Old NYC Subway Serif Fonts

Can any one ID the serif fonts used in the old NYC subway mosaics? I realize that each mosaic has a slightly different version of a serif font but if you know anything about any of them, I would greatly appreciate it. Even if you just know of a similar serif font, that would be great, too. Thanks!


I expect that the letters were made from templates that were done for NYC Transit Authority, and not based on a specific typeface. Those E's certainly don't look like anything I've seen before, except on those subway signs (I'm originally from NYC myself).

As for anything similar, Cheltenham or Cushing are styles that I think are old-ish. You could search for 1900s serifs at MyFonts. I suspect you could make a lot of fonts look right if you put them in the mosaic frames and backgrounds.

- Mike Yanega

Not a match, but Bonning has that Edwardian feeling.

Takea look at Paul Shaw's book on NYC subway signage.


I'm fairly certain the font is Cheltenham. It was designed in the late 1890s and made available commercially around 1903, just in time for Heins & LaFarg, the architects of the new subway system, to incorporate into their designs. There is considerable variation in the typeforms in the subway mosaics based on Cheltenham, but the giveaway are the cap A, the cap G, the cap R and the cap S.Significant variants in the font based on Cheltenham are the cap E and the cap S. Doesn't matter. It's genius all the way around.