R. H. Middleton, the Master designer for Ludlow by Nicholas Fabian.
The Master designer for Ludlow
R. H. Middleton, the  Master designer for Ludlow

by Nicholas Fabian

Robert Hunter Middleton was born in Scotland on May 6, 1898. His family emigrated to the United States when he was ten years old. After his public schooling, Middleton attended the Chicago Art Institute with the intention of becoming a painter. During his studies at the Institute he assisted one of his teachers, Ernst F. Detter, with the design of a new typeface called, Eusebius, which was commissioned from him by the Ludlow Company. Amazingly, the young Middleton was given the opportunity by Detter to design the matching italic for the set, on his own! He accomplished the task with astonishing competence which led the Ludlow Company to hire him in 1923 as a full time designer. Ten years later Middleton was appointed the director of type design for the Ludlow organization.

Middleton type sample 1
Sample characters from "FLAIR," released in 1941. Aptly named, an elegant brush face produced with a lot of flair.

He spent his entire working life designing for the Ludlow Typograph Company of Chicago and retired in 1971. During his career, Middleton designed nearly one hundred typefaces. Three of them stand out from his lifetime production as examples of unique creative excellence; Eusebius, Stellar, and Delphian Open Title. It was the Eusebius italic that gave him the first chance to display his natural talent, with Stellar, he explored the variable-weight sans serifs landscape, a brave design move that was brought to its final conclusion by Hermann Zapf's Optima, twenty nine years later. His tour de force, Delphian Open Title, invokes that rare intellectual response, admiration. At Ludlow, his design tasks were to create solid commercial variations of existing typefaces for the Ludlow machine and come up with practical new designs. He did both, and he did them exceptionally well for almost fifty years. Middleton died in 1985.
Middleton type sample 2
Sample characters from "UMBRA," introduced in 1932, a clean cut 3-D display face that is wildly popular with desktop publishers.

Robert Hunter Middleton exemplifies the practical creative type designer, one who has both feet firmly planted on the ground. By providing high quality typefaces for the economically priced Ludlow machines, Middleton helped to create a kind of "middle class" among America's small printers. The Ludlow machine combined with Middleton's typefaces helped small printers not only to survive but actually compete with the larger companies who had the expensive Linotypes. It is an achievement that is worthy of any type designer, then, now or in the future.

Middleton type sample 3
"Delphian Open Titling," released in 1928, it is one of Middleton's truly beautiful creations. The typeface is much loved by designers with high class corporate clientele. [Capitals only.]

Some of the typefaces designed by R. H. Middleton:

Eusebius (1924), Ludlow Black (1924), Cameo (1927), Delphian Open Titling (1928), Stellar (1929), Garamond (1930), Tempo (1930-42), Karnak (1931-42), Lafayette (1932), Mayfair Cursive (1932), Umbra (1932), Eden (1934), Mandate (1934), Bodoni (1936), Coronet (1937), Flair (1941), Admiral Script (1953), Condensed Gothic Outline (1953), Florentine Cursive (1956), Formal Script (1956), Radiant (1938), Record Gothic (1927-61), Samson (1940), Square Gothic ( ), Stencil (1938), Admiral (1953), Wave (1962).


Some personal notes about Ludlow composition:

During the mid 60s, I was working for a company that produced a number of ethnic newspapers. Now, to me, that brings up Ludlow composition. And my curious memory leads me to the greatest Ludlow compositor I had ever seen in my life. His name was Aldo Torresan, and what a superb craftsman he was! He was an Italian with light brown hair, about six foot four inches tall and had hands the size of small snow shovels. Enormous hands! Because of his fingers' reach and exquisite balance he could compose a line of display text with one hand, while holding the Ludlow composing stick with the other. It was something to behold to watch him perform . . . He would pick up one brass mat from the case between his fore and second fingers and his thumb. Then, reaching with his second finger he would pick up the next mat and snap it on top of the previous one, which was temporarily being held by his forefinger. He kept repeating these steps until his composing hand was stretched to the limit. At which point he would deposit the entire line of mats into the composing stick. Whew! If you just listened to him work, you could hear the rhythmic sounds of click, click, click . . . click, click . . . click, click, click, as the brass mats were being stacked on top of each other, in a spectacular way that a juggler might produce for a cabaret novelty act. Aldo died in 1997 and I am certain that he is now teaching his Ludlow artistry to all the apprentices in the big composing room up in the sky.


CAN YOU HELP?

Mr. Steve Jackaman, President, ITF, Inc is looking for brass Ludlow mats of all the Tempo Italic fonts, Stellar Bold, and a few others. This is an important historical recovery project of all Ludlow fonts that do not have the original drawings. If you have any mats or you know someone who has, please contact:
Steve Jackaman at: itfinc@libertynet.org Tel: 800 251 5108
Thank you for your help.


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