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Collecting Info: In the Reader's Eye

Win a Swell Pregnant Cat

By Dianne Logan

Prints Charming Ink was established in 1981 by Dianne and Kuyk Logan for fun and to further the preservation of letterpress printing.

"Can you name this typeface? Help me! The winner gets a swell pregnant cat."

That faxed plea launched a nationwide search to identify a case of dusty, old type that rests in the lilliputian shop of Prints Charming Ink. We bought the type two years ago from Dan Williams who was closing out his late father's print shop in south Houston. But it wasn't until we began labeling our many type cases that we discovered this beautiful but tough old face in its rotting case had no name.

A stick full of the nation's leading typography experts quickly responded.

First to nail it was Fritz Klinke of NA Graphics in Silverton, Colorado. He faxed a page from an 1898 American Type Founders Co. (ATF) desk catalog that clearly showed it to be Washington Series, a copper alloy type in sizes 6 to 60 point. Klinke noted that by 1906 the ATF catalog had dropped it from production.

"I wish I had that type for sale. That was a very popular Victorian face . . . copied by other foundries in slightly different versions. There are two or three sizes still in our local newspaper shop."

Klinke added, "Keep the cat, send the type."

Another speedy reply came from hobby printer Gordon Rouze of Sugar Land, Texas, who tracked it to Central Type Foundry in 1885, adding that it had two other related faces - Lafayette and Jefferson.

"But if I'm right," Rouze wrote, "don't send the cat; just send old type."

Rouze was indeed right and the type, as he inquired, does bear the Central pin mark. Hard to read, but it's there.

Typography scholar Stephen O. Saxe, e-mailing from White Plains, New York, said Klinke was right and that Washington was produced by the Central Type Foundry of St. Louis. "I have it shown as 'patent pending' in a Central type specimen book of 1889, so that's the date of it."

Saxe added, "It may not have ever been patented, in spite of that, because it's still shown as 'patent pending' in an 1890 specimen. I don't have any information about who the designer was. Washington had two companion typefaces: Jefferson, which was a condensed version of the same design, and Lafayette, which was an extra-condensed version. I would guess that Washington came first."

His parting words: "P.S. You can send the swell pregnant cat to Fritz. He got the name right."

(When that good news from Saxe was flashed to Klinke, we added: "Will ship swell pregnant cat today." Klinke fired back: "That cat must be in pain if it still pregnant.")

Meanwhile, over in Indianapolis, Dave Churchman, works manager of Sterling Type Foundry, further confirmed our type was Washington, and said, "Also see 'Webster' for a lighter version (Boston Type Foundry and Keystone Type Foundry), and a Barnhart Brothers & Spindler knockoff called 'Clifton'."

Churchman post scripted: "I already have an extremely large black cat named (appropriately) 'Mooch.' I do NOT want any more! . . . but thanks for the kind (?) offer!"

Klinke pointed us to Theo Rehak, proprietor of Dale Guild Type Foundry in Howell, New Jersey. Rehak promptly answered: "Have found citations for Washington series in the following: (1) Called Johnsonian in Caslon, 1891; (2) Called Webster in John Ryan, Baltimore, Md., 1896 (10-36 point); and (3) Called Washington, ibid. 1896 (6-60 point). He said Webster seems to be a variant and is slightly simpler.

He said nothing about the swell pregnant cat, however.

Rehak did refer us to Stan Nelson at the Smithsonian Institution's G raphic Arts Collection who also confirmed our type was Washington made by Central Type Foundry. He suggested we check Maurice Annenberg's Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs. It was re-published in 1994 by Oak Knoll Press in New Castle, Delaware, "... updated and amended by well-known printing historian, Stephen O. Saxe."

Nelson also skipped over the part about the swell pregnant cat.

Annenberg wrote that Central Type Foundry (1872-1892) "started to flood the market with many new type designs . . . some to be quickly forgotten (included) . . . Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette (sic) . . ."

Annenberg said Central, purchased by American Type Founders Company after 1892, "amazed the printing industry as to originality and newer techniques and methods." They were the first to use "copper-alloy types" advertised to last longer than any other type.

Indeed, the Washington type at Prints Charming Ink is still plugging away more than 100 years later. We gave it a bath recently, and it looks pretty perky in its new case.

Mike Phillips, who with wife Sally produces The Printer, gave our plea for help special attention in their well-read letterpress monthly. We had inquired about the similarity of a type face he was using in The Printer and our Washington type. He boxed our epistle under a heading, "Lafayette it is!," set in the extra-condensed version of Washington. Mike, in computer lingo, said it was a "drop down menu face on our machine (computer) called Lafayette, incidentally no relation to the Ludlow face of the same name that I have been trying for years to locate.

"And after a face gets chosen it further suffers a mouse attack by typesetters like myself who still suffer from gee-whiz of puter typesetting. It can be stretched, shrunk, made bold, and underlined. However, since type has become silly putty, I cannot help myself . . ."

Here's what he had to say about the swell pregnant cat: "Sally says 'hold that tiger' - what with three dogs it would be . .."

Of course no one knows the route the Washington type took to Houston. Dan Williams, who sold it to us in 1999, said it came from his late father's printing business. He believes his father got the type from his father who had a shop in the 1920's in the West University area of Houston.

But what happened to the swell pregnant cat?

Her name is Nell. We discovered her pregnant and abandoned in a rock pile. She had five beautiful babies. We found loving homes for four of them but decided to keep a precious polydactyl (a cat with extra toes believed to bring good luck to its owners). We named him Ernest Hemingway for the writer who hosted a slew of polydactyls at his Key West home and who, thanks to his bequest, enjoy a life of luxury there to this day.

As for Nell, the swell pregnant cat, she's been fixed and lives in sporadic harmony with son Ernest and our other cats, Molly Malarky and Bailey Bert Lahr.

Too bad everyone, you had your chance.

MANY THANKS

Maurice Annenberg , (1907-1979), author of Type Foundries of America and their Catalogs, republished in 1994 by Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, Delaware, with additions by Stephen O. Saxe (see below) and Elizabeth K. Lieberman.

Dave Churchman, works manager, Sterling Type Foundry; Indianapolis, Indiana.

Fritz Klinke, proprietor, NA Graphics; Silverton, Colorado.

Stan Nelson, museum specialist, Graphics Arts Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; Washington, D.C.

Michael & Sally Phillips, editor-publishers, The Printer - Only Monthly for Letterpress; Findlay, Ohio.

Theo Rehak, proprietor, Dale Guild Type Foundry; Howell, New Jersey.

Gordon Rouze, hobby printer extraordinaire; Sugar Land, Texas.

Stephen O. Saxe, history of printing scholar and owner of the largest privately owned collection of American type foundry specimen books in the U.S.; White Plains, New York.

Dan Williams, Houston, whose father and grandfather once owned and used our case of Washington type in their printing businesses.

Prints Charming Ink
Kuyk and Dianne Logan, Proprietors
24 Sunlit Forest Drive
The Woodlands, Texas 77381
Phone 281 367-2033


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