John F. Cumming | A Humble, Honest Man


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VII. Boston Type Foundry, 1881–1884

D. The BTF Script Collection

Mr. Cumming reported to William E. Loy that he cut four BTF scripts: Autograph, Magnolia, Clark and Skinner (Table 2:49,53,58,59).

Unlike the formal 18th-century English-style Penman# and Boston Scripts (sidebar), these faces were meant to imitate the more legible personal handwriting of real-life contemporaries.

This trend, called “autograph scripts” by the trade, was launched in 1882 by the Cleveland TF with Carpenter Script# (cut by James West), which instantly created a new market for printed advertisements resembling casual notes or personal signatures.

By 1885, William W. Jackson’s Phinney Script” (DTF Manuscript#=MSJ Circular Script#) of 1883 was shown by both Gronau and Genzsch & Heyse in the leading German trade journal.1 The very existence of these types generated an “urgent” demand for new and different ones to communicate the same kind of subliminal messages.

Autograph Script

Autograph Script (Table 2:49). Application for patent of this dual-case design, the “fanciest” of the collection, was filed by BTF Agent John K. Rogers in January 1883, seven months before Jackson’s. Jackson’s was approved promptly in October 1883; for some reason, Rogers’ was delayed until June 1884.

Magnolia Script

Magnolia Script (Table 2:53). Like Boston Script, RogersUSPTO application specimen illustrated caps only. Filed in early March 1884, this one was approved by mid-April.


Clark Script

Clark Script  (Table 2:58). The specimen published in the final Central/BTF catalog of 1892 states that this dual-case face is a “fac-simile of the peculiar Hand-Writing of Mr. George A. Clark of Boston.”

Rogers submitted the patent application on (Monday) August 4, 1884; it was approved in October of the same year. Since JFC told Loy that he started working for DTF in August, his last day at BTF was probably Friday the 1st (or Saturday the 2nd?).

Skinner Sript

Two months later, Rogers may have called upon Cumming’s services to cut Skinner Script (Table 2:59). He filed the USPTO application for this dual-case face on October 6, 1884.2 It was the last patent ever issued to a BTF representative; Rogers died four years later.

For this face, the 1892 Central/BTF specimen reads, “The modesty of Mr. C.W. Skinner of Hartford, Conn., a member of the noble printing fraternity, leads him to protest against this attempt to imitate his handwriting. Please justify our choice by….”

Footnotes    (← returns to text)
  1. Archiv für Buchdruckerkunst und verwandte Geschäftszwiege 22:145-146, 225, 1885. Alexander Waldow, Leipzig.
  2. USPTO D15777