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Step back in time with the typeface demos of Keystone Type Foundry


he Keystone Type Foundry at 734 Sansom street is run by the Mather Manufacturing Company, and produces many fine faces of type”. This is how an anonymous article in The Inland Printer back in September, 1890, describes an all-American type foundry based in Philadelphia. The former N. W. Ayer & Co. advertising agency, Keystone Type Foundry was established in 1888, had in 1884 purchased the printer’s supply house, Mather Manufacturing Company was absorbed by American Type Founders. Once upon a time, this business trust was representing about 85% of all type manufactured in the United States being the dominant American manufacturer of metal type from its creation in 1892 until at least the 1940s; it continued to be influential into the 1960s.

Thanks to the Tumblr of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a collection of type specimen pages, published in 1910 by the Keystone Type Foundry, reveals the somewhat interesting, weird, strange, almost “poetic vision of daily life in 1910” in the company’s demonstration headlines. “The Keystone Type Foundry, like other vendors of type, published specimen books to illustrate its wares and distributed them to printers who were choosing equipment. The company had outposts in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco (as well as Philadelphia), but clients who lived outside of major metropolitan areas could order supplies by mail” comments Slate’s Rebecca Onion on this trip back to the age of innocence.