John F. Cumming | A Humble, Honest Man


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VII. Boston Type Foundry, 1881–1884

F. The BTF “German Cities” Collection

Effective in 1874, type tradenames were prohibited from the text of design patent applications.

This group of four typefaces issued by the Boston Type Foundry consists of two light- and heavy-face pairs named for cities in Germany (Table 2 reference numbers): Bremen (44) and Dresden (45); Lubeck (46) and Munich (43).

In correspondence with biographer William E. Loy in 1886–1898, Mr. Cumming reported cutting 26 BTF faces, two of which he designed: Kismet# and Dresden.

He recalled cutting Munich and Lubeck. He did not mention Bremen, the light-face partner of Dresden and a double mystery story…

USPTO Evidence

In July 1882, BTF Agent John K. Rogers filed design patent applications for three of these four fonts: Bremen, Dresden and Munich—not for Lubeck.

All three affidavits claim that the specimens were “taken from the types themselves.” Consecutively numbered seven-year patents1 were issued promptly in August.

The one for Lubeck,2 filed six months later (January 1883), describes the specimen as “an exact representation” (meaning that the font had not been cut).

Lubeck awaited patent approval for a year and a half until June 1884, two months before JFC quit BTF—of course, it may have been cut and marketed in the meantime.

Bremen Mystery One: A Chicken-and-Egg Conundrum

Which came first: Dresden or Bremen? Which was the prototype, and which was the derivative?

Considering that the three first-patented designs had been cut as of July 1882 and Lubeck was cut at least six months later, there are three interpretations:

  1. Perhaps when Cumming recalled cutting Lubeck some 15 years later, he (oh, so easily!) confused it with Bremen, the other light-face font of the two pairs. In other words, he cut Bremen instead of Lubeck.
  2. Since JFC claimed design credit for Dresden and did not account for Bremen, perhaps someone else (Henry Brehmer?) had cut Bremen before he was hired in 1881.
    In this case, Dresden was a derivative of Bremen, and it seems a “strech” to claim design credit. Furthermore, it is out of character: JFC did not claim design credit for DTF Artistic (c1890),3 a derivative of Brehmer’s Renaissant# (1879).4
  3. Perhaps after JFC designed and cut Dresden, he cut Bremen as a derivative of his own design. This is the least-likely scenario because he probably would have remembered designing both faces.

Conclusion. Some things may never make sense!

Bremen Mystery Two: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

The patent specimen for Bremen was either not supplied by BTF, lost or mis-filed by the USPTO. In any case, the wrong one was substituted. It rightly belongs with an application dated eleven days after Bremen: Ethic,5 designed and assigned to Barnhart Brothers & Spindler by (small world!) C.E. Heyer.

The brief affidavit description of the face deduced to be Bremen [USPTO D13277] correlates with named commercial specimens of this face: “a dual-case, very condensed roman.” Specimen books and advertisements of BTF fonts displaying patent notices present no likely alter­native.

Conclusion. The nature of BTF’s themed collection and logical Process of Elimination strongly support this identification.

Footnotes    (← returns to text)
  1. USPTO D13276–13278.
  2. USPTO D15080.
  3. Johnston, A.M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editors](2009):  William E. Loy|Nineteenth-Century American Designers and Engravers of Type, page 57. Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, DE.
  4. Johnston and Saxe, ibid. page 117.
  5. USPTO D13290.