Popularity Lives On For Goudy Style

Frederic W. Goudy

The late Frederic W. Goudy would undoubtedly have been most amused if he could have lived until the present to witness the love affair between the dispensers of alcoholic beverages and his types in the pages of the national consumer periodicals.

I have compiled a list of 15 distillers and vintners who use Goudy types to invite their customers to the convivialities of the bent elbow. Most of these ads of course use Goudy Bold, a type which irked the great type designer every time he ran across it. He not only did not design it, but he never received a nickel in royalties for the many types of Goudy Bold manufactured by American Type Founders during his lifetime.

The only types other than Goudy Bold that are used consistently to bring together the parched throat and joyful jug are Kennerley and Italian Old Style, the latter—along with charcoal mellowing—being practically the private property of Jack Daniel’s. At that, Jack’s agency cheated a little, since Italian Old Style is a book type, but at least it is all-Goudy, along with Kennerley.

Non-Goudy Bold

That statement cannot be made about Goudy Bold, since that design came from t he drawing board of Morris Benton, who adapted six variants of the original designs of Goudy Old Style, one of the few types which Goudy did for ATF.

Undoubtedly the adaptation from a light or “regular” weight of a type to a bold variant is best accomplished by the original designer, for it is not simply a question of thickening strokes but of redesigning the entire letter. The counters, the serifs, and the fitting of each character with its mates all require a completely new rendering if the design is to be successful. On our    own time, the tendency is to bestow upon a photographic lens a capacity for such a mutation.

While Fred Goudy did not agree with Benton’s alterations upon his original, the type has been a great success and has made its designer’s name known to countless people who would never have become interested in his many more esthetic types.

I have seen a drawing of a bold face version of Goudy Old Style made by the designer himself, upon which he wrote, “Goudy Bold as I would have designed it.” Actually the difference between Benton’s version and Gouda’s was not great.

The Old Style Turning Point

The creation of Goudy Old Style in 1915 marked the point in the career of the type designer when he really came into his own. He had become an instructor in lettering at the Art Students’ League in New York. Just a year earlier he had sold some of his type faces to the Caslon Letter Foundry in England. When ATF approached him about doing a type for them, Goudy agreed only if he was allowed freedom from the foundry’s drawing room—an early indication of his later problems with the Monotype Company when he objected to drawing board artists French-curving his types to death in the complicated process of matrix manufacturing.

It was his individuality on the part of Fred Goudy which prompted him eventually to establish his own Village Letter Foundry in which he exercised complete control over every aspect of manufacture, from design to marketing. He was aided in this latter process by Melbert B. Cary Jr. and his firm Continental Typefounders Association.

Unfortunately, this artistic approach also deprived printers of many of the finest Goudy type, as all of his drawings and matrices were lost in the fire which destroyed his workshop at Marlborough, N.Y. in January 1939.

In spite of his agreement with ATF not to interfere with the original drawings of the Old Style, the foundry did make a number of changes, but they finally came to terms with the designer. He later complained that he should not have allowed ATF to “inveigle” him into supplying such short descenders for p, q, g, j, and y.

No Businessman

As Goudy sold the design to ATF for $1500, his lack of business acumen hurt him where it hurts type designers even now—in the pocketbook. He just couldn’t get away from the success of the Goudy “Family” of types, as ATF labeled them. He recounts in his autobiography that in a trip through the foundry with members of the American Institute of Graphic Arts during the Twenties, the group was informed when it stopped to watch an “endless stream of glistening types” that, “Here is where Goudy goes down to posterity, while the American Type Founders Co. goes down to posterity.”

While Goudy expressed fear that the speaker was “too optimistic on both counts,” the forecast has borne fruit, for Goudy Bold is by far the most widely used of all his designs at the present time. In a way his situation merely bears out the early promise of Frederic Goudy, who first broke into type design s an advertising lettering man in Chicago at the turn of the century.

His letters of that period were of the “rugged” variety that has come back into popularity with advertisers (Windsor is an example) and prove Goudy’s mastery of display lettering.

I have discussed this skill of Goudy’s with the fine contemporary type designer Hermann Zapf, who is most enthusiastic about many of the Goudy designs. Zapf is of the opinion that Fred Goudy was one of the finest creators of display types and that he will probably be best remembered for such letters.

Goudy Bold is now available on all of the phototypesetting devices which are presently used for so much display typography. With the mania for tight spacing and letter-fitting at its height, Goudy Bold is one of the few romans elected to be cast on narrower body-widths under the name of Tight Goudy Bold. In view of the extent to which the type is used to market potable beverages, the name is indeed fitting. Perhaps it is time for ATF to dust off the matrices for the even heavier version, the Extrabold, if it is to match the 40-year forecast of marching to prosperity with Goudy.

This article first appeared in the “Typographically Speaking” column of the February 1969 issue of Printing Impressions.

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