S. Reed Johnston

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1. Overview

Printer and stationer. 1831 - 1891-03-23. Pittsburgh, PA. Probably designer of at least one typeface.

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Inland Printer Obituary (1891)

"Samuel Reed Johnston." [obituary] The Inland Printer. Vol. 8, No. 9 (June 1891): 834.

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ECB Penn (1898)

Encyclopedia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania. Volume III. (NY: Atlantic Publishing & Engraving Company, 1898). A biographical sketch of Samuel Reed Johnton appears on pp. 88-90.

Digitized by Google from the University of Pennsylvania copy. The image here links to a PDF of the biographical sketch of Johnston extracted from the Google Books scan of entire volume. N.B., at present the Google Books bibliographic entry for this volume is mis-dated at 1808.

Mullen [1] cites him as a Philadelphia printer (in his discussion of Morning Glory (Central), p. 137), but it would seem that he was in fact Pittsburgh-based and part of a line of Pittsburgh printers going back to 1816.

Mullen also cites him as the designer of Owl for the Central Type Foundry.

Further confirmation of the location of Johnston in Pittsburgh appears in Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Centennial year [2]

On p. 245 of that work, "S. Reed Johnston & Co., 178 Wood St." is listed under "Books and Stationers".

Later, the same source also gives the history of "The Job Printing Business" in Pittsburgh. One of the two roots of this trade was the firm of Eichbaum & Johnston. The prose is a bit convoluted, but the association with Pittsburgh is clear:

"In 1816 Eichbaum & Johnston established a printing office from which three others of the principal job printing firms of this city have sprung. That of Stevenson & Foster is the direct succession of W. S. Haven, who succeeded Johnston & Stockton, who were the successors of Eichbaum & Johnston. The firm of Wm. G. Johnston & Co., the partners of which are the sons of the Eichbaum & Johnston [firm] of 1816, and S. Reed Johnston & Co., which firm is an out-growth of Wm. G. Johnston & Co., and the Mr. Johnston a son of the Samual R. Johnston of 1816." (p. 264)."

The Banker's Magazine and Statistical Register, Third Series, Vol. 10 (Whole Vol. 30), No. 6 (December, 1875) contains a report from "The Bankers and Bank Clerks' Mutual Benefit Association of the City of Pittsburgh" which thanks "S. Reed Johnston & Co., for the donation of printing". (pp. 470-472) (via Google Books)

The typeface Morning Glory (Central), one of the first types cut by machine in the US, was named after his daughter, Morning Glory Johnston (later Morning Glory Bingham, later Morning Glory Eyster). (But note that the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania lists as one of his children "Mary L., wife of E. D. Bingham, attorney, of Westchester, Pa.") The engagement and marriage reports for Morning Glory Johnston in various Society pages (see the typeface for citations) also indicate a Pittsburgh base.

A letter to the editor of The Inland Printer (Vol. 15, No. 1 (April, 1895): 43) by the printer J. F. Earhart, dated March 20, 1895, refers to "the late S. Reed Johnston." This gives a terminus ante quem for his death and confirms that 1891 is likely.

Google Books reports an 1891 volume by John Francis Marthens which it (Google) titles " Notes," and describes as "Biographical sketch of S. Reed Johnston (1831-1891), a printer. Google has scanned this book from an unidentified library, but not released it for viewing.

2. Artistic Printing and "Owltype"

Volume V of the Printers' International Specimen Exchange (London: The British Printer, 1884) contains the following:

"Scattered through the volume and contributed by both home and continental printers will be found nearly a score of examples of the new kaleidoscopic colour printing which first made its appearance about five years ago, a specimen being included in the initial volume of the Exchange under the not very appropriate name of 'owltype,' a title bestowed upon it for want of a better by the inventor, Mr. S. Reed Johnston, of Pittsburgh, U.S., the owl being the tade mark of the firm of which he ia a member. Mr. Johnston, who keep shis process a secret, has established a reputation as an art printer by his skilful treatment of 'owltype,' producing with it exquisitely artistic specimens of decorative work. Lately he has improved upon the process, and now calls it 'arabesque.' (p. 8)

I believe that what is being referred to here is a process for color printing. It is unrelated to the Owl typeface designed for Central.

3. Notes

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

2. Thurston, George H. Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Centennial year (Pittsburgh, PA: A. A. Anderson & Son, 1876.) (via Google Books)

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