Johnson Type Foundry Philadelphia

Can anyone give me a rough idea when Mackeller Smiths and Jordan used the Johnson Type Foundry pin mark?

I found some type that for years I thought was a variation of PT Barnum, but I noticed it measured out to about 39 points.

I acquired this font, a very small one, in a bucket of pi that I acquired in my earliest days as a printer.

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In Annenberg’s Type Foundries of America the dates given for Johnson Type Foundry are 1843 to 1860, re-organized in 1867 as MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan. Lawrence Johnson died in 1860, abut the company sold product under that name until 1867.


Do you have a photo of the pinmark? According to Annenberg, there were two iterations of this long-lived foundry with the name “Johnson” in them: “Johnson & Smith” (1833-1843) and (as Paul notes) “L. Johnson & Co” (1843-1860, but still selling under the name “Johnson” until 1867).

David J. Lasko, in his “Pinmarks, Nicks and Grooves” (in Festina Lente, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Feb. 1980) illustrates one pinmark used by L. Johnson & Co. (though he gives the dates 1845-1867) - it is a simple circle with an inscribed equilateral triangle, triangle tips touching the circle. He also notes that “Other variations of their pin mark read L. JOHNSON & CO. PHILA., JOHNSON PHILA FOUNDRY, and JOHNSON FOUNDRY.”

In the 39 point range, A.A.Stewart, writing for the Typothetae in 1918, gives as rough equivalents Two-Line Paragon (40 pt), Two-Line Great Primer (36 pt), and Meridian (44 pt).

In Dave Peat’s reprint of selections from the 1869 MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan catalog, there is a showing of a French Clarendon which looks an awful lot like what became P.T.Barnum (it includes a Two-Line Great Primer size). The specimen page for it, though in an MSJ specimen book, still reads “L. Johnson & Co., Philadelphia” on the bottom of the page.

David M.

A very interesting question. There is some cast type in my collection that definitely came from McKS&J, based on the original design date, yet these fonts bear the L. Johnson & Co. pinmark. I have always assumed that the folks at McKS&J did not immediately change out the pinmarks in the older casters and probably cast type for years and years bearing the Johnson pinmark. I don’t know if anyone would have a definitive answer as to when that practice stopped.


OK. Here’s some more detail. I got out the micrometer and measured the height of the body at 0.530 inches (about 38.3 points based on a point being 1 / 72.27 of an inch).

The pin mark shows: JOHNSON

I’ll try to attach a few photos showing the pin mark, the side of the body and the face of the cap Q.

image: face.JPG


image: body2.jpg


image: Pin.JPG


Hi Arie,

Your font is French Clarendon Extra Condensed according to my 1878 McKS&J catalog and the listed size is Double Paragon. No patent date is listed in that book.

As a note, the cap Q was a poor choice to show as an identification sample simply because most specimen pages do not specifically show that character.


MSJ French Clarendon Extra Condensed is shown on p. 236 of their circa 1892 specimen online at The Internet Archive:

Saxe, in his edition of Loy, lists MSJ French Clarendon Italic as patented 30 Mar 1875, but does not list F C Extra Condensed.

David M.

Thanks, guys. I’ll have to relabel that case.

I picked the Q because it was the cleanest on the side of the type and showed off the pin mark the best when I photographed it. Tried one of the more commonly used letters (an R, I believe) but it didn’t show up well even after cleaning with type wash.

There will be a complete proof in one of the upcoming APA bundles, in all likelihood.

Just a note on typeface identification:

All pre-pantograph punches were cut by hand for each individual size and it is not at all uncommon to try to focus in one one specific detail such as the tail of the Q. Some people get frustrated because they find a sample of something really close but a particular detail is a little off. The sample they are looking at is most likely of another size of that face and the detail differs simply because whoever handcut that size didn’t cut it exactly the same for each size.

What I am saying is that each size of handcut punches are not an EXACT copy, as is the case when different sizes are cut using a pantograph from a “master” pattern.

This is evident, for example, in some of the really old gothics where a lowercase g in a particular size might look nothing like its brethren in other sizes of that face.

This is also a reason why it is good to show several characters from a particular font to help in its identification.


There seems to be some confusion about the Johnson foundry. If the pinmark reads “L. Johnson & Co.” it was cast at the foundry of L. Johnson & Co., up to 1867. After that the foundry became MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan.

HOWEVER, out of affection for their late colleague Lawrence Johnson, the new owners kept the name “The Johnson Foundry” along with their own MS&J name. Pinmarks often have both names. But if the name on the pinmark reads “The Johnson Foundry,” it was produced by MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan after 1867.

Note that the 1867 date is approximate because the name change did not take place immediately (except, I suppose, on legal papers.)

Great information Steve. Very much appreciated.

However I do have one curve to throw at you. I have a few characters of 48 pt. Filigree, patented by McKS&J in 1878. Interestingly enough it has a pinmark that says “L JOHNSON” arched across the top, “& Co.” in the center, and “PHILA.” arched on the bottom.

This is why I stated that McKS&J was still using the L Johnson pinmark.


Good point, Rick. I should not have been quite so absolute about the cutoff date for “L. Johnson & Co.” Clearly that pinmark was kept in use long after the company became MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan.

As a case in point, I remember on an APA tour of American Type Founders Co. some years ago, at least one casting machine had a BB&S pinmark in it, about 40 years after ATF bought BB&S.

Typefounders did not seem to keep in mind our need to be able to date things accurately!

Steve writes:
>Typefounders did not seem to keep in mind our need to be able to date things accurately!

Quite true. When I acquired the last two Thompson Type Casters out of Barco in Chicago (who had in turn acquired LATF, who had acquired Typefounders, Inc. of Phoenix) I received with them two 18 point mold components (“type body pieces,” for Thompson enthusiasts) adapted so as to cast simulated pinmarks on the type. (This was nonstandard, but not particularly difficult. I understand that Baltotype did the same.) These both were pinmarks for “typefounders 18 phoenix”.

So it’s entirely possible that there exists today 18 point type cast using them which was manufactured any time from the early 1960s through about 2011 by any of three companies. It’s even possible that there is type with Phoenix pinmarks in faces that Charlie Broad never had. (For that matter, I could - if I felt in a particularly mischievous mood - create 21st century Phoenix pinmarked type.)

I also wonder about ATF. Right up until the end, they were casting on pivotal casters inherited from two dozen foundries. Does anyone know if they modified them so as not to cast with the old pinmarks?

David M.