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PLINC Bicentennial Alphabets specimen

Contributed by Florian Hardwig on Jul 4th, 2024. Artwork published in .
PLINC Bicentennial Alphabets specimen
Source: Alex Jay, Tenth Letter of the Alphabet. License: All Rights Reserved.

The 1977 Alphabet Yearbook celebrates “Photo-Lettering, Inc.’s 40th year of service to the advertising and graphic arts industry”: the New York phototypesetting company founded by Ed Rondthaler first opened its doors for business in 1936.

The Yearbook was designed by Ed Benguiat, PLINC’s Type Director, with assistance from Tom Vasiliow. Most pages comprise the usual mix of one-line samples and exemplary settings. For page 99, though, the designers had some fun, and did a parody of the opening lines of The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, a.k.a. the United Stated Declaration of Independence, from July 4, 1776:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to use bicentennial alphabets, Photo-Lettering Incorporated presents the largest selection available. We hold these alphabet styles to be

After thirteen lines – one for each of the founding states – the continuous sample text breaks off, but it’s self-evident how it continues.

Benguiat and Vasiliow used eleven styles from nine typefaces, all set in all caps, stacked and justified. Some of the more topical alphabets with stars and stripes were issued in the late 1960s, possibly in anticipation of the United States Bicentennial in 1976. Others are much older: Eighteen Ninety, Carousel and Eventide go back to the first half of the 20th century. The oldest design is Algonquin – it was first cast by the Dickinson Type Foundry in Boston around 1888.

From top to bottom, the featured styles are:

Brave and Free (uncredited, possibly derived from an existing plain style, before 1970)
Pacella Cobbler Shaded A (Vincent Pacella, late 1960s)
Cavanagh Eighteen Ninety (John Albert Cavanagh, before 1950, stretched)
Gonzales Pioneer Shaded (Francisco Gonzales, 1969)
Pacella Cobbler (Vincent Pacella, late 1960s)
Davison Carousel G (Dave Davison, before 1950)
Papirtis Washington (Charles Papirtis, 1967)
Pacella Monitor (Vincent Pacella, a variant of Cordina with stars and stripes, c.1968)
Carlyle Eventide (Paul Carlyle, c.1938)
Gonzales Pioneer A (Francisco Gonzales, 1969)
Algonquin Shaded (a.k.a. Algonquin Ornamented, John F. Cumming, c.1888)

1 Comment on “PLINC Bicentennial Alphabets specimen”

  1. Thanks for posting this! My dad was eighteen in 1977 and has always told me how big of a deal the bi-centennial was to his generation. I think that mainly just means 4th of July was awesome that year. But I will say, seeing this maybe does suggest he was right about there being some extra patriotism in the air that summer.

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