update on “three interesting pieces”

Just want to update you on “three interesting pieces”, Thanks to Foolproof’s efforts two pieces were identified. The third a rifle with three ducks was identified by Dave Tribby of American Amateur Press. He saw it in a Sterling Type Foundry catalog and suggested I contact Dave Churchman of Sterling. Mr. Churchman emailed me almost immediately with the following, “The casting originated, not with our little foundry, but with the MUCH larger American Type Founders Co. (ATF). I’m not sure when, but it is not new. I have an ATF catalog from 1961 and it is shown in there on p 3 under “Typecast Antiques”… These “antiques” (and there are over 40 of them illustrated) almost all date from the 19th Century and originated, in some cases, from European foundries. Dr. James Eckman—a printing historian of great repute—wrote an article about the origin of some of these little cuts. I can give you the book title and details if you’d like to pursue that avenue. And if you have access to a fax machine, I can fax you the referenced page from the June, 1961 brochure… They were, I believe, used mostly in newspaper advertising for auction houses (especially farm auctions), furniture stores, restaurants, chemists (drug stores), oculists and other trades and amusements (plays, operas, et al). As to who might have first drawn these little gems, I have NO idea. Let me know if I can help further… Kind regards, ~ Dave Churchman”
As I didn’t have a fax machine Dave very kindly mailed me the information. The earliest depiction seems to be in the 1923 ATF Specimen book on page 801 and Dave thought that the original design may have been conceived and executed by ATF between 1912 and 1923. He said there are a couple of supplements (1915 & 1917) in between the two large books that if he can locate them he will see if the hunting dingbat is in there. I am very appreciative of Briar Press, American Amateur Press Association and Sterling Type Foundry for their efforts to help me identify these three pieces. Sterling Type Foundry is located in Indianapolis Indiana so those of you living in that area probably already know of him but those that don’t stop in and let Dave help you with your letterpress supplies.
Thanks again,

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Yup! There it is on page 801 of the 1923 ATF catalog. I was honestly looking for something much larger in size. I would have guessed it to be between 48 and 72 pts. from the detail in your original photo.

It does NOT appear in ATF’s 1917 supplement.


Thanks Rick, You would be right in your guess as it is 5 picas, which I think translates into 60 pts? Thanks for seeing if it was in the 1917 supplement. I am not surprised it was found to be around the same age as the two you identified for me. I listed those two on ebay for my friend so we will see what happens with them,
Rick can you tell me what the difference is in an “Ad-Art Ornament” and a “dingbat”? I am trying to understand the terminology a little better.
Thanks so much,

Hi Gail,

The “Ad-Art Ornament” referred to a specific set of ornaments shown on that particluar page of the BB&S book. That is simply what they called that particular series of designs. Don’t know offhand what the specific definition of a dingbat is, but I have always used that term to describe small (24pt. or less) geometric elements.

Now you really have me going nuts on the gun/duck cut. The one shown in the ATF and Sterling catalogs is only 36pt. tall. Are you sure you aren’t looking at the width being the 60 pt.? The height (pt. size) on your piece would be the shortest distance.


oops! Maybe I did measure it incorrectly. I just measured the shorter side now exactly as the picture I submitted and that measures 3 picas. I previously measured the longer side before to get 5 picas. The nick is in the front of the shorter side (if that helps)
The defination of a dingbat may be me :)


Perfect! That’s the size shown in ATF and Sterling. It is really hard to try to determine the origin date because, as Dave says, ATF “borrowed” most of the things on that page from European foundries and they probably are 19th century for the most part.


Thank you Rick, Appreciate your input and your help on these cuts. It sure would be interesting to be able to find the European foundry it might have come from and why it was designed in the first place and for whom. That is a mystery that probably can never be solved but I am very happy having the info we do have.
Dave sent me 3 pages of James Eckman’s “Heritage of the Printer” published in 1965, I am going to have to look for that at the library as it seems like a very facinating read.The part he sent was on the Oddities of the American Frontier from Switzerland. It talks about the Haas Foundry and I noticed a lot of my father’s type sets came from that foundry, as a matter of fact the two I am selling now are from Haas. I never realized that they began in the middle of the Sixteenth Century and is the oldest type foundry in the world. Well I am sure I am not telling you something you don’t already know but it is all very interesting!
Thanks again Rick,