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Gustave F. Schroeder

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January 4, 2016 at 9:59 AM #26285


This topic is under revision to better document history of the typefaces that Schroeder designed and/or cut—ideally a chart like the ones for C.E. Heyer. His name links to a tag listing topics involving him.

Gustave or Gustav? William E. Loy, Schroeder‘s most comprehensive biographer, knew him personally—both were residents of San Francisco suburbs. In his Inland Printer article about him, Loy records Schroeder‘s given name as Gustav. Consequently, later historians relying on Loy’s work spell it the same way. Indeed, “Gustav” was probably his birth name in Germany. Even so:

  • It is likely that when Schroeder became a US citizen (according to USPTO records ≤1891), the name was “anglicized.”
  • In all (four) affidavits of design patent applications initiated by Schroeder in 1891–1897, he identifies himself as “Gustave F. Schroeder.”
  • These documents were reviewed and signed by attorneys representing multiple TFs in three US cities.

In 1881, Schroeder [1861–1899+] was a 20-year-old apprentice at a German engraving company learning to produce such industrial objects as dies, stamps and numbering wheels.

One day, US German immigrant Carl Schraubstadter of Central TF (St. Louis) happened to visit Schroeder’s employer on a trip to his homeland. Some Rare Thing between them clicked… Schraubstadter convinced Schroeder to engrave type in St. Louis, then the US “frontier.”

Schraubstadter was a very smart businessman, and recruiting Schroeder may have been the smartest thing he ever did! In 1882, he and his partner, James A. St. John, did another very smart thing: They hired Nicholas J. Werner [1858–1899+] to design commercial specimens of their wares.

Soon after the death of J.K. Rogers (Agent and majority stockholder, Boston TF) in January 1888, Schraubstadter and St. John acquired BTF (their former employer) and St. John returned to manage it [Historians Disagree, below]. During the late 1870s, St. John had befriended a fellow crew athlete, J.F. Cumming, in St. Louis.¹

It is likely that Cumming‘s contact with St. John led to his employment by BTF in 1881–1884 and that the two “rowing buddies” maintained correspondence. It is equally likely that St. John connected Schroeder with Cumming, who had been employed by the Dickinson TF (also in Boston) since 1884, and with Julius Herriet Jr., Cumming‘s replacement at BTF.

In 1888-1891, Schroeder and Herriet produced new sizes and derivatives of BTF faces first cut by Cumming [Table 3:54] introduced by Central TF. In 1889, he and Cumming collaborated on design and engraving of French Old Style and Cushing Old Style [Table 3:61, 63].

Meanwhile in St. Louis, creative fireworks between Schroeder and Werner sparked some of the most spectacular and best-selling display types of all time. In 1889, they partnered as Schroeder & Werner.

During the next two years, these two young geniuses designed and/or cut faces for the Central|Boston TF (their best client!) and accepted commissions from Barnhart Brothers & Spindler and Marder Luse as well as Dickinson.

According to personal communications with him in 1896–1898, William E. Loy chronicles the following faces designed and/or cut by Schroeder:

  • Years of earliest specimens examined per USPTO, commercial specimens or Mullen²
  • ®=Patented, #=known at this writing to be digitized for posterity

Central TF Staff, 1881–1889

Schroeder & Werner/Central TF, 1889–1891

  • 1889. Jefferson, Hermes
  • 1890. De Vinne# [Historians Disagree, below], Quaint Roman#, Cushing Old Style# (cut by J.F. Cumming, Dickinson TF [Table 3:63])
  • 1891. Victoria Italic (caps only)
  • 1891? Multiform# Nos. 1–4, ATF [Historians Disagree, below]

Schroeder & Werner/Other Clients

The partnership was dissolved in 1891, when Schroeder (age 30) moved to Mill Valley (a suburb of San Francisco, CA); both men continued as freelancers.¹ Again according to Loy, Schroeder designed and/or cut the following faces thereafter:

Pacific States TF

  • 1895. Pacific Victoria Italic (dual case)
  • 1896. Aldus Italic, Sierra, Poster Sierra
  • Year Unknown. French Old Style No. 2 (dual-case)

American Type Founders Company

  • 1892. Ramona®, Novelty Script#
  • 1896/1897. Laclede
  • 1897. McCullough
  • c1898. Empire Initials

Inland TF

  • 1891. Multiform# [Historians disagree, below]
  • 1895. Royal Italic, larger sizes
  • 1898. Brandon, larger sizes

Historians Disagree

Schroeder‘s First Type Design

Harper#, 1882. Mullen‘s entry on this face reports that Schroeder designed it.² Bullen theorizes that it was drawn by Edwin Abbey during the time he illustrated a Shakespearean series for Harper’s Magazine.³

Art Gothic#, 1884. Mullen and Loy agree that this face was Schroeder‘s first and that he developed it from freehand lettering spotted by St. John on a soap box label. Schraubstadter submitted the patent application in February 1886; it was approved in May 1887.

Multiform Nos. 1–4, 1891?

Mullen‘s account attributes design credit for all four exclusively to SchroederLoy‘s article on Schroeder does not mention them. Instead, he lists them among Werner‘s creations during his partnership with Schroeder

Petzendorfer’s Schriftenatlas of c1903 cites the source as Central Type Foundry. This information, while long obsolete by 1903, indicates that the original client was Central TF rather than ATF. So the date was probably before 1892, when Schroeder had left St. Louis.

De Vinne, 1890 [Table 3:71–93]

Theodore L. De Vinne himself recalled that the face named in his honor grew from correspondence he initiated with St. John in 1888-1890 requesting a new roman design, “a return to the simplicity of the true old-style character.”5St. John naturally turned to Schroeder & Werner to produce it. Unfortunately, Dr. De Vinne erroneously attributes the design to Werner. His mistake was corrected by Werner6 and by Loy‘s article: “… the De Vinne series, which Mr. Schroeder originated without promptings or suggestions….”¹

The first THP-examined news of its existence was published in The Inland Printer of November 1890. It was reviewed in The American Bookmaker of January 1891.

The earliest-examined commercial specimen appears in The Inland Printer, April 1892 as advertised by ATF Boston (formerly Dickinson) as “A Companion Series to Howland#.” The next edition announced that rights to cast it had been purchased from ATF St. Louis (formerly Central).

  • Huh? This makes no sense! If ATF was a corporation, why did one branch need to purchase rights to cast a face originated by another one?
  • Bullen writes although ATF was incorporated in February 1892, branches remained independent (and as competitive as ever!) until election of Robert W. Nelson as General Manager by the shareholders meeting of October 1894.
  • Nelson soon united ATF branches as “team players” and effectively dismissed such then major “anti-trust” TFs as Bruce, Farmer and BBS.
  • An announcement published in The Inland Printer of April 1895 reads, “All branches of the American Type Founders have dropped the use of local names and will do business under the name of the American Type Founders’ Company.”

At the time De Vinne# was finally released, ATF had been incorporated for less than three months and a consistent patent policy had not yet been adopted. Furthermore, the former Central and Dickinson TFs almost never applied for design patents.

In the case of De Vinne#, an application was submitted by Schroeder in January 1893; it was promptly approved in March. Rights were assigned to V.J.A. Rey of ATF San Francisco (formerly Palmer & Rey) [USPTO D22263].

By then, it had been extensively copied in the US (the Hansen TF of Boston advertised it as De Vinne# in The Inland Printer, January 1893) [Table 3:89] and abroad as Romana#.

St. John‘s Whereabouts, 1888–1892

Mullen writes that St. John returned to Boston when he and Schraubstadter purchased BTF in 1888.² This scenario makes perfect sense because it explains that he was the “BTF connection” between Schroeder, Cumming and Herriet.

Even so, it may conflict with De Vinne’s account of correspondence with “Mr. J.A. St. John of the Central Type Foundry of St. Louis” in 1888–1890.

¹Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer, December 1898 (Schroeder); August 1899 (Werner).
²Mullen, R.A. (2005): Recasting A Craft|St. Louis Typefounders Respond To Industrialization, pages 34 (St. John), 135–145; page 135 (Geometric). Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
³Bullen, H.L. [pen-name Quadrat]: Discursions of a Retired Printer. In The Inland Printer, May 1907.
4Gray, N. (1938): XIXth Century Ornamented Types and Title Pages, pages 193, 207. Faber and Faber Limited, London.
5De Vinne, T.L. (1907): Types of the De Vinne Press. Specimens for the Use of Compositors, Proofreaders and Publishers, page 273. De Vinne Press, NY.


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