1921: The roots of P&H Creative Group
It’s 1921, Prohibition has just started, and it’s the Roaring Twenties; San Francisco has risen like the phoenix after a devastating earthquake that 15 years earlier nearly destroyed the city; seven years earlier the Panama Canal opened, connecting the world’s two great oceans and placing San Francisco at the crossroads of commerce; and a 26-year-old ad agency art director named J. E. Patterson left his position with McCann Advertising to start a creative studio in San Francisco with business partner and fellow artist Ray Sullivan.
The philosophy at Patterson and Sullivan’s new studio was to assemble a capable team of talented artists versed in a wide range of styles. They felt that if they could have the best artists available, they could deliver a better product than the ad agency could produce with its own in-house talent.
The 1920s were halcyon years in California. San Francisco was becoming the West Coast’s hub of advertising, and the agency quickly proved to be successful beyond the young artists’ dreams. Advertising agencies quickly discovered the benefi ts of hiring P&S, and soon P&S was attracting high-profile clients such as Southern Pacific Railroad, Dole, Del Monte Corporation, Stanford University, Standard Oil, Levi's, Chevrolet, Matson Lines, and Dollar Steamship Lines.
Largest art service on the West Coast
In 1927, on the eve of the Great Depression but while still celebrating Charles Lindbergh’s historic hop across the Atlantic, P&S was prospering. It employed more than a dozen artists, each with his or her own specialty: product, still life, automotive, fashion, portraits—you name it. P&S artists could put pen, ink, paper, and brush together to produce ideas and illustrations that virtually leapt off the page to sell products and services.
As Patterson & Sullivan’s reputation grew, they began attracting many of the country’s top illustrators. In the early years, artists such as John Atherton (whose work now hangs in museums across the country), Stan Galli, Paul Carey, Jack Painter, Haines Hall, Gib Darling, and Amado Gonzalez worked for the agency.
1938: The agency becomes Patterson & Hall
The studio’s key artist at this time was W.Haines Hall, who had joined the firm in 1925 and continued to be active in the business through the 1960s. Haines, along with fellow employee Alton Painter, was a member of the Thirteen Watercolorists (founded by Maynard Dixon and Maurice Logan).
As the decades rolled on, there were many more changes to come in the agency—some of which were J. E.’s retirement and his nephew Chet Patterson’s joining and eventual ownership of the firm.
As a fighter pilot durning WW11, Chet was the first to down four enemy planes in his P38 airplane. He flew the Berlin mission and was awarded the Bronze Star and Croix de guerre for his part in the Lucky Strike Program.
After the war Chet accepted a one-year apprenticeship at Patterson & Hall, his uncle’s advertising studio in San Francisco. One year turned into 40 years, and by 1950, Chet owned the agency. Under Chet’s guidance, Patterson & Hall became the largest art service on the West Coast.
P&H Creative Group: The Next Generation
Over the next 20 years, the agency made the transition from artists’ brushes to mousepads. In 1993 agency designer Bruce Hettema—who had worked for the company for over 20 years as a designer, art director, and creative director—decided to purchase the firm. In 1999, Hettema changed the agency’s name to P&H Creative Group—a name that continues to honor the firm’s nearly 90-year history.
We invite you to explore over 90 years of advertising history. Select, in the right sidebar, links to view a samples of our work by decade.