Central Type Foundry

image link-topic-sf0.jpg

1. Overview

Central Type Foundry, St. Louis. First attested 1880-12-14 (in filing of its design patent, No. 12,123, by James A. St. John (co-owner of the Central). Probably manufactured in 1882 (see below). Firmly attested by 1883.

Although this face is rather plain, it occupies a unique and very important position in the history of type. It is the first metal type the matrices of which were made using pantographic engraving techniques.

In his 1898 biographical sketch of Gustave F. Schroeder William E. Loy indicates that Schroeder "made for the Central the patterns for Geometric Italic, Morning Glory, and Scribner, of which matrices were cut in brass by machine." {Loy 1898} While this doesn't mention Geometric, it is an early confirmation that the Central was using a pantograph to engrave matrices directly at this time.

In several articles written in his later years, Nicholas J. Werner cites Geometric, specifically, as one of three faces the matrices of which were engraved by machine at this very early date. (The other two faces he cites as part of the earliest production were Geometric Italic and Morning Glory.) {Werner 1927}, {Werner 1931}, {Werner 1932} By way of comparison, the earliest record we have of Linn Boyd Benton's pantograph engraving machine dates from February 1884 (the date of the filing of his first patent on it). The earliest announcement of Benton's pantograph dates from July 1884 (when he posted a trade notice in The Inland Printer advertising the ability to cut punches in steel by machine). It is likely, of course, that Benton's pantograph was in a workable state in 1883, but no evidence prior to February 1884 survives.

Later Type Writer and Scribner were cut using the same methods. In each case Gustave F. Schroeder cut the working patterns and William A. Schraubstädter did the matrix engraving.

(Aside: Although all of the major methods of type-making are equally valid, it is interesting to note that the Central machine was a direct matrix engraving machine, while at this time Benton was engraving patrices and punches. Benton did not attempt direct matrix engraving until around 1899. The faces such as Geometric which were cut by the Central in the early 1880s are all rather simple. Werner does acknowledge that Benton was the first to cut a specifically Roman type. However, by the late 1880s Schroeder and Werner were using this same pantograph, or a derivative of it, to cut such notable faces as DeVinne.)

More specifically, Werner says that a horizontal-format pantograph was imported from Germany in 1880 by the Cincinnati Type Foundry. They were unable to use it, and in 1882 it was acquired by the Central. ( {Werner 1932}, p. 72) This machine was used to cut Geometric and the other faces noted here. Geometric is the earliest (and simplest) of these faces. Its design dates from 1880 (as noted above) and it is firmly attested by early 1883 (see below), so it is reasonable to conclude that its matrices were cut, by machine, either in 1882 or no later than early 1883. Both of these dates are earlier than Benton's patent application.

We have good reason to believe Werner's account. He was present at the Central when this work was being done. More importantly, a few years later Schroeder bought this machine from the Central and went into partnership with Werner as the first independent pantograph-based matrix engraving firm in America. It is likely that Werner (who was not trained as an engraver) kept either this pantograph or another that Schroeder had commissioned when after their partnership dissolved he continued on his own as a matrix engraver.

Werner implies, but does not actually say in so many words, that the matrices for Geometric were cut in 1882. I have not yet been able to discover the first showing of Geometric (the earliest Central Type Foundry specimen book listed by Annenberg dates to 1883). But it is attested by early 1883 in rival articles and threats of litigation by the Central and Barnhart Brothers & Spindler.

James Eckman ( {Eckman 1961}, p. 9) indicates that the Central Type Foundry, St. Louis threatened BB&S with legal action over a presumed infringement of Geometric by their Lightface Lyric. For this information, Eckman cites The Type Founder (the house organ of BB&S), No. V (Summer 1883): 253. Eckman's quotation from The Type Founder in turn cites an unspecified recent issue of the Printers' Register (the house organ of the Central Type Foundry). (Aside: See the CircuitousRoot Notebook on Lightface Lyric for an observation on the irony of this claim from the point of view of the 20th century evaluation of pantographic techniques by certain fine printers.)

2. Showings and Patent

Here is the showing of Geometric from an 1892 Central Type Foundry / Boston Type Foundry [/ATF] specimen:

[click image to view larger]

image link-to-central-boston-atf-hathi-mdp-39015063770823-img0053-geometric-series-sf0.jpg

From {Central/Boston 1892}

[click image to read]

image link-blank-sf0.jpg

US Design Patent 12,123 (1881)

US design patent 12,123, "Design for Movable Types." Filed 1880-12-14. Issued 1881-01-11 to James A. St. John.

3. Notes and References

{Central/Boston 1892} Popular Designs for Artistic Printers. [title as it appears on the title page, not the cover] (St. Louis, MO and Boston, MA: Central Type Foundry and Boston Type Foundry, 1892.)

This has been digitized by Google from the University of Michigan copy. ( Local copy on CircuitousRoot) This particular copy appears to have been produced, for the most part, by the Central and Boston foundries prior to their amalgamation into ATF. It seems to have been printed, however, after the formation of ATF; it contains several items of spcifically ATF material in it.

{Loy 1898} Loy, William E. "Designers and Engravers of Type," "No. 11, Gustave F. Schroeder." In The Inland Printer. Vol. 22, No. 3 (1898-12), p. 338. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Werner 1927} Werner, Nicholas J. "Saint Louis' Place on the Type-Founders' Map." The Inland Printer. Vol. 79, No. 5 (August 1927): 764-766. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Werner 1931} Werner, N. J. An Address by N. J. Werner of St. Louis. St. Louis: [St. Louis Club of Printing House Craftsmen, 1931. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

This Address was reprinted in 1941 in Share Your Knowledge Review, Vol. 22, No. 3 (January 1941): 21-26. Also reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

{Werner 1932} Werner, N. J. "Wiebking Created Popular Faces in Chicago, Friend Discloses." The Inland Printer. Vol. 90, No. 2 (November 1932): 71-73. Reprinted by CircuitousRoot.

Select Resolution: 0 [other resolutions temporarily disabled due to lack of disk space]