Smithsonian Wood Type Exhibit

Last year marked the 30th Anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution/National Museum of American History/Hall of Printing and Graphic Arts’ exhibition on American Wood Type. Specifically, it was the wood type from the Morgan Collection that was obtained by the Smithsonian.

The exhibition was entitled “The Fat and the Lean: American Wood Type in the 19th Century” and opened in June of 1983.

As some of you know, the Morgan’s had an extensive collection of wood type as described on page 224 of Rob Roy Kelly’s book on American Wood Type. Willard Morgan, and his two sons, Lloyd and Douglas, accumulated the largest collection of wood types in the United States. Morgan Press also worked with Headliners, Inc. to distribute reproduction proofs of the type back in the 1960s. This sort of revitalized the look of wood type in graphic design of that era.

According to the program’s introduction, the exhibition celebrated the arrival of the Morgan collection and the beginning of a new “Typecenter” for research in American typography.

I’m hoping some folks on the Briar Press list can enlighten us with more details on the Smithsonian exhibition. Perhaps Steve Saxe or Stan Nelson have pictures of the exhibits. Who knows, maybe there is even some film footage from home movies or news coverage.

Ideally, it would be great to show some photos at the upcoming APA Wayzgoose at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, WI this June.

Anyone with photos stashed away that they could post here? Any memories of attending the exhibition they could share with us here as well?

Thanks Much!


Log in to reply   1 reply so far

The Hall of Printing and Graphic Arts
June 1983
This was the program’s Introduction page written by Elizabeth M. Harris:

The National Museum of American History recently acquired the Morgan family’s remarkable collection of 19th Century type, and has brought it together with several related collections already at the Museum.

The exhibition “The Fat and the Lean” celebrates the arrival of that treasury of typographic history, and with it the beginning of a new center for record and research in American typography.

The major components of the new “Typecenter” are:

Type matrices from the American Type Founders Co.: several thousand sets of matrices, mostly from the period 1880-1920 but including some hundred earlier examples;

Matrix pattern drawings from the American Type Founders Co.: about 500 sets of original drawings for pantographic copying, 1910-35

Wood type: 1830-1900, mostly from the collection of the Morgan Press of New York as displayed in the company’s type catalog Wood2;

Foundry type: 1850-1900, mostly form the collection of the Morgan Press, and shown in the company’s catalog Morgan Press Foundry Type;

Printers’ cuts, ornaments, rules, and dingbats: a collection of 1000-odd items, 1850-1900;

A library of manuals, catalogs, monographs, and other material concerned with the history and technology of the type industry in America.

image: FatLeanCover.jpg