John F. Cumming | A Humble, Honest Man


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VII. Boston Type Foundry, 1881–1884

As established in Part VI, Mr. Cumming was hired by BTF Agent John K. Rogers in Spring 1881. William E. Loy1·2 writes that between 1881 and August 1884, JFC cut 26 BTF fonts, two of which he designed. T.J. Lyons adds a 27th cutting attribution, and THP proposes others in Part VII.

Considering that each face involved multiple sizes, average output of one face every five to six weeks must have kept him very busy indeed….

A. The “Golden Oldies”

In December 1870 (perhaps while St. John was briefly the BTF Agent)Rogers was issued the first BTF design patents: Bank–Note Roman and Bank–Note Italic# (Table 1:1-2).

Design patent application dates and expiration terms were not published in USPTO records until 1874. Since Rogers filed the applications as Inventor of Record and his signatures were not witnessed by St. John, THP concludes that he submitted them as BTF Agent before or after St. John’s historically “murky” term in ±1869–1871.

In January 1874, BTF Bank-Note Italic# was shown in Conner’s Typographic Messenger on a page cleverly captioned Patented (by others!) Faces for Sale by James Conner’s Sons.

BTF’s design patent must have expired after 3.5 years because in 1874 [Dominion 1874], the Conner TF released a copy tradenamed Oblique Shaded# cut by Julius Herriet Sr.3 The Conner version was still shown by MSJ in 1892; it was discontinued by ATF.4

Bank–Note Italic# was reprised again in 1874 with BTF Bank–Note Italic Ornamented5 (not cut by JFC). It was self-patented by C.E. Heyer (Table 1:15), who probably designed and cut the prototype (sidebar). Text of the affidavit alludes to Rogers’ 1870 patent and distinguishes the derivative as “opened and ornamented.”

Cheque (Table 1:22), yet another fatface italic, is the one attributed by Lyons. It was shown in BTF 1879 identified by tradename, primarily as a caption for specimens of other fonts. Not shown in 1880, it was patented by J.K. Rogers in 1882, the year after he hired JFC. As discussed in Part VI, it was probably not produced until JFC cut it.

Also shown in BTF 1879 was a half-page specimen of Interline#, a face similar to Cheque without ray shading (illustrated for comparison).  This face was patented by MSJ partner Richard Smith (designer unattributed) for 14 years in 1876.  Tradenames of these two faces are easily confused.6 Since BTF Cheque was not available, perhaps this substitute was suggested.

B. Italic Caps

Record, Gothic Slope and Banner [top to bottom]. JFC listed these italics in his account to Loy. Record was patented by Rogers in 1881 (Table 1:37)Gothic Slope, marked “new” and “patent pending” in BTF 1879, was not (Table 1:25). Cumming identified Gothic Slope as one of the two final fonts he cut before joining DTF. Banner (Table 2:63) was advertised in the November 1886 edition of The Inland Printer with no patent notice and apparently was shown in BTF 1885.7


Footnotes    (← returns to text)
  1. Letters of William E. Loy, California Historical Society (San Francisco). Reproduced 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).
  2. Loy, W.E.: Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer, July 1898.
  3. Loy, ibid. 22:465, 1899.
  4. Tribby, D.M. (2003): Catalogs of the American Type Founders’ Company and Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, 1897-1971. American Amateur Press Association (
  5. c.f. Johnston, A.M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editors]: William E. Loy|Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type, page 129. Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, DE (2009).
  6. c.f. Solotype 62, Solo Victorian Alphabets 24.
  7. Johnston and Saxe ibid., page 144.