Western Type Foundry

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1. Overview

1906-1918. St. Louis and Chicago. This was a relatively minor typefoundry, and Annenberg writes unkindly of it ("their type books were inferior, ... and their type was not purchased by ethical printers who recognized the subterfuge [of pirating type] ... In 1918 they finally gave up." (p. 235)) Mullen is more charitable, observing that everyone "copied typefaces boldly and blatently" (Western just had the misfortune to do it after the consolidation of the industry into a few firms) and that "Actually, Western originated more than a dozen faces, most of which were continued in production by BB&S." (p. 49).

From the typefounder's point of view, the Western Type Foundry is distinguished by its association with not one but two independent pantograph engraving machines ( Schokmiller's and Wiebking's) and with two different styles of type-casting machines (the presumably conventional machines acquired or built by Schokmiller in the 1904-1906 timeframe and the Hardinge type casting machines acquired with the purchase of the Advance Type Foundry). Its association with Wiebking, one of the greatest but least known figures in American type, would on its own give this foundry a place in history.

From a local history perspective, the foundry is important as the first of two type foundries of Schokmiller, who was identified by Nicholas J. Werner as the last typefounder in St. Louis. (His later venture was the Laclede Type Foundry.)

The older of the two companies which, when merged, became this type foundry was founded in Chicago in 1901 as the Western Printers' Supply Company of Chicago (not then a type foundry). Mullen discusses this and cites the principals: E. L. Rydell, Henry Kiefer, and William O. Peterson. Annenberg lists Peterson as Secretary-Treasurer.

It merged in 1906 with the typefounders' machinery company (name not yet known) of Charles H. Schokmiller and began typefounding operations. At this time the combined firm renamed itself the "Western Type Foundry." Mullen discusses this, and provides relevant excerpts from board meeting notes of the Chicago firm. Citing its incorporation papers in Illinois, Mullen lists C. H. L'Hommedieu, Peterson, and Schockmiller as the sole stockholders. (Annenberg lists L'Hommedieu as President, Schockmiller as Vice President, and Peterson as Secretary-Treasurer.)

(The Western Type Foundry should not be confused with the Great Western Type Foundry of Barnhart Brothers and Spindler, even though BB&S later purchased the Western Type Foundry as well.)

In 1906 Schokmiller also exported a pantograph matrix engraving machine of his own manufacture. I know of no information, if any, on the relationship of this sale to the newly formed Western Type Foundry. Neither do I know if Schokmiller retained a similar machine for use by Western, though it would be quite reasonable to assume that he did so.

Mullen also discusses (p. 48) the early ties of the Western Type Foundry to Robert Wiebking of Chicago. At this point in time, Wiebking was a partner in Wiebking, Hardinge & Co. and, using equipment of their own design and manufacture, the preeminant independent matrix engraver in America. Mullen cites Perry (which later became BB&S's Steelplate Gothic Heavy Extended) as a face engraved by Wiebking for Western in this period.

In very late 1912 or early 1913, Wiebking, Harding & Co. started the Advance Type Foundry. But by the end of 1913, the Western Type Foundry had purchased both it and (possibly separately) the plant of Wiebking, Hardinge. This dissolved the Wiebking, Hardinge relationship; I believe that Wiebking went with Western and Hardinge did not. I have found no indication, however, that Wiebking left Chicago.

Nicholas J. Werner, confirms that the Western Type Foundry "cast its type in St. Louis" (p. of his 1931 Address in St. Louis or p. 24 of its 1941 reprint). Werner's note is particulary interesting because he is at the time speaking not of Schokmiller but of Robert Wiebking. It would seem relatively obvious that the creation of a typefounding business by the amalgamation of a typefoundry equipment supplier (Schokmiller, in St. Louis) and a printers' equipment dealer (Western Printers' Supply in Chicago) would result in an organization in which the former did the typefounding. However, the Western Type Foundry later (1913) purchased Wiebking & Hardinge's Advance Type Foundry and with it a fully equipped plant with the matrix engraving and type casting machinery that Wiebking and Hardinge had developed. Moreover, although Wiebking was employed by the Western Type Foundry after this merger, I can find no indication that he left Chicago. The question of where the Western Type Foundry was casting type after this merger, and with what equipment (Schokmiller's or Hardinge's) arises naturally. While the matter of the equipment used after 1913 is unresolved, Werner clearly believed that the casting occurred in St. Louis throughout the history of the firm.

The Western Type Foundry was purchased in 1918 by Barnhart Brothers & Spindler.

I would presume that Wiebking did not join BB&S at this point, because soon after he was doing freelance matrix engraving work for customers including Schokmiller (in his next type foundry, Laclede.

2. Bibliography

Annenberg, Maurice. Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs. Second Edition. (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1994)

Mullen, Robert A. Recasting a Craft: St. Louis Typefounders Respond to Industrialization . (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005)

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