The Studio

Ziller’s is a full-service award and recognition studio that was founded by Frederick W. Tamblyn in 1894. Tamblyn started as the Tamblyn School of Penmanship which was a correspondence course program. As his business grew he opened Tamblyn Studios specializing in penmanship, engrossing and designing.

Master Penman Frederick W. Tamblyn, or 'F. W.', as he liked to be known 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 practicing 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.


August 7, 2003 - Stephen and Della Ziller at his 90th Birthday Celebration

In 1936, Stephen bought the Tamblyn Studio business after working there about 3 years. He envisioned the business could grow with emphasis on larger volume in school diplomas and organizational certificates for groups like the VFW, Boy Scouts, American Nurses Association and other groups. Within a year Stephen established the business under a new name, "Ziller of Kansas City".

The foundation of Ziller of Kansas City was built on two talents. First, the beautiful hand engrossed and illuminated manuscripts done in elaborate designs with genuine 23k gold. Second, by Stephen’s ability to make twice the size original drawings for the reproduction of lettering, script and designs. This skill allowed the finished job, reduced by one-half and lithographed, to be of outstanding quality, and in turn made possible a larger volume of business.

In the early years, Stephen published a complete set of handwriting textbooks for home use which ranged from business handwriting, ornamental writing, engrossing, card writing, bird flourishing, etc. He wrote the originals for these textbooks in the evenings working in his basement recreation room till late at night after a full day’s work in his office down town.

During the next decades the business grew, Stephen moved his business from Main Street to 934 Wyandotte Street in the Graphic Arts Building in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. His final move was in 1982 to the suburbs at 7930 State Line Road, Prairie Village, Kansas, a location close to his home.

In 1993, at age 79 Stephen sold Ziller of Kansas City to Vivian and Richard Mungall who had been his partners since 1985.