September 16

With Thomas MacKellar in the chair, a meeting of the typefounders of the United States began on this day in 1886, in the Spencer House at Niagara Falls, New York. The press release stated: ‘The representatives of twenty of the largest and best foundries in the United States were present, and never was there a congregation of men more in earnest, and resolved to change the aspect of affairs. Typefounding is a grand art, and demands the exercise of the mental capacity in a very high degree.”

Although the great thing that was accomplished at this convention was the adoption of a system of point sizes for American types, nobody seems to have told the printers. In a letter to The Inland Printer in October, 1886, an anonymous person named ‘Typo” wrote:

“The standard of Marder, Luse & Co., Chicago, and the new standards of the Central Type Foundry, St. Louis, and the Johnson Type Foundry [MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan], Philadelphia, are exactly the same, being .966 to six picas, and the quads and spaces from either of these foundries work perfectly together. There is not the imperceptible difference that you allege, nor is there any difference, these foundries having all in fact adopted the same interchangeable standard of the Chicago Type Foundry.”

The following month in the same periodical, “Typo” was answered by “Cerberus” in this manner:

“Your correspondent ‘Typo’ in the October number, undertakes to correct you on the subject of type bodies, but even he does not get at the ‘bottom facts.’ When he says, ‘the new standards for the point system, adopted by the Johnson type foundry, Central type foundry, and Marder, Luse & Co., are based on the same standard pica’ he says truly; but when he said, ‘these foundries adopted the standard of the Chicago type foundry’ he did not inform you from whence that foundry obtained it. Did it fall from the clouds? Certainly it was not a heavenly body. Else it had not chosen ‘wicked Chicago’ for an abiding place. As is well known to many old printers in Chicago and the West, the Chicago type foundry was established as a branch of the old New York type foundry (now Farmer, Little & Co.) who made the first type cast in Chicago. The original pica standard has never been changed; and as a natural sequence, it follows that the standard now almost universally adopted by the founders of the United States is that of Farmer, Little & Co.”

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