John F. Cumming | A Humble, Honest Man


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II. Loy’s Article About J.F. Cumming

When did William E. Loy finish researching/writing his article about Mr. Cumming, and what happened between then and the publication date?

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Mr. Loy of San Francisco was acquainted with a neighboring Californian, Gustav Schroeder of Mill Valley, an independent type designer/cutter formerly employed by Central TF (St. Louis, MO) and subsequently self-employed with Central colleague Nicholas J. Werner (1889-1891).

One day, Schroeder told him that Cumming had cut the blockbuster DTF faces Quaint#=Desdemona# and Virile#. This very conversation may have prompted Loys Inland Printer series on Designers and Engravers of Type.1

Chronology of Loy’s Research Correspondence2


August 15. Loy proposes his plan for a monthly article series to A.H. McQuilkin, Editor of The Inland Printer. He explains that he prefers “not to begin [publication] until I have enough material to insure reasonable completeness.”

  • The article about JFC is No. 6 of 28 and the fifth biographical sketch, so it was among the first completed and submitted while Loy researched and wrote the rest.

August 15 (the same day). Evidently assured in advance that his proposal was accepted, Loy initiates correspondence with JFC and eight of his counterparts throughout the US. He outlines the project and asks them for lists of…

“… some of the principal faces you have designed and cut.  As you are aware, the type founders usually get all the credit for new and novel designs while the man who furnishes the brains and has the art instinct sufficiently developed to originate these designs, is kept in the back­ground and is actually unknown to the printing world.”

  • He does not ask for a complete list—only for the principal faces, so omissions are to be expected. For example, these faces aquired during JFC’s employment by BTF are not attributed: Boston Script#, Bewick, Altona, Moslem and Mantua.
  • Several introduced by DTF or ATF Boston during his years there are not listed [Parts VIII-IX]: Gladiate#, Moxon# (Aesthetic# small caps), Crusader, Erratick#, Herald, Florentine No. 2 (dual case), Vertical Writing.

September 7. Loy thanks McQuilkin for his interest in the project. Per the Editor’s suggestion, he promises to collect photographs of his subjects when possible as well as specimens of their favorite work.

  • This commitment meant contacting at least nine of his subjects, including JFC, a second time.
  • The Inland Printer later decided to omit specimens.3

September 9. Loy writes to Cumming’s ATF supervisor, Joseph W. Phinney. Relevant passages:

“I have undertaken to write up some sketches of type designers and punch cutters for The Inland Printer, and as you well know it is impossible to do so without the countenance and assistance of the typefounder.

“Thus far I have not been able to learn who has been guilty of designing the excellent staple faces cast by the Dickinson and Boston Foundries. You may retort that I should have applied at once to the man who in all probability has the information at immediate command, but I hesitated to impose upon the time of a busy man.

“I am told by one who ought to know that a Mr. Cumming has done much of that work for you, but thus far I am unable to verify the fact, if it is a fact. May I ask you to give me as much information as you can without too much trouble?”

  • Loy is flattering Phinney with observations of his importance. Does he anticipate a response minimizing JFC’s work?

He adds that McQuilkin suggested a photo of each man, a list of his principal productions and specimens of the most meritorious or popular faces.

  • Apparently Loy had not received a response from JFC to his letter of August 15, three weeks earlier.
  • If JFC had not already consulted Phinney about Loy’s inquiry, Phinney surely approached him on receipt of this letter.
  • JFC’s correspondence, if any, with Loy thereafter may have been directed by Phinney.

September 10. Loy describes his plan for the series to Theodore L. De Vinne.

  • De Vinne was highly esteemed as “The Dean of American Printers.” His opinion in all matters related to typography was generally accepted without question.

October 3. Loy thanks De Vinne for his letters of September 21 and 27, especially for approval of his project. He reveals that Schroeder “tipped” him to JFC’s work and expresses eagerness for Phinney’s answer.

October 7-13. Phinney’s reply of the 7th apparently raised the point that TF executives were responsible for type design development. Loy addresses him again on the 13th, citing De Vinne’s endorsement of the article series:

“He says he is very glad I have taken up this matter, because he believes that the skill and merit of many of these type designers and cutters have never been recognized.”

Assuring Phinney that his next Inland Printer series would honor typefounders so that “such men as Thomas MacKellar and yourself should receive the full meed [reward] of praise to which they are entitled,” Loy restates his immediate purpose:

“I fully recognize the invaluable aid you have been in the matter of designing new type faces. My present plan includes only the workman.”

Conclusive evidence of JFC’s employment by ATF ends here!
  • No response from Phinney to Loy’s second letter is available.
  • Loy’s research of this article was complete as soon as he received final input from JFC (September?) and/or Phinney (October? November?).
  • It is unrealistic to suppose that Loy, who apparently worked without clerical support, personally contacted all then-living designers and engravers a second or third time for updates.
  • Nearly two years may have passed between completion of this article and the publication date.


No known developments in Loy’s research of JFC. Introductions of new faces designed and/or cut by JFC are discussed elsewhere.


February–June. After a year and a half of research and writing, Loy’s series is launched in The Inland Printer. An introduction and the first four biographies are published.

June. The latest date Loy might have returned galley proofs of his article on Cumming to The Inland Printer for publication in July.

July. Loy’s article on Cumming is published in The Inland Printer, No. 6 in the series of 28 monthly installments ending in June 1900.

The Article Narrative

Even after Loy clearly defined (and redefined) his purpose and prodded both men, neither Phinney nor JFC validated the hunch Schroeder had piqued. JFC reports design credit for only two BTF faces, Dresden and Kismet#Cumming volunteered that he cut all other BTF fonts “from designs furnished by the foundry” and never hinted creation of a single DTF face.

Apparently disappointed by this outcome, Loy portrays Cumming as:

“not inclined to claim too much for his productions, but with characteristic modesty says he ‘simply cut the designs as were furnished to him.’  While this is true to some degree, he is entitled to full credit for a very skillful handling of his work and the thousand and one little delicate features that give his work the stamp of originality.  He has left the impress of his genius in every font of type he has cut.”

The passage dealing with JFC’s employment history after the Boston TF (1881-1884) reads:

“August, 1884, Mr. Cumming engaged with the Dickinson Type Foundry, and his services have ever since been given to that foundry, now a branch of the American Type Founders’ Company.”

  • Chronological evidence built from dates of design patents and commercial specimens published by ATF and the H.C. Hansen TF [HTF] (also in Boston) challenges this statement as of Autumn 1896.
Loy’s Account of Types Cut by Cumming
JFC cut all of these faces no later than June 1898!

The lists below are re-ordered for convenience of discussion elsewhere.
Patented designs are preceded by the ® symbol.
Digital revivals completed by THP Partners are followed by the ♥ symbol.
Other digitizations are followed by the # symbol.

Boston Type Foundry. Multiple sizes of 26 faces discussed in Part VII, 1881-1884 (Tables 1 and 2):

®Bank-Note Roman, ®Bank-Note Italic#, ®Record, Gothic Slope, Banner, ®Mural∗, Façade#, London♥, Morris, ®Magnolia Script, ®Autograph Script, ®Clark Script, ®Skinner Script, Kismet#, ®Dresden, ®Munich, ®Lubeck, ®Soudan, Syrian, Copley#, ®Century, ®Rubens#, Duerer#, ®Albino, Latin Antique (large sizes), Weimar.

  • WOW—JFC was busy during those three years!

Dickinson Type Foundery. Multiple sizes of 26 faces discussed in Part VIII, 1884-1892. These fonts were introduced in or before February 1892, when ATF was incorporated (sidebar):

Renaissant♥, Artistic, Colonial, Karnac#, Mother Hubbard♥, Quaint#, Jagged#, Skjald#, Virile#, Algonquin♥, Algonquin Ornamented♥, Elzevir, Elzevir Italic, Cushing Old Style#, Cushing#, Cushing Italic#, Howland#, French Old Style, Gothic Italic, Caxton Title, French Cursive, Masonic Text, Stenograph, Russian Stenograf, Globe, Grady.

  • This workload was a surely less hectic than at BTF. Even so, JFC was definitely producing punches for the trend-setting faces that positioned DTF as worldwide leader. Indeed, an item published by The Inland Printer of October 1891 reported that production of Quaint# and Erratick# alone “monopolizes the constant output of five casting machines.”

Boston Branch, American Type Founders. Multiple sizes of eight faces discussed in Part IX, 1892-???? These fonts were introduced after ATF was incorporated (sidebar):

Jenson Old Style#, ®Jenson Italic#, ®Satanick#, Binner Gothic#, Florentine Old Style#, Elandkay, ®Vertical Script, ?Abbott?.

  • Including Abbott (a Red Herring?), all evidence in the literature indicates that JFC designed and/or cut these fonts no later than 1896, the year Loy first contacted him.

Without distinguishing for which employer, Loy reports that besides Latin alphabet faces, JFC cut musical notation, borders, ornaments, type for the blind, Greek fonts, etc. Surely these “extras” account for very little of his time.

A timeline correlating introduction dates of fonts that JFC cut and/or designed for ATF and for the Hansen TF (also in Boston) indicates that he was responsible for development of HTF’s display-type collection. If not brilliantly original, Hansen fonts were recommended by job-printers for accuracy and durability.


Mr. Cumming left the employ of ATF as early as September 1896. Thereafter, he was employed by the H.C. Hansen TF and/or as a freelance designer/cutter.

Footnotes    (← returns to text)
  1. Loy, W.E.: Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer, 1898-1900.
  2. Letters of William E. Loy, California Historical Society (San Francisco). Reprinted in Johnston, A.M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editors]: William E. Loy|Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type, pages 11-19. Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, DE (2009).
  3. Johnston & Saxe matched Loy’s lists of tradenames with specimens scanned from producers’ catalogs captioned with approximate introduction dates. Johnston, A.M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editors](2009):  William E. Loy|Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type. Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, DE. N.B.: Cited as Johnston & Saxe throughout.