December 26

Any former employees, who for nostalgic reasons entered the cavernous but empty premises of the Chicago firm of typefounders, Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, on this day in 1933, would have felt a touch of sadness. Gone were the rows of typecasting machines which had produced so many of the popular types of American printers over a sixty year period. All that remained of a once thriving business were casters for the manufacture of leads and slugs, and even these were about to be dismantled, as in just five days the building was to be padlocked, thus definitely bringing to an end an enterprise which had made a notable contribution to American typography.

In 1869 the four Barnhart Brothers—Alson, Arthur, George, and Warren—who had originally left New York state to farm in Michigan, purchased from the Toepfer family a majority interest in the Great Western Type Foundry in Chicago, which had been organized just a year earlier. In spite of extremely strong competition from Marder, Luse & Company, and from Sterling Rounds, the Chicago agent for the Philadelphia firm of MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, the Barnharts managed to prosper, by virtue of combative and vigorous enterprise.

When most of the typefounders in the United States joined together in 1892 to form the combination called the American Type Founders Company, the Barnharts maintained their individuality by remaining an independent and flourishing enterprise until 191 1. Then they finally sold out to ATF in an agreement by which the firm retained its identity under its original name.

Contemporary printers who are now well into middle age will no doubt recall some of the BB&S types which were widely used during their youth, such as Parsons, designed by Will Ransom—a design which featured alternate characters with extremely long ascenders and descenders. Even though Ransom did not authorize these letters and disliked them intensely, they helped the design reach best-sellerdom. Without doubt the best known type ever cut by the foundry was Cooper Black, from the drawing-board of Oz Cooper. First offered in 1921, it became an instantaneous hit. Cooper himself would have been vastly amused at the recent revival, during the early 1960’s, of this display type. Another Barnhart type which is still used is the style originally named Fifteenth Century. Available for a number of years, it met with little response, but when the name was changed to Caslon Antique in 1925, it received a new lease on life, although it in no way resembles that dignified English letter.

With the end of Barnhart Brothers & Spindler, there remained but a single firm dealing in standard foundry type in the United States, the American Type Founders Company. This organization, even with what might be called a monopoly in foundry type manufacturing, is kept on its competitive toes by the European foundries which are increasingly active in this country.

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