Typeface Index: Owl

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Mullen cites this as 1884, designed by S. Reed Johnston for the Central Type Foundry. (Mullen, Robert A. Recasting a Craft: St. Louis Typefounders Respond to Industrialization. (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 2005): 138).

I have been unable to discover a contemporary reference to Owl which confirms Johnston's design of it. It is not mentioned in Loy, or the Saxe/Johnston edition of Loy, or in Annenberg's Typographical Journey through the Inland Printer. A brief note in the "Items of Interest" column in The Inland Printer, Vol. 6, No. 10 (July, 1889), p. 911, says:

"Some time ago the Central Type Foundry, of St. Louis, offered $200 in reward for various original designs in type, and a reward for the best collection of printing done with Central Typefoundry [sic] 'copper alloy' type. There were a great number of competitors for each prize. The fortunate ones were: Orange Perry, Coldwater, Mich.; C. W. Kemmer, Fergus Falls, Minn.; A. J. Munro, Knoxville, Tenn.; F. R. HOrsman, London, Eng.; and S. Reed Johnston, Pittsburgh, Pa."

This may or may not indicate that Johnston designed a typeface.

The typeface "Owl" should not be conflated with "Owltype," which was Johnston's trade name for a proprietary process of color printing.

Mullen says that the typeface Owl was "Named for J. S. Cushing's yacht Owl." However, both Volume V of the Printers' International Specimen Exchange (London: The British Printer, 1884), p. 8, and the Inland Printer obituary for "Samuel Reed Johnston" (Vol. 8, No. 9 (June 1891): 834.) note that "Owl" was the trademark of Johnston's firm. ( The Inland Printer says that he adopted it in 1873). Neither of these sources, however, suggest an ultimate derivation for Johnston's use of "owl" - it might have been a yacht.

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