Images © Ross F. George/Hunt Manufacturing Co.

“Sho Card” lettering is a term rarely heard these days, and the actual thing is rarely seen. It was once the common technique for making signs on paper of all kinds, and clearly Ross F. George was a master of it. By “gothic” he means sans-serif, and these letters are beautifully made. He’s used a dry brush to show the strokes very clearly, as well as his usual white arrows. I never tried this, it was already becoming a lost art when I got into comics in the 1970s, replaced by photographic type and photocopying mostly. He mentions his tool is a “sho-card brush.” I never saw one specifically named that.


The lower case is equally  attractive, I love the old-style G. Numbers and currency symbols are included, one of the form’s most common uses was for prices in stores. Love the angled square atop the I and J too. You see that small insect-like glyph between the P and Q? That’s George’s signature symbol. The fact that it’s so small gives us a rough idea of how large the original lettering must have been throughout the book, probably at least twice the printed size, if not more.


Here’s the sho-card version of the ancient Roman letters from Trajan’s column of antiquity. George calls the style “spurred gothic,” a term I’ve never heard, and I suspect one he made up. The small pointed serifs on the stroke ends originally made carved letters more readable. They’re an attractive feature of many type styles to this day.


On the left, we see an alphabet made with straight lines and circles mostly. George indicates the circles are pencilled with a compass, and the letters are outlined in ink with a small pen point, then filled in, or you can make them with a very large B point. The style on the right he calls “line gothic,” I would call it an inline style for the inner lines running through it. Those add interest and give the thick strokes some extra style.


Another inline style George calls simply “modern.” In 1941 it was, though we recognize it now as Art Deco. A little hard to read in places, not a style you could use a lot of, I think.


The style on the left carries the inline idea into new territory, and this alphabet is one of my favorites in the book. What life and movement it has, what personality! Very organic, yet all those sharp corners make it strong and emphatic too. The one on the right doesn’t appeal to me much, it’s going even further with inlines, sacrificing readability for design.


This is the first style we’ve seen with a date, 1938. There were many editions of this book, and I don’t know how often George replaced older designs with new ones. A very condensed sans-serif font, meaning narrow letters, a good way to get a lot of them in a small area. By “cut-in,” George means the letter forms are open, white, implied by the black areas around them. The same effect could be achieved by making a negative photostat of black letters, but in this case he’s done it the hard way, except for the bottom line, with the gray areas added to show where the letters might open at the tops and bottoms.


For contrast, here’s a very wide style with tiny serifs, just enough to give the corners a crisp look. Very handsome. In a few places, George shows his construction method of outlining the edges and filling with black. I often did my large letters the same way in comics, though I generally left the inner areas open for a color to be added.

To be continued. Earlier parts of this series can be found under the “Lettering/Fonts” category on the right side of this page.


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