Monday, April 30, 2012

Mayflower Power

Nothing says May Day more than some fine hand-lettered mastheads from The Mayflower magazine. (Guess it is time to dust the snow off the Letterology masthead itself as Spring is in full color and I'm late for the party.) The Mayflower magazine was founded by noted horticulturist John Lewis Childs (1856-1921) in 1885. When it folded over 20 years later, it had reached an international circulation of half a million copies. Childs also established one of the first mail order seed catalogs in the US, based in Floral Park, Long Island and was receiving up to 8000 orders per day. By 1892 he had several hundred acres with glass greenhouses, seed beds, seed stores, housing, a lumber mill, and a printing press where he employed numerous nameless artists to design his elaborately illustrated magazines and seed catalogs. Nearly every issue of The Mayflower monthly displayed an entirely hand-rendered, new or modified masthead. Child's magazine and seed catalogs soon became wildly successful and he went on to build the first school in Floral Park, served as the first town mayor and later NY state senator, and ran two unsuccessful campaigns for US Senator. 
      The colorful 1892 issue of The Mayflower above is from American Gardening. All of the other magazine covers shown below are listed by dates in consecutive order. The 1893 through 1896 issues are from Period Paper. 1899 through 1902 issues are from here. May the seeds of these lovely lettering and cover designs, cast by countless unnamed artists, provide lasting inspiration to your own typographic endeavors. 


  1. WOW! Another astonishing gift from you. These magazine titles seem to be on par with the finest sheet music covers of that era. I wonder if American pen artists felt less hampered by typographical tradition than their European peers?

  2. Great question Justin! Some of the American lettering artists of this era do seem to be a bit more flamboyant. This holds true certainly with some of the seed catalog covers and songsheets as you say, but then I look at some of the late 18th C billheads from France or England and they knock me over. I'm going to keep your question in mind as I continue to explore for more of these treasures. I'm happy to learn you are enjoying them!

    Best wishes,
    Jennifer Kennard

  3. Yes, yes, and yes to a new masthead...I've been waiting....Brrrrr! It looks like packaging for ice cubes you can buy in bags at gas stations, etc., here in Canada.

    Thanks for the nice site you have here. I post images from it onto Pinterest, and always get lots of repins. Ramona Ruhland

  4. Ok, okay already! I'm pedaling as fast as I can! Everything will come up Spring here day soon. Please stand by...our operators are working on this! ; )


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