4.23.14 / When Typography Hit The Airwaves


Tony Wons was a popular personality during the 1930s Great Depression era receiving 2,000 fan letters a week. Tony Wons Scrapbook was a conversational show and he was like an old friend who stopped by for a chat.  His catch-phrase to the audience was “Are you listening?”

He was also known as “scrapbookman” as he collected works of writing from Shelley, Whitman, and other important literary figures, many of which were suggested by the fans of his show. Wons began looking at inspirational essays when he was recovering in the hospital for two years. He began collecting them in a scrapbook and described himself as a “peptomist.”

Tony Wons Scrapbook (the radio show) was sponsored by Hallmark Cards. The anthology was published annually. What stands out throughout the years of its publication is the evolution from traditional typography to a decidedly hybrid constructivist style in a jazzy art deco manner. The three examples here are just a few of the artifacts available (obnoxious plug) at my “Moving Sale”.

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is the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review and the Graphic Content blog for T-Style. He is the author, coauthor, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture, including the recent book Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig (Chronicle).