New York Times text and headings letterforms used to report Yankees news from 1920-1934

Kurt's picture

Right now, I am specifically interested in the various letterforms used by the New York Times between 1920-1934 to report Yankees news. I'm not sure if there was any difference between sports news and other news, so I thought I'd better be specific. I've found various references to changes in typefaces used over the years, but am unable to confirm the above date range. I suspect Morris Fuller Benton's Cheltenham of 1906 might still have been in use for text or headline, but I'm not sure it would have been used for this purpose.

For future reference, has anyone put together or know of a full history of New York Times typefaces from the inception of the paper to present? (Perhaps a chart?) I have captured some pieces of it from various articles and sources, but never seem to have just what is needed!



kthomps5's picture

I'm sure there are type historians on this board who can give you the answers you seek, but out of curiosity I downloaded an article about the Yankees from the June 18, 1925, NYT to see what I could see.

The headline seems to be a version of Latin, which began life as wood type in about 1860. There are digital versions:

The article also includes three subheads in what looks to be Alternate Gothic or something similar (in the last subhead, a homer by Lou Gehrig is mentioned as preventing a shut-out).

The reproduction is so poor and the body text so small I can't get a clear enough image to ID it.

Kurt's picture

Thank you for your response!

Apparently, the Times has had a reputation of being slow to change - and probably for good reason. It seems whenever a change is made (and even small ones), newspapers somehow lose subscribers. It seems not all of us humans embrace change! Using a wood type lettering into the later 1920's is therefore not surprising.

While not my original question, the large number and variety of typefaces used is intriguing: text, headers, sections, headlines, masthead, section titles (and probably more). Is it possible the variety was designed to speed the typesetters in their efforts?

kthomps5's picture

Kurt, I don't think the variety of typefaces was intentional, but a gradual evolution as printing developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

My great-grandfather and grandfather were both newspaper publishers and commercial printers. They followed the conventions of their respective eras (which spanned 1870–1960) when it came to buying and setting type. Contrast between headlines and text--both in size and type style--was a given, and subheads were usually in yet another style, often a sans serif, for additional emphasis and differentiation.

Cold metal and wood type weren't exactly cheap, and you spent the majority of your budget on text sizes. If you splurged for display fonts, you chose carefully and used them whenever you could. Hot metal type casting (which cast complete lines of type) used matrices that also weren't cheap, so even as styles changed you tended to mix the old with the new.

At a large paper like the New York Times, the work was so segmented by section of the paper that each developed its own distinctive typographic quirks over time, with only the text and major headline styles remaining constant across all sections.

Kurt's picture

Thank you for this additional information! I am pleased it is now "of record" on Typophile. In a few short generations, too much of this knowledge will sadly be lost.

It is beginning to sound like an historical record of Times typography might not be available. To accomplish my immediate mission, it sounds like I need to find some related articles in their archives and work to identify the type from there. (However, I might still try to contact the Times...)

kthomps5's picture

Of course, the nameplate of the NYT has been discussed on this forum before:

Kurt's picture

Thanks again! I had found the discussion of the nameplate, but had only seen condensations of the other article. The full text is very helpful and I think perhaps the most detailed single piece on various typefaces used by the Times --and it even offers up some names who might be able to shed further light on the subject...

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