Monday, January 27, 2014

Mister Courtesy and Friends

Meet Mister Courtesy, the smiley-faced man with a bow tie and funny cap, who might make a better Mr. T. He was once the official brand character for the Tradewell grocery store chain which had a large presence in the Northwest in the 1950s until mid-1980s. Though long ago retired, Mister Courtesy was once a distinguished resident in the stores—seen on grocery bags, in newspaper advertisements, and on every plastic employee badge—often surrounded by what appears to be a halo of Futura type. I rescued this badge for a quarter's ransom, where it sat in a pile of odds & ends on a flea market table. His smiling face now rests comfortably on my bookshelf amongst some type and lettering books. I could think of worse places to retire I guess.

This advertisement was published in the Shelton-Mason County Journal in 1959. The earlier stores of that era could be spotted from space by a gigantic condensed slab-serifed T—the size of a two-story house—as can be seen in this photo from my local Wedgwood neighborhood blog.

The slab-serif type was also used in other signage for the Tradewell stores and appears to me as if it might have originated from a newspaper advertisement or circular, likely set by a job printer. 
::Source: Vintage Everyday

The Typographic Character Trademark Defined

Finding Mister T, as I prefer to call him, got me thinking the other day about the many character trademarks designed from letterforms. These marks became widespread in the early 1920s, particularly in Germany, where designers preferred the modern, bold strokes popularized by poster designers of the day. As advertising increased in the 1940s and 50s, so did character trademarks. However, most of them were designed as actual cartoon mascots, instead of those made with letterforms. As a result, I feel the term trademark character is unfair and much too confusing. It does not appropriately distinguish the typographic version, so I prefer to add the term anthrotypes to this graphic lexicon, which seems a more perfect analogy to describe these little typographic mascotsThey are anthropomorphic characters constructed of letterforms, designed to humanize and establish appealing personalities for business. These little anthrotypes, (OR trademark characters if you prefer) are also another reminder of just how closely the letter structure is identified with the human form. When we speak of the letter's anatomy, we often describe the legs, arms, shoulders, and spine to identify it. Naturally, the letter's K and R are most frequently used anthrotypes, because they essentially have two legs already. Others are constructed with combinations of letters—usually with the initials of the company name. I've included some of these endearing little lettermen (and letterwomen in one example) from various resources on my bookshelves. Captions and credits follow at end. 

From top L to R: 1 | Watt A. G. (electric lamps), 1922, British Trademarks of the 1920s & 30s, John Mendenhall
2 | The O-P Craft Company, Inc. (Household decorating kits), 1922, Trademarks of the 40s & 50s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
3 | J.H. Pelt A.G. (Clothing), 1934, Early Modernism, Swiss & Austrian Trademarks 1920-1950, John Mendenhall
4 | Gasum (musical instruments) designed by Karl Schulpig, 1923, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
5 | C. Bolle Co. (Dairy), designed by Karl Schulpig, 1923, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
6 | Chemischen Fabrik Oberschöneweide (chemical company), designed by Karl Schulpig, 1921, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
7 | George Mason & Co. Ltd. (sauces and jellies), 1934, British Trademarks of the 1920s & 30s, John Mendenhall
8 | Arabia Kaffee-Tee (imported coffee and tea), 1932, Early Modernism, Swiss & Austrian Trademarks 1920-1950, John Mendenhall
9 | Patcraft, Inc. (cotton rugs & carpets), 1953, Trademarks of the 40s & 50s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
10 | Thüringer Mützenfabrik (hats), 1921, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
11 | Krisp-Pak, Inc. (soup mix and salad greens), 1956, Trademarks of the 40s & 50s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
12 | Kapman Aktiebolag, (handtools), 1963, Sweden, Character Trademarks, John Mendenhall 
13 | G. Kruegrer Brewing Co., (beer and ale), 1935, Trademarks of the 20s & 30s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
14 | Master Vibrator Co. (space heaters), 1956, Trademarks of the 40s & 50s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
15 | Roma Wine Co. (wines), 1943, Character Trademarks, John Mendenhall 
16 | Reica S. A. (industrial products), 1928, Early Modernism, Swiss & Austrian Trademarks 1920-1950, John Mendenhall
17 | Runnymede Mills, Inc., (hosiery), 1955, Trademarks of the 40s & 50s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
18 | Richmond Radiator Co. Inc. (bath fixtures), 1936, Trademarks of the 20s & 30s, Eric Baker and Tyler Blik
19 | Weiner-Feinkost (fruit & vegetable juices), 1928, Early Modernism, Swiss & Austrian Trademarks 1920-1950, John Mendenhall
20 | Mensing Co. (men's clothing), 1924, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
21 | Frankendruck Inc. (printer), 1925, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
22 | Bernhard Kass Inc. (children's clothing?), 1925, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
23 | Havengo Tobacco (tobacco), 1924, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
24 | Sitos Hats (hatmaker), designed by Wilhelm Deffke, 1923, The New American Logo, Gerry Rosentsweig 
25 | California Literacy (proposed logo), designed by Irene Yap, 1992, The New American Logo, Gerry Rosentsweig
26 | Deutscher Sparkassen Und Giroverband (savings bank), 1925, German Trademarks, Leslie Carbarga
27 | John Evans Design (design studio), designed by John Evans, 1993, The New American Logo, Gerry Rosentsweig

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fine Dining

A table of mid-century menu delights from the New York Public Library

From the top: Mon Cher Ton Ton, 1969; La Ronde; Riche Teatergrillen; Strand Hotel at Terrass, 1959; Alte Gasthaus Leve; Restaurant Cuttelin, 1961; Four Seasons; P1; Pronto Ristorante; Russian Tea Room, 1976; Berkeley; Maxim's, 1954; Drug Store, 1966; Palais Roya, 1966, Jean Cocteau; Sugar Bowl, 1965; Rules; Restaurant Ritz, and many more taste treats to sample here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Colossal Establishment

Jeremiah Rotherham & Co. Ltd. was a large mercantile department store in Shoreditch, London. When this 1904 catalog and price list was issued, this enterpising company sold everything from soap to bicycles, clothing, hardware and art supplies. It was described as "a colossal establishment" of it's time, until the store was sadly destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. This entire catalog and price list is made available by the Winterthur Library and the Internet Archive. Especially noted are the nice lettering layouts for various packaging and advertising. 

Source: English Heritage, National Monuments Record. Photo taken in 1894.

Source: COSGB