Typecasting the Sixties

Where did all those old style Victorian typefaces that defined the psychedelic Sixties come from? One source was Douglas O. Morgan, who in the sixties assembled one of the most extensive collections in the United States of rare nineteenth century wood type letterforms. The Morgan Press was a rich vein for advertising and editorial designers.

While managing an independent printing and publishing house showcasing important 20th century photographers, Morgan, who died at age 75 in 2007,  began acquiring large numbers of antique wood-types. As a child during World War II he and his brother, Lloyd, began printing and publishing a hand typeset magazine called The Fresh Egg, with articles from relatives and friends living abroad that described a war ravaged Europe. It was distributed along with eggs from their own chickens to neighbors in Scarsdale, New York. After earning a B.S. Degree in Economics from Colorado College in 1954, Mr. Morgan pursued graduate work in Printing Management at Carnegie Mellon in 1956.  In 1958, he and his brother established Morgan Press Inc. Printers and Typographers, in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.  The Morgan Press Type Collection was the largest of its kind in the United States but simply being a connoisseur was not challenging enough. In the late 1950s, the Morgan Press sold type to designers, launching a retro style reflecting the Victorian or Gilded Age sensibility. In the early 60s they notably provided Pushpin Studios in New York, known at the time for rejecting the cold uniformity of the Modernist design style in favor of more eclectic revivalist graphic mannerisms, with distinct types. Studio member John Alcorn designed “Wood and Foundry Type” catalogs interpreting the Victorian decorative pastiche that are now collector’s items.

The Morgan collection, including type and printers ornaments, is now housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, The Hall of Printing and Graphic Arts.

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5 thoughts on “Typecasting the Sixties

  1. Pingback: Typography: Art Taken For Granted « Fish & Bicycles

  2. Howie Green

    When I first moved to Boston in 1970 there was a guy named TJ Lyons who had an old type shop in Allston/Brighton that was packed floor to ceiling with similar antique wood fonts – it was like a Disneyland for type junkies.  My first freelance job was working with him to sort things out because he had sold a bunch of his fonts to ITC ( I think?) who were going to to “phototype” versions – or something like that. Anyway he was a fun old fellow and knew more about fonts and type than I will ever know and I have very fond memories of that experience as well a few wood font letters that he gave me because they were damaged. LOVE those old decorative fonts. I wonder what ever happend to all those fonts?

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