Who would guess that this novelty face is so very old? Shown in the catalog of Eduard Hænel (Berlin) dated 1847, it is not documented by Nicolette Gray.¹ Friedrich Bauer credits Hænel’s success to wise importation of “trendy” British and French faces.²
So by Process of Elimination, the most logical conclusion is that the design originated in France (Deberny?). Indeed, it was shown in three sizes by Charles Derriey (Paris) in his spectacular catalog of 1862. In the US, the Cincinnati TF showed it in ≤1857; L. Johnson, in ≤1867.³
One of the most interesting observations of the letterforms is that the edges are irregular, a most unusual characteristic “ahead of its time” when precision punch-cutting was highly valued.
All 19th-century specimens examined by THP are numbered. Driftwood was most likely the brain-child of Dan X. Solo’s knack for apt tradenames serving his photo-lettering clientele.
¹Gray, N. (1938): XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages. Faber and Faber Limited, London.
²Bauer, Friedrich (Offenbach 1929); Reichardt, Hans (Frankfurt 2011): Chronik der Schriftgießereien in Deutschland und den deutschsprachigen Nachbarländern.Courtesy of the Klingspor Museum. ³The date 1867 is deduced from the stereotyped(?) specimen published by MSJ in July 1869, which is imprinted L. Johnson & Company while other pages are marked MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan. According to Annenberg , “Lawrence Johnson died on April 26, 1860, but the firm continued to operate and distribute type catalogs with his name until 1867.”