John F. Cumming | A Humble, Honest Man


Please scroll the sidebar menu for navigation links within the featured article.

VII. Boston Type Foundry, 1881–1884

C. BTF/Caslon Fonts Cut by J.F. Cumming

For two years after losing type designer/cutter Carl/Charles E. Heyer in 1877, the Boston Type Foundry had produced no new designs. In 1879, BTF Agent John K. Rogers began selling production and/or distribution rights for certain type designs to H.W. Caslon (London)[sidebar]. Perhaps negotiations included an agreement that Caslon personnel provide matrices to BTF.

According to William E. Loy’s biolgraphy of JFC published in The Inland Printer,1 after his hire in 1881, he cut four BTF faces that were exported to TF [left].

Mural✴ and Façade# (Table 1:35-36). Mural✴ [top right] was shown in BTF 1880, patented by J.K. Rogers in 18812 and cited by Nicolette Gray [206] in the Caslon Circular of 1884. It was surely on Rogers’ agenda when he hired Cumming in Spring 1881, and JFC clearly cut certain sizes in ±1881–1884, as he told Loy.

BTF Façade# (bottom), a Mural✴ derivative not shown before JFC’s hire, was not patented (published notices “piggy backMural✴), so the acquisition date is relatively uncertain. Gray [206] documents it as “Mural✴ Compressed” in Caslon’s 1886 edition, two years after JFC left BTF.

Even so, there is no reason to doubt his recollection that he cut certain sizes of Façade# in ±1881–1884. Both Mural✴ and Façade# appear on the title page and as untitled, numbered specimens in Caslon’s catalog of c1890 (date reckoned by Rochester Institute of Technology).

After Central TF acquired BTF in 1888, Julius Herriet Jr. (BTF 1886–c1891) cut additional sizes of Façade#, designed and cut the caps of Façade Condensed; in c1891, Gustave F. Schroeder and Nicholas J. Werner (Schroeder & Werner, St. Louis) produced the lower case.3

The next two BTF faces cut by JFC were acquired after he was hired (Table 2:60, 66) and likewise involved the Caslon TF.

Caslon Enchorial✴=BTF London✴ (Table 2:60). This spectacular concave sans-serif design, not patented in the US, originated with the Caslon TF. Gray [206-207] cites it in the Caslon Circular of 1884 plus Enchorial Shaded and Enchorial Expanded in 1885 and 1887, respectively. According to an Inland Printer article, the shaded face was introduced first; the solid version was (meritoriously) produced from the preserved pre-scored prototype.4

London✴ is not advertised nor shown in available catalogs of BTF and distributors between 1881 and 1892, when the final Central|BTF specimen book was issued (after joining ATF). This illustration displays a patent notice implying that the St. John/Schraubstadter partnership owned the design (they did not).

Caslon prominently featured Enchorial✴ and alternate letterforms on the covers and title pages of specimen books and as a “signature font” labeling every page. Petzendorfer c1903 [plate 41] cites Caslon’s London Branch as the source for purchase of Enchorial Expanded#.

THP finds no reason to question JFC’s report to Loy that he cut London✴ in ±1881–1884. Whether he did so for Caslon or for BTF as part of a rights agreement involving the baffling Morris face is unknown. Otherwise, history of this face is not documented in the literature.

Morris is the last BTF font cut by JFC in ±1881–1884 that may involve negotiations with Caslon. No typeface known by this tradename is illustrated nor indexed by McGrew5 or by Tribby6 as an ATF property, and THP has found none in available US commercial specimens. The BTF/Caslon connection may explain why.

To be continued… Further discussion of Morris (preview) is postponed pending consultation with other 19th-century type historians who may be able to verify the only known named specimen.

Footnotes    (← returns to text)
  1. Loy, W.E.: Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer, July 1898.
  2. USPTO D12289.
  3. Loy, ibid. August 1899.
  4. The Inland Printer 15:30-31, 1895.
  5. McGrew, M. (1993): American Metal Types of the Twentieth Century (Second, Revised Edition), pages 367-372. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
  6. Tribby, D.M. (2003): Catalogs of the American Type Founders’ Company and Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, 1897-1971. American Amateur Press Association (