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Any ideas on what this might be? I thought I had some thoughts, such as Bell Gothic or even a derivation of Steelplate Gothic, but it's neither of those, and I could just use your expertise.

This is on the window of an old shoe company storefront. Company established in 1889, but they moved to the building this type appears on in 1923.

Thanks in advance!


Is it painted by a sign-writer? Is it just me or are the arms of the two T's different lengths?

I'm guessing that this is the type of letter that influenced Gotham. If you go down the compressed end of the Gotham spectrum you might be getting close-ish.

Public spaces are teeming with handmade sans serifs that share the same underlying structure, an engineer's idea of "basic lettering" that transcends both the characteristics of their materials and the mannerisms of their craftsmen.

Extract from Gotham. What letters look like.

The apostrophe suggests something handmade to me.

It's definitely handmade, curves of the S, even thet they weren't always well done in old typefaces, look hand-painted to me. Reminds me shop typography in Vienna or Berlin from 1900-1930

I realize it's handpainted, but so clean I still believe it's based on an existing design.
And since it was done in the 20s or 30s, it would have to have been an older face.
But you're right, Nick -- this does look like just the thing H&FJ were seeking to get the spirit of in Gotham.

This looks like one of the standard lettering hands used in shop windows throughout the 20th Century in the USA. If there is a digital face, it copied the lettering.

>>>I realize it's handpainted, but so clean I still believe it's based on an existing design.

Yeah, 'The right way to sign-write letters' is a real but notional typeface that exists in all our heads to a lesser or greater extent, admit it. The one who did this had the remarkable gift of making something notional a physical reality. And I guess that's why Gotham has become so popular - F-J &co have intuitively managed to digitise something that everyone (or at least the vast majority) was thinking and that is surely its great strength. It's so familiar and that gives it, and therefore us, a great sense of confidence and security.

Let's be clear, however, that without this sort of prehistoric sign-writing genius, there would be no Gotham for us all to be designing everything with. What do you reckon?

>>>If there is a digital face, it copied the lettering.
And so you could argue that there is very little authentic about Gotham...but who are the ones who are laughing all the way to the bank?

Is there a thread entitled 'In praise of Gotham'? If not I might start one.

ok so i took and redrew it from what i could see it as. I actually came to find out the E was perfectly angled but the angles on the I seemed to be offset. As far as influences the closest I came with my results was pf-din http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/parachute/pf-din-text-cond-pro/medium/

"E was perfectly angled but the angles on the I seemed to be offset."
In lettering and type design, the eye tells a story that the ruler does not hear. Look closely at any decent typeface, even a geometric sans, and see what the hand must do to please the eye--just leave the ruler behind :-)

Strangely enough, watching a sign painter lettering my dad's "new" 1951 Chevy truck is what got me interested in type. Here is an old degraded photo:

LHF Egyptian is based on this style of hand-painted sign writing.

- Lex

Nice link, Lex. Not a million miles away from Device Fonts' Ministry which is based on the typeface used by the Ministry of Transport for signage prior to Transport.

Is that really an Egyptian? Odd name?

Chuck, thanks for this picture, it's a beauty. BTW your website link's not working.

According to Paul Shaw, the reason there are a lot of old signs around that look similar to one another, and to Gotham, is that there were guide books of alphabets for architects and sign painters for letters on buildings. I haven't seen any of these, though.

Bill, nice throwing down of the gauntlet. I would love to see a guidebook like this. I vaguely remember seeing something of that ilk but I would not begin to know where I saw it.

The form of the Z in Chris's photo is just like that of LHF Egyptian. Surely there must be some convention underpinning the lettering?

I too would be interested to see a potential source.

That Z is the natural outcome of using a flat brush.

Paul Shaw, who has an amazing knowledge of the history of letters and type, is the one to ask about this: http://paulshawletterdesign.blogspot.com/

Bill, in this case, there is no mystery or theory. I watched him do it. He was a kind old guy with a bit of liquor on his breath but he patiently explained his whole process to the little kid with skinned knees and insatiable curiosity about the "mystery" of lettering. The next day, I was in my grandfathers basement, trying out my newly-found "obsesion" with letters. Not much has changed in 60 years ;-)

Great story, Chris.

I was talking about the original post, and the reason a lot of type from the era is that way. Of course once a sign painter or stone carver mastered an alphabet, they would just go with it, and do their own variations. I don't know to what extent printed models were an influence, but that's what Paul Shaw said when I went on one of his "type walks" in New York City.