Stephen Ziller was 14 years old when he graduated from high school. Due to severe hay fever and allergies, He could not work on the farm. Stephen went to Mankato, Minnesota for 2 years to study business and accounting. He took classes at the Mankato school in bookkeeping, accounting, short hand, typing (93 words per minute), etc. Mr. Viergever was a penman teacher at the school who filled out diplomas and certificates at the school. He advised Stephen to write to the Zaner Bloser School of Engrossing in Columbus, Ohio to see what opportunities they had available for him.
At the Zaner Bloser school, Stephen’s primary tutor was E.A. Lupfer, a renowned engrosser. A number of students had become distinguished engrossers in high profile positions such as keeper of the Seal in Washington, DC (writing invitations for the White House).
When Stephen was 19 years old he left home in Bird Island, Minnesota on January 1, 1933 to travel to Kansas City, Missouri to begin working at the Tamblyn Studio. Mr. Parker Bloser had made Stephen aware of a possible position and wrote a letter on his behalf to Frederick W. Tamblyn to help him get the position. At this time handwriting was very important and there was a premium of people skilled in penmanship and engrossing. Tamblyn Studio filled in contracts and testimonials for corporations, and Mr. Tamblyn was in need of a helper. Tamblyn had formerly taught penmanship at the Central Business College in Sedalia, Missouri. His studio where the work was carried out was in the Ridge Building In Kansas City, Missouri at 913 Main Street and was founded in 1894.
Mr. Tamblyn helped arrange for a room for Stephen to live in on his arrival. The cost was $3.50 a week for the room and breakfast. This was out of a salary of $50 per month - $60.00 for May and June when he worked 6 days a week.
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.