Hello, my name is Anna Seslavinskaya. This summer and autumn I am in the Silicon Valley as a partner of digital project Hello Baby (must-have app for new Moms👼🏻👩🏻👼🏼). I’m the visual brand identity master and letterer and this trip was a great opportunity to gain new knowledges.
I was glad to visit The Richard Harrison and The Robert Grabhorn Book Collections at The San Francisco Public Library. So, I decided to share the most interesting articles and photos from some beautiful typography mags and books.
Today it will be the first issue of beautiful sign-painter’s magazine «Letterheads, a magazine about the keepers of our craft»

Best of the “Letterheads”: premier issue, april 1996

About our cover: The W.D. McArthur shop of Chicago

The issue’s cover photograph was brought to our attention by noted California signman Rick Glawson. The turn of the century photo comes from the collection of Lyle Fisk, Ramona, California.

As the facade of this shop bears some closer scrutiny, let’s take a look. Of the many panels on display, the word SIGNS appears no less than fifteen times. Each panel being a sample of the type of work available there…

Painter and friend, Phil Gerhart, dropped off a shoebox of old photos at Lyle’s shop thinking they might be of some interest to him. Lyle soon realized the photos in that old shoebox were like a time capsule of the past. Thanks to Lyle and everyone before him who passed on the shoebox, as we are now afforded a glimpse of this magnificent shop.

So, on the back of the photo, in faded grease pencil, is the above inscription by Chicago signman Roscoe Creery:

“W.D. McArthur shop at 2627 Cottage Grove Ave. At the time of this picture, about 1907, Chicago had the reputation of producing the most artistic signs of any city in the country. Frank Atkinson was the artist and foreman and considered the best and most rapid signpainter in the country. I worked under him for 3 years in this shop He could get the same results with either hand. I saw them all. This was the most attractive shop in Chicago. They did sign work for 4 different breweries, Kelley’s — Cook’s — Seip’s & McAvey’s. 4 breweries within a radius of 4 blocks from the shop. The last I heard Atkinson in 1953 was still living in Jackson, Miss.Broke, like the rest of us, wind up.”

The Mask story

Andrew Mack started his unique brush making company in 1891 and ran it until his death, at the age of 86, in 1946. At this time his son Glenwood, who had been involved on and off since 1911, took over full ownershio. In 1961, the company was purchased by a friend of the family, Jon M.(Mike) Fast, and to this day continues with the Mask tradition. His involvement with Letterheads has made him many a talented friend and also through the years, quite the collector of painted panels created in those artists’ signature styles. Feeling a mere “Thank You” insufficent, he contacted David Butler to produce a limited edition of “Pinstripers Hall of Fame” glass pieces with which to recriprocate. Now in Jonesville, Michigan, where it all began over 100 years ago and continues to this day, is the “Andrew Mack Pinstripers Hall of Fame’, paying tribute to those who have paid their dues with the sword. To find out more, call Mike at 517–849–9272. Your work just might be the next to be included in this unique display.

Did I do that?😓

Looking out the front door of your shop, you see a truck pull up and this guy grabs up a signboard and makes his way to the studio. “I believe it’s time I had you touch this up.” he says. You examine the vaguely familiar panel and think “did I do that?” Oh sure you did, back when you werw younger. Now it’s time for a new sign, so how would you do it today? That’s what we’ll bw doing here. This sign, done in 1979 by Doc Welty, will be redone and we’ll share it with you in the next issue along with another sign in need of replacement by David Butler.

Now that we’ve got the ball rolling on this, send us your repaints for “did I do that?”


This has to be Lola’s favirite page of AMAL. Letterheads, billhears and ink blotters like these were the norm in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Take a magnifying glass and spend some quality time here.

Out of the past

San Francisco was a burgeoning frontier city when the European Hotel opened to provide rest and a meal to the tired and dusty traveler.

The proprietor proudly hung out his glases beer signs, two for Cascade Lager and one for Yosemite Lager, to invite the thirsty in for an invigorating beverage.

These signs were made by Dawes Mfg. of Pittsburg, PA. The Yosemite sign is marked “Bachrach & Cordes — 212 Sansome St., San Francisco.” B & C was the litho house that provided the transfers of rhe seal and poppies at the top of the sign and sold the job. Dawes maintained a sales office at the litho company and the two worked together on these signs. Several Yosemite Beer signs were produced but few Yosemite Lager Signs. The surviving sample shown here is one of only four or five known to exist today.

Men of letters

Some stayed home, other hit the road and worked alone, but they all grew old.

  1. Road men: Frank & Harvey Williamson 🚗

Took their painting & lettering show on the road and never looked back

2. Home men: like George P. Corner 🏡

Put down roots, set up shop and let world come to them

3. Snapper: the “Duke of York” 🕵🏼

A vagabond spirit roamed from place to place at his whimsey and work led

Alf Becker, John Hagop Kasabian, Mr. Bancroft
Bob Fitzgerald. Traveling man and author of some books on managing a sign business never forgot how to ride a bicycle and neither should you.
Hitch up ole Nelliebelle to the wagon and get downtown to lay some gold on Jack Scovio’s Butcher Shop window and get back to the shop before dark.
The really up-to-date sign shops were sporting some pretty nice work trucks in… what year is that truck Monte, 1920?

Dead or alive (craftsmen of the past)

Too many of our finest craftsmen have passed into obscurity. It is our hope at AMAL(a magazine about letterheads) to be able to uncover some information about these people and afford them the recognition to which they are entitled.

We, Therefore, put out a call to all Letterheads for information, photos, samples and portraits of anyone you consider worthy of recognition. This might be a mentor, friend or well-known personality. In addition to any names you may wish to submit, we offer the following list for your inspection. Any information you might provide would be much appreciated and duely noted.

W.D. Tate, F.Queille, Val Costello, Duke Wellington, Alf Becker, Frank Atkinson, E.C.Mathews, H.C. Martin, C.J.Strong, R.Henderson, J.Ohnimus, Ed Duvel, R.Gregory, Ray LeBlanc, J.M. Bergling, Dick Blick, Sam Kamin, Izzy Posner, J.N.Halstead, King Cole Black, Selander Bros., Fred Watrin, W.H. Abott, G.W. Pate, John Collenutt, A.R. Hussey, A. Blakley, Virgil DeClair, George Wells, Harry Bridwell, Ashmun Kelly and Duke Mills.

Sign Painting School, circa 1920 | Show card shop utilizing hand-lettered and silkscreened processes, circa 1926

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