Then and Now
It all started in a typography class I took from Professor Archie Provan at RIT during the summer of 1980. He mentioned in class that someone should research and write about the type designer Morris Benton, since so little was known about him. RIT Professor Alexander Lawson had also voiced that same concern years before. I took them up on it, went through the Columbia University Rare Book Library’s collection of books and papers from the American Type Founders (ATF) Company, researched the Bentons in old Inland Printer magazines and many other sources, interviewed Morris’s daughter Carol in Milwaukee, visited ATF in New Jersey, and talked to and corresponded with many type enthusiasts. My advisor, RIT Professor Herbert H. Johnson, helped me all the way through the process, and I defended my thesis on the Bentons in May 1986.
Slightly over four years ago, on January 26, 2011, the first copies of my book, based on but greatly expanded from that thesis, arrived at the RIT Press from the printers. Since then many people who have read the book have found out probably more than they ever wanted to know about the Bentons. I’m still in touch with Morris’s grandson, Larry Gregg, who gave the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Collection many original documents from his family’s papers.
Rich Hopkins edits the Newsletter for the present-day ATF (American Typecasting Fellowship) Newsletter. He let me know that Rick von Holdt of the Foolproof Press, who lives on a farm outside Des Moines, wrote an article that appeared in the February 2014 issue of the Newsletter, in which von Holdt questioned whether Morris Benton had ever really designed ANY type at all, since, as the head of the type design department at the American Type Founders Company, Morris had a staff that might have done all the designing. I wrote a reply to that article and Rich agreed to publish it in the ATF Newsletter. I suspect, based on von Holdt’s arguments, that he hasn’t seen my book, and he must not have heard about a very important internal memo that Morris wrote to one of his colleagues at the American Type Founders Company in 1936. The original carbon copy of this memo, given to me by Larry Gregg and now held in the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT, was a critical ingredient in my research.
My reply to von Holdt is posted on a March 28, 2015 entry to this blog.