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Climax Coffee can

Contributed by Stephen Coles on Apr 23rd, 2016. Artwork published in .
Climax Coffee can 1
Source: Image courtesy California State Archives. License: Public Domain.

The front of this can label is all lettering, decorated in typical Victorian “artistic printing” style. The back side uses Italic Gothic, an early humanist-style cursive sans serif.

“ONE DOLLAR” is likely set in one of the generic condensed gothics of the time. Gothic Condensed No. 7, in an 1887 catalog from San Francisco-based Palmer & Rey, is a good match.

This examples comes from a collection of original trademark filings at the California State Archives, recently digitized through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Climax Coffee can 2
Source: Image courtesy California State Archives. License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Italic Gothic



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3 Comments on “Climax Coffee can”

  1. Blythwood says:
    Apr 23rd, 2016 9:12 pm
    I really love seeing early sans-serif italics like this. It’s strange that they went away for so much of the twentieth century. Maybe they seem more normal now that ballpoint pens make handwriting more monoline than in the fountain pen period? But this one is very odd with the straight-sided 'M’ and very condensed capitals. They don’t seem to fit the lower case at all well.
  2. This is striking to me, as it shows the crucial transitional state between calligraphic traces and abandonment of the hand. The small /w and /p look almost like mutilated Caslons.

  3. Yes, you rarely see those elements in an italic sans serif until the rise of the Humanist Sans. Echoes: Goudy Sans Italic (cursive forms) and Gill Sans (p).

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