Thomas MacKellar [1812–1899], a partner in the L. Johnson & Co. TF (Philadelphia) since 1845, issued The Typographic Advertiser, a newsletter launched in April 1855 to showcase its type.¹ In 1856 and again in 1857, he used specimen text to propose “an asylum for decayed printers” and pledged $1,000 to a fund for this purpose.²
His plea for a place where elderly indigent men of the trade might retire in comfort and dignity was not yet undertaken by the industry; even so, this cause remained near his heart.
Eventually, he convinced his younger, far wealthier friend, George W. Childs [1829–1894], to carry this torch. Childs, publisher of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, was another beloved philanthropist especially sympathetic to printers. He had already reserved impressive burial facilities for local tradesmen at The Woodlands Cemetery.
In 1886, Childs and his partner, financier Anthony J. Drexel [1826–1893] (founder of Drexel University), contributed $10,000 to the International Typographical Union for this purpose. Journeymen east and west of the Mississippi River contributed to the fund on their respective birthdays;³ the Childs-Drexel Home for Union Printers was dedicated in May 1892.
The typeface honoring Childs and MacKellar for this charitable work was designed by Herman Ihlenburg; his patent application was approved in May–June, 1892 and assigned to MacKeller, Smiths & Jordan (by then a branch of ATF) [USPTO D21606].
¹This periodical was the first of its kind in the US. The idea was proposed by Julius Herriet Sr. [b 1818], who produced it until he moved to New York [Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer 22:465, January 1899]. ²Bullen, H.L. [pen-name Quadrat] (1906-1908): Discursions of a Retired Printer V. In The Inland Printer 38:200, November 1906.
³Pasko, W.W. (1894): American Dictionary of Printing and Bookmaking|A History of These Arts in Europe and America, with Definitions of Technical Terms and Biographical Sketches, page 95. Howard Lockwood & Co., New York.