William W. Jackson

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February 11, 2014 at 3:18 AM #7866


The super-prolific Mr. Jackson [1847–1898] of Philadelphia began his type career in 1868 as an apprentice to designer/cutter Edwin C. Ruthven, a Scottish immigrant recruited by Lawrence Johnson in 1846. William E. Loy writes that Ruthven, who trained as many as a dozen apprentices at one time, hailed Jackson as the most outstanding by far.¹

When Johnson died in 1860, the firm passed to Messrs. MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan—the trusted, highly qualified employees he had wisely taken as partners and groomed to succeed him. The firm was incorporated as MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan [MSJ] in 1867.²·³  Jackson’s first MSJ years spanned this corporate transition.

In his article about Jackson, Loy relates that Ruthven “graduated” him after only three years (c1871), after which he was assigned to MSJ partner Richard Smith for further mentoring:

“Mr. Jackson always spoke in terms of the highest appreciation of Mr. Smith, who while not a designer or cutter, was an accomplished critic, and was of the most valuable assistance, encouraging and stimulating him.”

Jackson became an independent type designer/cutter in 1873.¹

There are no records of applications for design patents submitted by Jackson before 1873, so it is likely that Smith was the Inventor of Record for his early MSJ faces. Between 1868 and 1873, Smith was issued patents for about a dozen fonts not attributed in the literature.

In 1879–1891, Jackson assigned to his former employer 30 patented alphanumeric or ornamental fonts and designed the swash caps for Ruthven’s Spencerian Script (patented by Smith in 1878).

MSJ designs are only the preface to his extensive body of work. Jackson was a versatile, world-class super-star who produced “block-busters” for at least seven other prestigious TFs in the US and abroad.

For example, Mullen reports that Central TF’s Geometric#, G. Condensed and G. Antique were designed and/or cut by Jackson and Gustave F. Schroeder (then still a novice) in 1881–1883.4

More about Jackson as topics arise—stay tuned!

¹Loy, W.E. (1898–1900): Designers and Engravers of Type. In The Inland Printer, October 1898 (Jackson) and April 1899 (Ruthven).
²Annenberg, M.; Saxe, S.O. [Editor]; Lieberman, E.K. [Index] (1994): Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogs, page 179.  Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, DE.
³It was routine practice among TFs to stereotype catalog pages for future re-use. So when a page imprinted “L. Johnson & Co.” appears in an MSJ specimen book, the design(s) illustrated precede 1867.
4Mullen, R.A. (2005): Recasting A Craft|St. Louis Typefounders Respond To Industrialization, page 135.  Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.


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