Carl Emil/Charles E. Heyer


This account of the life and work of German immigrant Carl Emil/Charles E. Heyer [1841–1897] integrates the research of William E. Loy in 1896–19001 with public records plus independent study of John F. Cumming and the Boston Type Foundry [BTF]. Information is compiled primarily from 19th-century sources: US design patents, vital records, trade periodicals, specimen catalogs and such “eye witnesses” as William E. Loy and Henry L. Bullen. Links to Heyer lead to associated fonts revived and/or discussed by THP Chapel forums.

During the three most creative decades in type history that jolted designs from gingerbread surface ornamentation to re-thinking the very shapes of letterforms, Heyer didn’t “go with the flow”—he “made the waves”! Single-handedly, he positioned both the Boston TF (1867–1877) and Barnhart Brothers & Spindler (1878–1896) at the forefront of display type innovation.

Mr. Heyer was employed by the Boston TF [BTF] in 1867–1877 and by Barnhart Brothers & Spindler [BBS] in 1878–1897 (more below).

Loy’s Research Roadblocks

Heyer died suddenly (heart failure) on 01 May 1897,2 apparently without answering Loy’s inquiry of 15 August 1896.3 BTF no longer existed. John K. Rogers had died in 1888, and his brother, BTF treasurer Daniel W. Rogers, had retired in failing health.4 Since BTF records were stored at ATF’s temporary headquarters in New York, Loy could only abstract Heyer’s work there as “many new things.”

Furthermore, his correspondence with Joseph W. Phinney expresses intense dislike of BBS. In a letter dated 13 October 1896, he refers to Mazarin (the BBS “interpretation” of William Morris’s Golden designed and/or cut by Heyer and Nadall), and declares:

BBS Mazarin [top]
Dickinson/ATF Jenson

“There is so much about the internal workings of the Chicago pork-house that is suggestive of treachery and double dealing, that one hardly knows where or when they sin most. The unprejudiced printer, I think hardly fails to see the mediocrity of their designs. If they have anything good it is stolen outright, or it is the work of some man like Mr. Jackson or Mr. West, who knows his business and has too much self respect to be dictated to.”5

On the contrary, thanks to Heyer… By 1896, BBS was being stolen from! In his biography of Heyer, Loy credits him with “the larger portion of new faces brought out since they [BBS] began to produce original designs” and praises his work as “characterized by a departure from all that is conventional in the alphabet.” Perhaps Loy’s remarks to Phinney were intended as an indirect compliment of ATF Jenson, likewise criticized as an imitation of Morris’s Golden, which he had introduced in 1895.

The following adds discoveries about Heyer’s personal life, “fills in blanks” of his ten years at BTF and proposes corrections to information furnished to Loy by Heyer’s BBS colleagues.


Born 30 September 1841 in Berlin, Heyer trained at the Decker TF.6·7 After military service in two wars (1864 and 1866), he emigrated to the US in 1867 (age 26).  Perhaps a combat injury explains his early death at age 56.

He married in 1870.8 Between 1870 and 1877 (when the Heyers left Boston, more below), only one boy (Herbert, 1870) and two girls (Charlotte, 1872; Florence, 1874) surnamed “Heyer” were born in Boston; apparently, only Florence survived the first year of life.9

USPTO records indicate that Heyer moved from West Roxbury, MA to Boston between 1872 and 1874, the year Florence was born; so it seems safe to conclude that she was his daughter. He became a US citizen in 187410  and anglicized the name “Carl” to “Charles” ≤1879.11

Loy mentions that before settling permanently in Chicago, Heyer “traveled in Colorado and California for his health” (was heart disease already evident?). If so, where was his family for nearly two years while he was “between jobs”?

  • Heyer’s first application for a BBS-assigned design patent is dated 25 January 187912—nearly a year earlier than reported to Loy; the next one, 15 July 1879.13 This evidence suggests that BBS hired him in November 1878 rather than in 1879 and better accounts for his interim whereabouts and activities.
  • Furthermore, Illinois state records indicate that he arrived in Cook County (where Chicago is located) in 1877.

Maltese Open/Maltese

To further confuse history, Loy’s information attributes Maltese and Maltese Open to Heyer even earlier. These two faces were patented (single application) in September–November 1878 by a Paul Grey of Chicago, who claimed origination and design [USPTO D10898]; perhaps Heyer cut them. While the rights are not assigned, the affidavit is witnessed by A.M. BaMhart (sic). More likely, Arthur M. BaRNhart wielded the pen.

Type Designs

During the 19th century, German public schools routinely taught both applied and fine arts. These skills distinguished Heyer’s work14 and that of his likewise Berlin-born countryman, Herman Ihlenburg. Heyers’ earliest-documented US type design (____) precedes Ihlenburg‘s by ___ years.

Symbol Key

◊ Documented by William E. Loy
= Different pre-digital tradename for the same design, earliest first
Ξ Patent not assigned
Θ Cut by John F. Cumming, Boston TF 1881–1884
✴ Digital revival complete or in progress by THP Partner
# Other revival known at this writing
“Documented” Patented and/or reported by Loy

Patents are numbered on the date of issue; at first glance, those with approval delays may appear to be listed “out of sync.”

Boston Type Foundry [BTF], 1867–1877

BTF grew significantly after Heyer’s hire. Since the first known BTF catalog was issued in 1820, only 18 others were released before he joined the staff in 1867, the last in 1864. Between 1867 and 1878, there were 13.15

By 1872, BTF maintained at least two branches:

  • St. Louis. This branch was established sometime between 1870 and 1872 (historians disagree) by BTF executives James A. St. John and Carl Schraubstadter Sr., who partnered to purchase it in 1874. It became Central TF.
  • Chicago. Annenberg notes that type inventory destroyed by the Boston Fire of 1872 was promptly replenished by a Chicago branch.16

During employment by BTF, Heyer was well acquainted with St. John and Schraubstadter.  Mullen suggests that he designed Rococo (Central TF 1883).17

Barnhart Brothers & Spindler [BBS], 1878–1897

As at BTF, Heyer’s work propelled his employer to prominence in display type innovation. Annenberg writes that BBS, established in 1868, issued only two catalogs before his hire (1873, 1874). Less than a dozen faces were produced on site (from matrices acquired elsewhere); all others were distributed for eastern TFs.18

  • Between 1880 and 1895, 18 catalogs were published.
  • By 1889, BBS types were sold by at least three other TFs: Cincinnati, Palmer & Rey, Hawks & Shattuck.
  • The 494-page edition of 1893–1894 pictures branches in Kansas City, St. Paul, St. Louis and Omaha. The preface announces that it is the final pocket-size “pony book.”
  • The 1895 “Big Blue Book” (325 large pages) was the most extensive in its history so far.
  • All told, BBS introduced and patented about 100 new type faces before ceasing production in 1929, when the casting machines were shipped to ATF.19
  • Excluding ornament fonts, Heyer designed about half of them!
  • About two years before Heyer died, BBS named a face in his honor. Heyer was not yet shown in the 1893–1894 catalog; 1895 specimens claim a “patent pending” notice. Perhaps it was too similar to his other designs to qualify for USPTO approval.

Related Pages

BTF Type Designs Acquired Before Employment of J.F. Cumming
BTF Design Patents Issued to J.F. Cumming and Colleagues
Preview of a Mystery Man
THP Revivals of Designs by Heyer

Forum Topic

Specimens of Heyer’s Work (in progress).



  1. Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer 24:573, January 1900.
  2. Loy, ibid.
  3. 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).
  4. Loy, W.E. (1900–1905): Typefounders and Typefounding In America. In The Inland Printer 29:613, July 1902  (J.K.) and 30:77, October 1902 (D.W.).
  5. 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, page 18. Oak Knoll Books, New Castle, DE (2009).
  6. In 1870, Decker became the German national printing office and TF
  7. Loy, ibid.
  8. Vital Records 1841–1910, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  9. Vital Records 1841–1910, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  10. U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992.
  11. USPTO D11044, Armenian Extended (application filed January 25).
  12. USPTO D11044, Armenian Extended.
  13. USPTO D11403, Armenian∗.
  14. Loy, ibid.
  15. Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994): Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, pages 73-74, 250. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
  16. Annenberg ibid., page 197.
  17. Mullen, R.A. (2005): Recasting A Craft|St. Louis Typefounders Respond to Industrialization, page 136. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  18. Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994): Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, pages 57-59, 250. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
  19. Annenberg ibid., page 57.