By Ross Forman
A Chicago-based company is looking to expand from music into the sports memorabilia genre – through trees. But these aren’t just any trees – or the sturdy truck and leafy green variety, either. Rather, Burton History Trees are a one-of-a-kind piece of art.
“The tree tells a story and history unfolds before your eyes,” said Eric Fine, founder of the company. “The concept is unprecedented, and it is an essential piece of memorabilia for the music lover’s [and now sport’s lover] art collection. Everything you may have ever wanted to know about your favorite musical genre is pieced together due to Burton’s critical thought, labor, patience and love for music.
“A Burton History Tree is like an art history course for rockers and sports fanatics.”
That’s because Burton History Trees bring to life the history of your favorite sports franchise or musical era. The content of each tree is uniquely arranged in chronological order and sized by significance. Thus, “the story is told, from the beginning to end, without turning pages,” Fine said. “By combining names, images and sketches, Burton creates a one-of-a-kind piece of art that is the ideal conversation piece.
“Burton’s work combines thousands of words with images to graphically depict specific subjects of music [and sports].”
So what exactly is a Burton History Tree? Well, there are multiple aspects, such as:
Roots: Critical cultural events (social and political) that defined the era. “These were the building blocks of the decade that drove the musical agenda,” Fine said.
Trunk: The most essential artists of the era. “These individuals formed the sound that would influence the other major musicians and sounds of that decade,” Fine added.
Tree: All of the prominent musicians (artists and bands) of the decade. The size of the font of the artist/band/athlete suggests the level of prominence held and contribution made throughout the decade.
Fine, 35, originally from north suburban Chicago and now living in the city, is the company founder. Drew Wasserman, 34, is the company director, and he, too, lives in Chicago.
“At different points in our lives, we were individually exposed to Bruce Burton’s art,” Fine said. “Based on our collective obsession of sports and music, we all felt compelled to help make Burton History Trees a successful venture by introducing this to a mass audience of like-minded fans.”
Fine first met Burton in the early 1990s when Burton was his high school swim coach. At the time, Fine didn’t know Burton was a talented artist; however, Fine realized that he had been exposed to Burton’s History Trees years earlier at the restaurant formerly known as Bones in Lincolnwood, Ill.
In 2007, Fine felt compelled to partner with Burton and began to market and expose the public to Burton’s talents.
“In 2007, I read the Street Smart Entrepreneur. It was the first business book that I ever read and it was written by Jay Goltz, a local businessman/art dealer/author,” Fine said. “Given that I consider myself a serial entrepreneur, I reached out to Jay, letting him know that I was impressed with his book and I learned so much from it. A few days later, we met and I told him about my company. I was struggling with the name and how to really define what we had. He had a chance to see, feel and experience the product and told me the next day that this wasn’t just a ‘family tree,’ but rather this was a family ‘history tree.’
“After speaking with other company advisers, we decided that it was exactly that: A history lithograph in the shape and style of a traditional family tree, developed by Bruce Burton.”
Thus, in 2009, they formalized “Burton History Trees.”
The company is based at the headquarters of OneHourTees.com, thanks to a partnership with that company’s founder/CEO Ryan Barkan. Wasserman is the only full-time employee who is producing the art, maintaining and designing the website as well as driving a sales plan. The originator, Bruce Burton, works closely with Wasserman to provide perspective, advice and historical background when needed, Fine said.
“Bruce also makes appearances and conducts interviews with the team when possible.” The company also has nine part-time employees.
So what’s available on the sports front?
There are Burton History Trees for Chicago professional teams, such as the Bears, Blackhawks, White Sox and Cubs, plus various college teams.
In total, there are about 20 Trees available.
There are several retail outlets that carry Burton History Trees across the U.S., including Schwab in Memphis, Central Square Records in Florida, Royal Appointments in Illinois, and elsewhere.
The Burton History Trees are priced from $25-$135, based on the size of the lithograph and if it is framed or unframed, and the Trees come in varying sizes from standard 8½-by-11 to 24-by-30 inches.
“We constantly hear that ‘nothing like this has ever been made’ and thus we believe the uniqueness is what makes this product so special,” Fine said. “The product captures history and brings to life on a single lithograph print that captures so many memories and emotional connections . . . that’s why a Burton History Tree resonating with so many.”
Fine said there will be a full line of NBA Basketball History Trees launched this year, as well as a History of Guitar Players Tree, and many more.
A Burton History Tree takes anywhere from 10-90 days to make, Fine said, depending on the length of history.
“There is considerable research that must be done to capture all names, players and/or important moments in a team’s franchise, for example,” Fine said. “Bruce also still hand draws the base of the tree, which not only takes time to do, but requires significant research to identify the (one, two or three) main locations, structures or building blocks that must represent the foundation.”
Fine said the company is poised and positioned for tremendous growth over the next few years, and Burton History Trees are already prominent in several high-profile, famous restaurants in Chicago. Plus, many teams and even celebrities such as Gale Sayers have shared the product.
Custom-made Trees are forthcoming, Fine said. “We’ve been approached by companies with licenses for things like Major League Baseball, NHL, college teams, etc. We take special requests, too. If it is a one-off Tree that is not part of an entire team’s history, we can accommodate that, but it is more expensive, as it is customized,” Fine said.
For more information about Burton History Trees, visit company’s website at www.burtonhistorytrees.com.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.