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
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
"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
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
Too bad everyone, you had your chance.
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