Tuesday, February 23, 2021

American Calligraphy #9: Wild West wood

 ABCs of the USA: The stories behind America’s most distinctive calligraphy styles. 

These letters are built up out
of 2 simple serifs, 2 curved
horizontal strokes, and
a square tilted at 45°.

This late 19th-century type was carved from blocks of America's plentiful hardwood, better-suited than metal for making large letters because metal does not cool evenly at sizes over one inch. In addition, America's plentiful softwoods provided cheap pulp to make poster-size paper. The western expansion that followed the Civil War brought these styles to many new printing shops along the frontier, making the iconic "WANTED: Dead or Alive" poster an emblem of the wild West. even though the frontier was steadily turning from a place into myth. 
    Wild West is made of a few basic strokes. Here's how they fit

The letters for this 2011 exhibition at Columbia
College, New York, make a dramatic display of
this alphabet's scalability; they are still the largest
printable  type in the world, now housed at
Hamilton Wood Type Museum,Two Rivers,
WI. Photo courtesy of Nick Sherman.

This cartoon spoofs the macho image of Wild
West letters. Source: New Yorker Cartoon
Bank, TCB-138085. Artist Ariel Molvig. 

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