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Vintage Stencil Fonts - Guide

astype font library of historic stencil type designs and overview of major stencil manufacturers, brands, organized by country

 

I would like to say that my lists are by no means complete. Especially in the field of Grotesque, Gothic (Sans Serif) stencil designs there are many varieties. I have tried to list all the historical manufacturers and brands that I know of. The period covers about 1840 until the 1970s.

Today you can order almost any stencil design in China in various materials. In DIY stores or in the Internet trade such products are offered on which then any brand can be seen, but this is not really the manufacturer. This practice has also led to the fact that the originally bound to a certain country stencil designs are now distributed globally.


 

United States of America, USA

Stencil Manufacturers:

| S.W. Reese & Co. in Chicago, IL., 1876
| Eugene L. Tarbox, 87 Nassau St., ca. 1830 -> later
| New York Stencil Works, 87 Nassau St., ca. 1868
| General Stencils, Inc. Brooklyn, New York, ca. 1950
| Stafford Mfg. Co., Inc., 66 Fulton St., Brooklyn, New York, 1874
| C. H. Hanson Co. Chicago, Illinois, 1866
| S.G. Monce, Inc.
| The Fletcher-Terry Company, Forestville, Connecticut, 1868
| Sears Roebuck and Co.
| ...

Trademarks:

Reeses (Eureka) later Hanson, Stencil Outfit, Carragan, Dunlap, General, Staffords

Stencil Machine
Manufacturers:

| Bradley Stencil Machine Co., St. Louis, Moissouri, 1893
| Diagraph Stencil Machine Corp. St. Louis, Mo., 1900
| Diagraph-Bradley Stencil Machine Corp. St. Louis, Mo., 1937
| Ideal Stencil Machine Co., Belleville, Illinois, 1911
| Marsh Stencil Machine Co., Belleville, Illinois, 1922
| *Garvey, Universal, MagicMarker (UK) and ACE (Australia) are rebranded Diagraph machines

 

Single Stencil Plate Designs

The Roman, a Bold Clarendon based Serif, stencil type designs was used for stencil fans, stencil wheels, and the very common single plates (adjustable, interlocking plates too) and custom designs, about from the 1850s.

Suitable fonts for all historically accurate scenarios of the Wild West and the American Civil War. The stencil plates were used for labeling crates, barrels, canvas sacks (especially in agriculture) and names on travel packages.

They have been used throughout the years, even during World War I and World War II. If they are used less these days, it is due to the other stencil designs and the change in the spirit of the times, which from the 1940s onwards tended towards the increased use of Grotesque/Gothic (Sans Serif) designs.

 

Vtg Stencil US No. 2
 

Vtg Stencil US No. 4
 


These fonts are suitable for historically correct use from the 1940s and from the 1970s.

 

Vtg Stencil US No. 51
 

Vtg Stencil US No. 72
 


Stencil Machine Type Designs

The first stencil cutting machine was invented in 1893 by Andrew Jackson Bradley (US Pat. 494.546), the horizontal models, using a Slap Serif design with minor contrast. The later circular stencil machines (invented by A. J. Bradley 1890, George Remnsnider 1908 (US Pat. 922.815) and Stephen D. Hartog 1909 (US Pat. 964.251), which arranged all dies in a circle used both Slab Serif and Gothic (Sans Serif) type designs. To my knowlegde the Slab Serif design was availabe for the larger type sizes only. However, later stencil type designs (the design of the punches and dies) were quickly changed to Gothic (Sans Serif) because the punches and dies were easier to produce and the wear and tear on the parts could be reduced with simpler letter shapes. In the evolution of the punches and dies the endings of the letters became more round compare with early design.

Bredlay Stencil Machine Co., 1893 - 1936 | Sans and Slab Serif type
Diagraph Stencil Machine Corp., 1900 - 1936 | Sans Serif type
Diagraph-Bradley Machine Corp., 1937 | Sans and Slab Serif type
Ideal Stencil Machine Co., 1911 | Sans Serif type
Marsh Stencil Machine Co., 1922 | Sans Serif type
*Garvey, Universal, MagicMarker, ACE


*There was also Diagraph-Bradley stencil cutting machines branded as Garvey and Universal from about the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. Garvey (Garvey Fountain Brush and Ink Co., St. Louis, Mo. ) and Universal (Universal Fountain Brush Co., St. Petersburg, Fla.) sold all kinds of supplies for marking. I think these were licensed machines that were allowed to be sold with their brand. MagicMarker was such a brand from the UK for the local market even so the brand ACE (Ace Marking Equipment) for Australia.

The US Army and Navy bought and used stencil machines for marking during WWI, WWII, and Korean War.

Marsh published in his company biography that after WWII the government sold so many unneeded stencil machines that it was hard to sell new machines at all. Marsh made an effort to return his own machines to stabilize the market price. The machines were renewed and sold again.

Note that the maximum size of the stencil letters was fixed depending on the machine. Usually there were machines for 1/8 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and 1 inch. Diagraph Jumbo could cut 1 ¾,1 ½ 2 inch and Ideal No. 0 could cut 2 inch letters. Ideal produced also machines for smaller and in between sizes like 5/8", 7/16", 3/16" and 3/32".

For possible use cases, it should also be noted that the stencil cutting machines were manufactured in the US or under license. Therefore, after WWII, there were general agencies of Diagraph-Bradley, Marsh, and Ideal in Europe. So the use of these designs for props is always correct from the 1950s on. The later Diagraph and Ideal even have dies for Cyrillic letters.





 

Vtg Stencil Marsh
1 inch
 

Some more historic stencil designs form IDEAL and DIAGRAPH are in review and will coming to this place in the the medium-term future - Stay tuned!

 



 

France

Stencil Manufacturers:

| T & C., Paris (Thévenon et Cie), Rue de Montmorency 39, successor of
| M. Chevalier et Cie, Paris
| ...

In France, there was a major manufacturer of stencil (vignettes a jour / pochoirs lettres ) type. T & C. Paris, formerly Chevalier et Cie, Paris, which was founded in 1828. Stencil sets where the capital letter J has a hook at the bottom are probably not from T & C. Perhaps from the predecessor company Chevalier or another company. There is little information about them.

In a book about the Paris World's Fair of 1900, the following is reported about the company.
Source: Ministère du Commerce, de l’Inudstrie, Exposition Universelle Internationale de 1900 Paris, Groupe XV. Industries diverses

This company was founded in 1824 by Mr. Chevalier, whose successors and pupils are Messrs Thévenon. Its main activity is the working of metals for engraving, stamping and punching.

In order to perfect the operation of such a wide range of articles, the Thévenon brothers had to create a range of tools of all kinds to make it possible to mechanically produce and sell at a low price articles of daily use that had previously been too expensive to produce by hand.

The company also produced a range of letters for various purposes, as well as a complete range of label holders for shop displays. Due to the constantly growing production, the company had to move parts of its workshops to Vincennes, where they are operated by motor power.

The current turnover is over 325,000 francs. The company employs about 65 workers and processes over 25,000 kilograms of various metals into items of mostly light weight.

As well as the bold Didot stencil designs that defined the style, stencils similar to the German DIN type were also produced, albeit much later.

For a historically accurate application, you can use the Didot stencils (serif design) for French props from around 1840 to the present day. These stencils are used for all types of markings. From litter bins, information signs, technical markings to advertising and art posters.

They were even used on Second World War US Army vehicles that landed in France and later had to rebadge their vehicles.

The gothic/grotesque designs date from around the 1940s or 1950s. However, they were rarely used.

 
 

Vtg Stencil France No. 1
 

Vtg Stencil France No. 3
 

Vtg Stencil France No. 5
 
 



 

Germany

Stencil Manufacturers:

| August Mentel, Metall-Schablonen-Fabrik, Berlin, 1860
| Johann Merkenthaler Metall-Schablonen-Fabrik, Nürnberg, 1870
| Bonum Werkzeuge GmbH, Traunstein
| Brückmann Boysen & Weber, Schablonenfabrik, Elberfeld (Wuppertal), 1896
| Ludwig Naescher, Schablonen-Fabrik, Hohenlimburg in Westfalen
| Sächsische Metall-Schablonenfabrik Carl Hoep, Zwenkau
| Stempelfabrik Albert Walter GmbH, Dresden
| ...

Due to the federal, small-state structure of Germany, there were many regional manufacturers. Classic stencils for marking were often a temporary field of business. Much more successful were stamps and light copper stencils for embroidering linen, which were produced in large numbers for the world until the First World War.

German stencils rarely have packaging that identifies the manufacturer. As a result, it is often difficult to identify stencils by region or manufacturer. One exception was August Mentel, Metallschablonen-Fabrik, Berlin, who produced stencil sets for marking (a classic serif design like the French stencils) for a very long time. and sold them in beautiful metal boxes.

In the 1940s and after the Second World War, the DIN standard was quickly adopted for stencils. The classic serif design slowly disappeared.

For historically correct German-related props, the classic German Serif stencil type is suitable for applications from 1870 to around the 1920s. It covers the German Imperial period, the First World War and the post-war period. After that, it slowly disappeared. But you can still find it today.

Since about the 1940s, the DIN standard type has been the preferred type for marking stencils. As there was no standard for the technical implementation of the DIN standard type in stencils, each manufacturer had slightly different implementations, which could also vary depending on the size of the stencil.

 
 

Vtg Stencil Germany No. 1
 

A unicorn represents the design of the font "Vtg Stencil Germany no.101". Neither the maker nor the exact date of its creation is known. All we know is that it came from a woodworking shop in Bavaria.

 

Vtg Stencil Germany No. 101
 

The most smoky stencil typeface in Germany today is based on the DIN standard.

A simplified typeface specifically for stencils was DIN Schablonenschrift A (DIN Type A), introduced in 1943, but probably removed from the DIN standard before the 1980s. It was rarely used.

 

Vtg Stencil DIN
 

Vtg Stencil DIN Type A
 



 

Great Britain, UK

Stencil Manufacturers:

| Van Der Velde & Co., Newcastle upon Tyne, 1862
| Edward Pryor & Son, Sheffield, 1849
| *H. Cowley & Son, Stencil Cutters and Engravers, London
| *W. F. Stanley, London
| ...
* some kind of art letter stencils

The classic Roman design of a Bold Clarendon can also be found in the older British stencils. They have much in common with their US counterparts. However, the serifs are much more pronounced than in the US stencils. However, British stencils can also be found in Canada and Australia, probably taken there by emigrants. On the other hand, S.G. Monce, Inc. was a US manufacturer who for a time exported stencils (with US designs) to Great Britain.

So far, I don't have much information about British stencil makers, but the older British stencil plates have some typical designs. They were available in "Condesed and Bold styles", in "Block, Gill Sans and Roman". For example, the indicated spur at the bottom of the letter G in the Gothic designs, or the (very common) detached shape of the tail on the letter Q. They were often sold in practical wooden or metal boxes (supplied in sturdy metal boxes with hinged lids) in which the stencils were sorted alphabetically and stored upright.

 

It is difficult for me to provide evidence for the correct historical attribution of the British stencils because I have too little documentation.

To be conservative, I think the classic Serif stencils were sold from about 1900 to the 1960s - probably earlier. The Gothic (sans serif) stencils from about the 1940s.

It should be noted, however, that due to the economic links with the USA, US products were also sold in the UK, particularly stencil cutting machines.

 
 

Vtg Stencil UK No. 2
 
 
 

Vtg Stencil UK No. 76
 



 

Italy

Stencil Manufacturers:

| utensili ALFA, BIELLA s.r.l., Carnago, 1920
| utensili ABC S.p.A., Cologno Monzese, 1913

The Italian stencils (stampi or stapini traforati) are roughly inspired by the classic French Serif stencils. However, the stencils are drilled or etched, usually in aluminium. This results in rough edges and notches, and somewhat clumsy looking lines. The letterforms can vary from very narrow to normal width.

The stencils are mainly used in the marine environment. They are sold in metal shops that also sell boat and ship supplies.

 

In terms of chronology, I can't say much about Italian stencils. There may have been older companies, but I think they have been in use since about the 1930s, because the two Italian manufacturers have been in business since then. They are still being made and sold today.

 
 

Vtg Stencil Italy No. 2
 

 

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