John F. Cumming | A Humble, Honest Man


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III. Design Patents Issued to J.F. Cumming and Colleagues

 USPTO design patents are cornerstones of THP research. The attorneys who drafted the affidavits chose certain words for certain reasons [sidebar]—some of the same 19th-century firms still practice today as Intellectual Property specialists.

When closely examined with particular attention to the application or signature date noted in the affadavit, analyzed and interpreted in the context of 19th-century literature, patent clues tell many tales. In the process, the same evidence sometimes contradicts conclusions of later historians.

During his type-cutting career, Mr. Cumming [JFC] was employed and/or commissioned by the three competing type foundries in Boston: Boston Type Foundry [BTF, 1881-1884], Dickinson Type Foundery [DTF, 1884-1892]/ATF Boston [1892-????] and H.C. Hansen Type Foundry [HTF, dates unknown].

Table 3 presents a chronological overview of their interactions with the Central TF/ATF St. Louis and identifies James A. St. John’s network of BTF-related acquaintances as the connection between the work of JFC himself, Gustav Schroeder, Nicholas J. Werner, Julius Herriet Jr., Carl/Charles E. Heyer and these three Boston TFs.

Boston Type Foundry [BTF], 1881-1884

In the long history of this foundry (1817–1892), no design patent was ever assigned to it. Bullen writes that BTF operated as a coöperative of shareholders who elected an Agent to represent them.1 Perhaps if every applicant was an owner, there was “no one to assign it to.”

The first (approved) applications for design patents submitted by BTF personnel were issued in 1870-1871 to the BTF Agent du jour [more below]. In 1871,2 John Kimball Rogers became the majority stockholder and (thereby) permanent BTF Agent until his death in 1888, when his shares were purchased by Central TF.

William E. Loy chronicles three of JFC’s BTF predecessors. The first, Samuel Kilburn [1799-1864], was issued no design patents. Andrew Gilbert [1821-1873] was a BTF officer3 in 1862–<1873; his pre-BTF work was primarily book fonts for New York publishers. He probably retired by c1871 after applying for the last of his three patents for job fonts.

Carl/Charles E. Heyer [1841–1897] was hired in 1867 (three years after Kilburn’s death), continued until 1877 and joined the Barnhart Brothers & Spindler4 TF in 1878. He died suddenly in May 1897, apparently without answering Loy’s letter of August 15, 1896; except for patents of his BTF designs, only his many BBS faces are documented.

Unlike other Boston typefounders, Rogers was convinced of the value of design patents. Commercial specimens of nearly every original BTF typeface introduced between 1870 and 1884 (the year Cumming quit BTF) were marked “patented” or “patent pending” [Tables 1 and 2].

Rogers’ business integrity was highly respected. If a patent notice was displayed, it is verifiable as either the original design or an identifiable derivative [“piggy-back patent”]. If he claimed that a patent application had been filed, then it was so. If no notice was displayed, then it was not an original BTF design. Kismet# is the only significant exception.

His personal policy on the “Inventor of Record” issue [sidebar] was inconsistent and more difficult to characterize. Applicants for the first nine BTF design patents [Table 1], issued in 1870–1872, were TF executives. All affidavits claimed invention and production [sidebar]:

The next ten BTF patents were issued to Heyer in 1872–1875 [Table 1:10-19]. The first two (1872) claim invention and production; all others, invention only. Changes to USPTO regulations in 1870-1874 may account for the difference in wording [sidebar]:

Since Heyer had been BTF’s staff designer-cutter for three years when the first patent was issued to BTF personnel, it is likely that he cut and/or designed the above faces, perhaps as training projects supervised by Gilbert.

What happened then is most provocative…

In and after 1875, Rogers submitted all USPTO applications as the Inventor of Record. In 1875-1876, he filed two [Table 1:20-21] claiming invention of both [sidebar]:

During the four-year “staffing gap” between Heyer and Cumming, Rogers patented ten designs. Three of them claimed invention only of original ornamentation applied to “ordinary condensed gothic letters[Table 1:28,31,34].
While JFC was employed by BTF (1881–1884), Rogers patented nearly every face he cut except JFC’s Kismet#, Caslon’s Enchorial=BTF London and BTF Morris, a lightface runic identified only by number in Caslon’s catalog. He submitted the last (approved) application in 1884, the year JFC joined Dickinson TF.

In 1886, two years after losing Cumming and less than two years before he himself died (January 1888), Rogers hired type designer-cutter Julius Herriet Jr., who worked at BTF until c1891.5 Herriet designed some highly original, clearly patentable BTF faces. Commercial specimens frequently display “pending” notices; no such patents were issued.

  • Soon after Rogers’ death, Schraubstadter Sr. and St. John, former BTF executives now owners of Central TF, purchased his controlling stock.
  • Thereafter, Herriet Jr. was realistically employed by Central TF, by then a worldwide leader in innovative display type design.6
  • Central’s patent policy seems to have been “skip the ‘red tape’; just display a ‘pending’ notice. Our designs are so famous that no one would dare to copy them.”
  • Indeed, Schraubstadter had not applied for a design patent since 1872, while at BTF; St. John, not since 1883.

The post-ATF combined Central-Boston catalog of 1892 entitled Popular Designs for Artistic Printers (issued in St. Louis?) displays patent notices with specimens of nearly every BTF face, erroneous in many cases. Only those documented in Tables 1 and 2 were actually patented.

Dickinson Type Foundry [DTF], 1884–1892

Since its establishment by Samuel N. Dickinson in ±1839–1842 until joining ATF in 1892, DTF personnel held only two design patents: Alexander Phemister et al. [Norman Italic, 1881 USPTO D12235] and Joseph W. Phinney [Aesthetic#, 1882 USPTO D13328].

When Aesthetic# was patented in 1882, the DTF partners had been George J. Pierce, Alexander Phemister and Alfred C. Converse since 1872. All three partners applied for the patent of Norman Italic and assigned it to themselves. The fact that Phinney assigned his patent for Aesthetic# to these men indicates that he was not yet a partner as of the application date, June 1882.7

After Phinney became a DTF partner in 1883 (the year before he hired JFC per Loy) or in 1885, the year after (per Bullen) until joining ATF in 1892, no patents were issued.

During this period, nearly all (perhaps all, Part IX preview) of the designs introduced by DTF were cut by JFC. They soon “zoomed” his employer to international-giant rank eventually overtaking Central TF.8

Apparently, Phinney adopted Central’s “skip the red tape” patent policy. “Pending” displays abound in advertisements and DTF distributor specimens. No such documents exist for these highly original, certainly patentable designs.

Boston Branch, American Type Founders’ Company [ATF Boston], 1892–????

ATF was incorporated on February 8, 1892. After election of General Manager Robert W. Nelson at the October 1894 meeting of stockholders, the corporation started behaving like one instead of an “uneasy alliance” of long-competitive proprietorships.9

For example, The Inland Printer of May 1892 reports that ATF Boston (formerly the Dickinson|Phelphs & Dalton TF) had purchased rights to cast DeVinne#, a product of ATF St. Louis (formerly Central TF) patented by Gustave Schroeder and assigned to V.J.A. Rey of ATF|San Francisco (formerly Palmer & Rey) in 1893. An announcement published in the April 1895 edition reads, “All branches of the American Type Founders have dropped the use of local names and will do business under the name of the American Type Founders’ Company.”

At about the same time, ATF apparently adopted the patent policy long held by the Boston, MSJ (Philadelphia) and Conner (New York) TFs, leading ATF members. This policy is interpreted as:

  • A design patent shall be sought for every remotely “new and novel” face originating at any branch.
  • The designer himself shall apply for the design patent and assign it to American Type Founders’ Company.

The first design patent assigned to ATF was Houghton# [USPTO D23164], applied for by Herman Ihlenburg on December 22, 1893 and approved on April 3, 1894.10

Cumming’s ATF Patents

JFC applied for two (approved) design patents on November 11, 1896: Satanick# and Jenson Italic#. The affidavits claim that he invented the first one, invented and produced the second [sidebar]. Jenson Old Style#, also cut by JFC, was not patented [Part IX preview].

  • The patent for Satanick# was promptly issued in January 1897. Approval of the application for Jenson Italic# took exactly eleven months; it was finally granted on October 11, 1897.
  • These patents were issued to Cumming—not to Phinney! Even so, perhaps relying on Bullen’s account,11 McGrew [189, 281] writes that the designs were drawn by Phinney and cut by JFC [Part IX preview].
  • There is no further USPTO evidence of JFC’s association with ATF [sidebar]. Given the perceived policy of “patent everything you can get away with,” this information suggests that he was otherwise employed as early as September 1896 [sidebar].

Phinney’s ATF Patents

In the same article cited above, Bullen describes Phinney as ATF’s “chief advisor and critic on all matters relating to the production of new or the improvement of old type-faces.” While this was not Phinney’s official job description, it implies that he commanded authority probably not challenged.

After ATF was incorporated in February 1892, Phinney was issued design patents for nine typefaces: five were assigned to ATF in 1897-1902; the other four (1898-1900) were not.

  • Phinney was the only ATF executive who applied for design patents.
  • Phinney was the only ATF patent applicant who did not always assign designs to the corporation.
  • Phinney‘s first ATF-assigned applications (August 1897) were filed nine months after Cumming’s last (November 1896) [sidebar].

In chronological order of application dates, with USPTO reference numbers noting assignment and non-assignment to ATF:


On August 19, Phinney applied for patents of Taylor Gothic and Vertical Writing. Both were approved on February 1, 1898.

  • In both applications, he cleverly incorporated the tradenames within the specimens. This strategy circumvented USPTO regulations of 1870–1874 prohibiting tradenames from the text of design patents. He discontinued this practice thereafter.
  • These two patents are the only ones of the ten issued to Phinney during his lifetime that claim only invention (vs invention and production [sidebar]). The stories behind them are extra-interesting…

Taylor Gothic [USPTO D28253, assigned]. McGrew [153, 261] writes that this face was based on ATF Quentell#, which had been cut by Nicholas J. Werner for Central TF/ATF St. Louis12 two years earlier.

  • William P. Quentell, advertising manager of Armour & Company (Kansas City, MO), patented the face bearing his name in 1895 [USPTO D24683].
  • Named for Charles H. Taylor [1846-1921], publisher of The Boston Globe since 1873, this face surely originated in Boston: Until 1887 or 1888, DTF advertisements state its address at 236 Washington St. “above the Globe office.” He and Phinney [born 1845, the year before Taylor] were surely well acquainted; Taylor probably commissioned it in a personal conversation with Phinney.
  • It was advertised in The Inland Printer, January 1897 and was used by the Boston Globe in or before March 1897.
  • According to David Pankow,13 Taylor Gothic was designed by Herman Ihlenburg of ATF Philadelphia.
  • If so, then why did Phinney apply for the patent?
  • If Ihlenburg cut it rather than designing it, why was this job “out-sourced” if Cumming worked at ATF Boston?
  • In his article on Ihlenburg, Loy does not list Taylor Gothic as one of the principal faces that he designed and/or cut.14

Vertical Writing [USPTO D28254, assigned]. As explained by J.S. Cushing (Norwood Press, Boston) in a letter to The American Printer of September 1900, penmanship of this style was taught in New York schools.

On consecutive (not facing) pages of The Inland Printer dated August 1897, ATF and the H.C. Hansen TF of Boston [HTF] advertised 24-pt specimens of nearly identical designs: ATF Vertical Writing (page 571) and HTF Vertical Script (page 572). Both ads noted additional sizes in preparation.

  • Three sizes of Vertical Writing had been shown in the New York edition of ATF’s 1897 catalogs.
  • The ATF specimen displays a “patent applied for” notice. Production of this publication required submission of materials at least one month before the issue date and the application was filed on August 19, so this statement may not (yet) have been true.
  • The following month, HTF advertised Vertical Script again—this time with a “patent applied for” notice. If HTF’s application was submitted in August, it is possible that it was filed before ATF’s.
  • The patent approval process often lagged by many months—in this case about six months—or as long as seven years. Since only one application was approved, the date of the other is unknown.

McGrew [325] seems to favor HTF as the originator: “Vertical Script … [description] … [was] produced by Hansen in 1897. The Boston foundry of ATF introduced a similar Vertical Writing, shown in 1897 and patented in 1898 by Joseph W. Phinney.”

  • Was this patent awarded to Phinney because his application was received first, because he claimed invention, or for some other reason?
  • As if to justify Hansen’s rights to this design, specimens of Vertical Script still displayed “patent applied for” notices in the HTF 1903 catalog and perhaps later. Specimens of HTF Viking#, duly patented until 1906, displayed no notice.

In his correspondence with Loy, JFC reported that he cut Vertical Script (HTF’s tradename), not ATF’s Vertical Writing. Was he confused? Was Loy? Was Vertical Script ATF’s working tradename until HTF used it first?

  • There is no evidence in the literature that H.C. Hansen and/or his sons were qualified punch-cutters. Since JFC was the only known type cutter in New England since c1891, it is a far stretch of the imagination that someone else cut the second version of this face!


August 22, two unassigned designs shown in ATF catalogs 1898-1900 and discontinued thereafter: Touraine Old Style Italic [USPTO D30295 approved February 1899]. The design appears identical to Couleé Italique Elzevirienne (Beaudoire|Fonderie Générale 1896). Devens Script [USPTO D29773 approved December 1898]. The preface to the preliminary ATF catalog of 1893 had been set with Devens Script five years earlier.

December 30, Binner#; approved February 21, 1899 [USPTO D30253, not assigned]. The caps of Binner# and Binner Gothic# were “signature faces” of the high-profile Binner Engraving Company starting in c1894. In 1897, Binner discontinued using them in marketing materials, apparently because ATF purchased exclusive rights to them [Part IX preview].


Jenson Heavyface#. March 7, issued May 6 [USPTO D30826, assigned].

  • Why did Phinney apply for this patent when Cumming had applied for the ones covering Jenson Italic# and (presumably) Jenson Old Style#?


Camelot Old Style# [USPTO D32298, not assigned]. Co-Inventor, Frederick (sic) W. Goudy. Submitted and approved in February. McGrew writes [57] that in 1896, ATF paid Goudy $10 (twice the amount he expected!) for the original caps-only font, his first type design sale.15 It was advertised in The Inland Printer, March 1900; the dual-case version is shown in ATF 1900 (preface dated October).

  • According to records curated by the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY), Mr. Goudy had designed Camelot# more than 30 years earlier (1869).
  • Surely this is a typographical error; the intended entry must have been 1896!
  • Then a Chicago resident with valuable contacts at The Inland Printer, Goudy had “self-promoted” his work in that periodical since May 1896 or earlier.
  • On a tip from Berne Nadall of BBS (Chicago), Loy wrote to him in September 1896 while planning his articles on Designers and Engravers of Type.16


Abbot Oldstyle#. January 8, approved February 11 [USPTO D35712, assigned]. McGrew [3] writes that this face was designed by Phinney in 1901. Was it the same one as “Abbott” (note the difference in spelling—one “t” or two?) cut by JFC at least four years earlier?

  • If so, then Phinney did not design it in 1901 and perhaps not at all. If not, then what font did JFC cut and what tradename did ATF assign to it?
  • JFC may have cut only the caps and the face was “shelved” until others designed and cut a lower case.

Engravers Old English#. February 8, approved April 1 [USPTO D35839, assigned].

  • McGrew writes [131] that this face was “designed in 1901 by Morris Benton and another person identified by ATF only as Cowan, but has also been ascribed to Joseph W. Phinney.”
  • Benton’s first two patented designs were blackletters. He applied for them on October 19, 1904; both were approved on November 15. McGrew [95] adds that one of them, Cloister Black#, is attributed to Phinney by some authorities (including Bullen).
  • With few exceptions, applications for all ATF-assigned design patents were filed by Benton thereafter (28 approved in 1904-1918).

This is the last type design patented by Phinney, then age 54. At age 76 in 1924, he was still active at ATF as First Vice President and Assistant General Manager.17 His obituary was published in The Inland Printer of October 1934.

H.C. Hansen Type Foundry [HTF], Dates Unknown

Viking# [USPTO D30916]. Cumming filed the application assigning this face to H.C. Hansen in March 1899. It was approved by the end of May.

  • Viking# is the last design patent issued to Cumming (age 47) and the only one ever assigned to HTF.

Ludvig Sandöe Ipsen Patents


Since JFC reported to Loy that he cut (un-patented) Florentine Old Style before July 1898, this information is included here…

Florentine Heavyface#, Florentine Heavyface Condensed. Submitted April 29, approved June 16 [USPTO D36366–D36367, assigned]. Dual-case patent specimens, term 14 years. Both affidavits claim invention.

  • Like the ATF faces named for Binner Engraving Company, Florentine caps were in use by the same Chicago/Milwaukee giant in or before 1894 and ceased to appear in Binner marketing materials by 1897.
  • According to ATF publicity for this font, the letterforms (caps only?) were drawn from “crude lettering of a famous Italian monument of the sixth century.”18 Was this information relayed by Binner?
  • Ipsen [1840–1920] (sidebar) was a highly respected Boston illustrator trained as an architect in his native Denmark.
  • The fact that Mr. Ipsen was issued these patents must NOT be interpreted to mean that he designed the ATF prototypes, much less the original Binner lettering.
  • Copies of ATF Florentine# faces were shown by the Brendler TF (Vienna) in the c1903 Petzendorfer Schriftenaltas edition (not in 1898) as Venezia#. Since Brendler offerred other ATF faces as well (for example, Brendler Desdemona#=DTF Quaint#, Brendler Elefanta#=MSJ Johnson#), it is not known whether these copies were authorized:


In the context of ATF’s perceived policies, lack of applications for design patents submitted by JFC after November 1896 strongly suggests that he was no longer an ATF employee: The facts that Phinney started submitting applications nine months after JFC stopped and continued doing so permanently thereafter strongly suggest that there was no staff punch-cutter at ATF Boston.

Evidence that Herman Ihlenburg of ATF Philadelphia designed and/or cut six sizes of Taylor Gothic before it was advertised in The Inland Printer of January 1897 leaves little doubt. If JFC had been employed by ATF Boston (an active manufacturing plant serving the Boston Globe) in late 1896, there is no logical reason why this task would have been performed elsewhere.

Where did JFC’s career lead him in 1896–1902? What did he do for the next 39 years of his life? Parts IX-X (preview) present some possible answers to these questions.

Footnotes    (← returns to text)
  1. Bullen, H.L. [pen-name Quadrat](1906-1908): Discursions of a Retired Printer. In The Inland Printer 38:38, October 1906.
  2. Pasko, W.W. (1894):  American Dictionary of Printing and Bookmaking|A History of These Arts in Europe and America, with Definitions of Technical Terms and Biographical Sketches, page 490. Howard Lockwood & Co., New York.
  3. Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers Of Type. In The Inland Printer, August 1898.
  4. Loy, ibid. January 1900.
  5. Loy, ibid. July 1899.
  6. Bullen, ibid. May 1907.
  7. c.f. Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994):  Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, page 129. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.  N.B.:  Cited as Annenberg throughout.
  8. Bullen, ibid. May 1907.
  9. Bullen, ibid. July 1907.
  10. c.f. Pankow, D. (1993): Recast in an American Image|The Work of Hermann (sic) Ihlenburg, Type Designer, page 18 (Taylor Gothic).  In The Ampersand 13:10-18. Mr. Pankow was then Curator of the Melbert B. Cary, Jr. Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology.
  11. Bullen, ibid. June 1907.
  12. Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers Of Type. In The Inland Printer, August 1899.
  13. Pankow, ibid. page 18.
  14. Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers Of Type. In The Inland Printer, May 1898.
  15. c.f. McGrew, M. (1993): American Metal Types of the Twentieth Century (Second, Revised Edition), page 57. Oak Knoll Press New (Castle, DE).
  16. Letters of William E. Loy, August–October 1896. California Historical Society (San Francisco) reproduced in Johnston, A.M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editors](2009): William E. Loy|Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type, pages 10-19. Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, DE.
  17. Bullen, H.L.: Joseph Warren Phinney, Who First Made the American Type Founders Company the Leader of Type Fashions. In The Inland Printer, 71:761–764, August 1924.
  18. Harding, R.C.: Review of Type Designs. In The Inland Printer 17:316-317, 1896.