted to take over the business. Both men came to an agreement that set Ziller on a course of running the operation for the next 55 years.
In the declining years of his life Tamblyn was asked about his formula for success. His reply was, Service. And he believed that there were still great opportunities for both young men and women to succeed as at any time in the past. It was said that the whole secret is embodied in the following qualities: brains and hard work in the use of them, with diligent use of both hands and feet, personality, faithfulness, sincerity, honesty, ability and thorough qualification in the chosen profession, rendering if possible, greater service than competitors. In other words, 'More for less.' Remembering that volume with small individual profit is essential to financial success.
During the Christmas rush of 1944, while wrapping a large bundle with strong cord, Tamblyn made a quick hard pull to break the string when something 'snapped' in his shoulder. His writing hand became numb and excruciating pain resulted, leaving him unable to letter. Thus, the man who had known no limit in his ambition to serve the public with his pen work would now experience a physical limitation. He eventually developed arthritis in that arm. It was written that the Tamblyn name and work would live on as long as penmanship continued to be a profession. In fact, Tamblyn's name endures even now, long after the profession of penmanship was lost to the sands of time.
Having been in poor health for several years he had undergone several operations before his passing. On February 16, 1947, Frederick W. Tamblyn passed away at Research Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. At the time he was residing at 2 East 58th Street and was buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery located in Kansas City.