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Rock Island Plow Company cultivators ads (1900–1903)

Contributed by Eva Silvertant on Oct 26th, 2021. Artwork published in
circa 1900
.
    The “Blue Ribbon” walking cultivator ad (1900) features Bradley (1895) for the title, De Vinne Condensed (before 1894) for the text on the left, and an unidentified Scotch roman for ‘WALKING CULTIVATOR’.
    Source: www.rockislandplowco.com Rock Island Plow Company. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The “Blue Ribbon” walking cultivator ad (1900) features Bradley (1895) for the title, De Vinne Condensed (before 1894) for the text on the left, and an unidentified Scotch roman for ‘WALKING CULTIVATOR’.

    The Rock Island Plow Company (founded in 1855) produced a wide variety of cultivators over the years (1870s–1920s), amounting to an intriguing collection that “is nearly as staggering as their plow selection”, as described on their website.

    To be honest, I’m no Bram de Does, with a dual interest in typography and agriculture, and so my interest in their selection of cultivators is marginal at best. But of course, what did catch my eye were the beautiful product listings from 1900 to 1903, printed in dark blue, and sporting a myriad of compelling typefaces.

    The “Blue Ribbon” walking cultivator ad shown above features Bradley (1895), a typeface based on 1894 lettering by Will H. Bradley (revived by David Jonathan Ross in 2018 as Bradley DJR). The text “Handsome and Good.” is set in De Vinne Condensed (before 1894).

    See the captions for additional typefaces identified in the images below (note: two typefaces remain unidentified). For more cultivator advertisements of the Rock Island Plow Company, have a look at the company page.

    The “Dictator” cultivator ad (1900) sports Old Style Extended (1892) for the title. The serif typeface on the right side is Jenson Old Style (1893).
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    The “Dictator” cultivator ad (1900) sports Old Style Extended (1892) for the title. The serif typeface on the right side is Jenson Old Style (1893).

    In the “Good Luck” cultivator ad (1900), the title “Good Luck” is set in the quirky Atlanta (1886), the text “Riding Cultivator” is set in De Vinne (1892), and the text underneath—excluding the company’s name—is set in De Vinne Condensed.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    In the “Good Luck” cultivator ad (1900), the title “Good Luck” is set in the quirky Atlanta (1886), the text “Riding Cultivator” is set in De Vinne (1892), and the text underneath—excluding the company’s name—is set in De Vinne Condensed.

    Here is another variant of the “Good Luck” cultivator ad (1900). Set entirely in Jenson Old Style (1893); the small text (“The Best of All.”) seems to be set in something like 14pt Jenson Old Style, while the title is set in something like 24pt Jenson Old Style—hence the more refined appearance of the title.
    Source: www.rockislandplowco.com Rock Island Plow Company. License: All Rights Reserved.

    Here is another variant of the “Good Luck” cultivator ad (1900). Set entirely in Jenson Old Style (1893); the small text (“The Best of All.”) seems to be set in something like 14pt Jenson Old Style, while the title is set in something like 24pt Jenson Old Style—hence the more refined appearance of the title.

    For the “Queen” cultivator ad (1900), a combination of Bradley (1895) and Jenson Old Style (1893) was used.
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    For the “Queen” cultivator ad (1900), a combination of Bradley (1895) and Jenson Old Style (1893) was used.

    “The Nabob” cultivator ad (1900) features Old Style Extended (1892?) for the title, Jenson Old Style (1893) for the text on the left, and an unidentified grotesque at the bottom.
    Source: www.rockislandplowco.com Rock Island Plow Company. License: All Rights Reserved.

    “The Nabob” cultivator ad (1900) features Old Style Extended (1892?) for the title, Jenson Old Style (1893) for the text on the left, and an unidentified grotesque at the bottom.

    The “Defiance” cultivator ad (1900) is set entirely in Jenson Old Style (1893).
    License: All Rights Reserved.

    The “Defiance” cultivator ad (1900) is set entirely in Jenson Old Style (1893).

    The “Veteran” cultivator ad (1903) is set in Jenson Old Style (1893), and an unidentified condensed grotesque.
    Source: www.rockislandplowco.com Rock Island Plow Company. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The “Veteran” cultivator ad (1903) is set in Jenson Old Style (1893), and an unidentified condensed grotesque.

    The “Buford” cultivator ad (1903) is set in Jenson Old Style (1893) and  (1900) for “The ROCK ISLAND”. ‘The’ is from Blanchard Italic (1900).
    Source: www.rockislandplowco.com Rock Island Plow Company. License: All Rights Reserved.

    The “Buford” cultivator ad (1903) is set in Jenson Old Style (1893) and Blanchard (1900) for “The ROCK ISLAND”. ‘The’ is from Blanchard Italic (1900).

    And finally, the “Autocrat” cultivator ad (1903) is set in an intriguing semi-sans typeface (i.e. a sans-serif with the contrast and some other featured borrowed from transitional and didone typefaces) [edit: it’s , see comments], and an unidentified serif typeface for ‘COMBINED RIDER’ & ‘AND WALKER.’ [edit: It’s ]

Interesting to note here is that the first R in ‘RIDER’ takes on a very different form than the other two; it looks like Jenson Old Style might have been used for that initial letter.
    Source: www.rockislandplowco.com Rock Island Plow Company. License: All Rights Reserved.

    And finally, the “Autocrat” cultivator ad (1903) is set in an intriguing semi-sans typeface (i.e. a sans-serif with the contrast and some other featured borrowed from transitional and didone typefaces) [edit: it’s Courts, see comments], and an unidentified serif typeface for ‘COMBINED RIDER’ & ‘AND WALKER.’ [edit: It’s Howland]

    Interesting to note here is that the first R in ‘RIDER’ takes on a very different form than the other two; it looks like Jenson Old Style might have been used for that initial letter.

    Typefaces

    • Bradley
    • De Vinne
    • Jenson Old Style
    • Old Style Extended
    • Atlanta & Victoria
    • Modern/Scotch
    • Blanchard (Inland)
    • Courts
    • Howland
    • unidentified typeface

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    7 Comments on “Rock Island Plow Company cultivators ads (1900–1903)”

    1. Thanks for enriching our collection of typographic examples from the 1900s, Martin! Much appreciated.

      I found the bold italic shown in the last image (“Autocrat”): it’s named Courts. Mac McGrew writes that it was designed by Nicholas J. Werner and issued by the Inland Type Foundry around 1900. Barnhart Brothers & Spindler later offered it under a new name, De Vinne Recut Italic. It was grouped with a roman companion, De Vinne Recut, another renamed Inland design originally known as Woodward, by William A. Schraubstadter.

    2. Wow, great work! How did you find it?

    3. I consulted the De Vinne entry in American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century, and there it was, under its new name, listed as apocryphal addition to the family.

    4. Do you have the book, or is a digital version accessible?

    5. Yes, I have a copy, and I can wholeheartedly recommend the book. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone interested in, well, American metal typefaces of the 20th century. Google has digitized it, but I don’t think preview/search is available online. Some copies are offered online at astronomical prices. However, if you do some digging and have some patience, you should be able to score one for less than $100, which is totally worth it – it has 370+ pages packed with solid info and is fully illustrated.

    6. The unidentified typeface in the last image is Howland. I had briefly considered Howland before, but was thrown off by the alternates. There are at least four different forms for R (and also two for M).

    7. Fantastic!

      Do you know in what way Howland relates to De Vinne? I noticed they might both have been designed in the same year as well, so it doesn’t seem like Howland was banking on the popularity of De Vinne.

    8. Did you see the typeface page about Howland?

      Howland was advertised in The Inland Printer issue from April 1892 as “companion series to De Vinne” (and vice versa – while De Vinne originated at the Central Type Foundry in St. Louis, Dickinson in Boston did cast it, too).

      Dates from this period are often a bit muddy. De Vinne is shown in a Central specimen book dated 1892, in 14 sizes. It’s likely that the design and production started before that year. I don’t know how popular De Vinne was already in April 1892, but at least Dickinson found it a good selling point to link (Central’s) De Vinne and (their own) Howland as stylistically related designs of different width.

    9. I did see the typeface page on Howland, which is where I learned about its association with De Vinne, but the motivations for doing so were not described there. Thank you for the additional information!

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